On October 11 I got the opportunity to see Oscar Valero Flamenco Dance Company for the first time at Joyce SoHo and it was a wonderful experience.  The program describes Fuerza: El Swing del Flamenco as “a soul-jarring lament that captures you, a party that begs you not to leave, and a soleá that sets you dancing.” 

Oscar Valero can safely check each of these off as done.

Valero, a consummate performer, is well-exhibited throughout the show in a series of solos.  Perhaps the most “soul-jarring” is “Solea Del Rubio,” in which his flirtations with stillness and an almost-pedestrian beginning business with his tie only make his later virtuosity more apparent.  Where in previous solos Valero seemed to be a hairsbreadth from crackling prowess, this one is performed with a delicate sensuousness.  In an adept feat of storytelling, Valero’s eyes project a haunting sadness that gives way to pleas and anger at some lost love.  Moving through a dense and emotionally-charged landscape, Valero finally makes it through to the other side and the solo culminates in a wildly joyful reclamation of self, complete with lightning-fast footwork and some multiple pirouettes thrown in for good measure.  It was enough to make chills break out across my skin!

In “Pellizco (Buleria)” Sara Erde exhibits an exquisite sense of theatricality, using her arms to wonderful effect in this solo as they slowly travel from bellow her waist to above her head it is as if she becomes lost in a memory and the spell is so fragile, I don’t want to even breathe too harshly in the audience for fear of breaking her from her reverie.  At the end, she simply walks off the stage into the wings, leaving her dance perfectly unfinished.  Rebecca Thomas’ “Cadiz (Alegrias)” is the most traditional fare of the night as the stripped-down sensibility that marked the previous costuming is cast aside for a long, red ruffled skirt and a fan.  Thomas startled me with her brightly joyful performance as her previous appearances she seemed especially severe but not a trace of solemnity could be found in her girlishly tossed hair and impish grin.  It is a testament to her skill that not once was she upstaged by her skirt’s train, which was easily her height and then some.

The least satisfying portion of the evening was probably the interspersed group numbers where the entire ensemble joined (including Barbara Martinez, of the serene disposition and the elegantly pleasing lines) to perform in unison.  It’s not that these dancers were in any way unsuitable; in fact, it became heart breaking to have to choose which to watch at any given moment.  Each dancer’s individual refinement of a step or elaborations of an unfurling hand were gorgeous to see.  However, the insistence that these group numbers be performed in equally measured lines made me yearn for some way to break the space apart.  If only Valero could allow himself to be as bold in his spatial formations as he is intricate in his choreography, these moments of unity could be transformative.  

Fuerza culminated with the musicians, dancers, and audience all participating in a good old-fashioned “juerga” or “jam session” in which the dancers took up instruments and vocals and the musicians were bullied by the dancers into showing off their best moves.  The affection of the ensemble towards one another is palpable and the cause of much delighted laughter amongst the audience.  However, the moment that I will carry with me from this performance was the thrill in Valero’s eyes when he spotted his son, Amir Leonardo, in the audience and, leading the toddler onto the stage, attempted to cajole him into some stamping of his own.  When Amir was too mesmerized by his father to do much of his own dancing, Valero swept him into his arms, just in time to perform the final choreography with his company, easily tossing his son from arm to arm and never missing a beat.  What an artist!

- gorgas, urgentartist.org

"Óscar Valero joins his Flamenco Dance Company artists to shake it to some sultry Andalusian rhythms. A heavyweight on the local flamenco scene, Valero brings a rare zeal to his performances, reliably delivering a feast for the eyes and ears. If you can tell a soléa from a seguiriya, you'll appreciate his mastery of pure flamenco technique — but expect a fusion performance that's anything but dry. Chair-dancing is optional; an elevated heart rate, inevitable."

– Sasha Dmochowski

"Purisimo: Flamenco Fest Delivers "Pure" Essence of Andalusian Art Form
The Sixth Annual Chicago Flamenco Festival started off with a bang

In contrast to the very traditional performance led by David Perez were Oscar Valero and his ensemble of musicians, in another sold-out performance. One man dancing is enough, especially when it's the soulful, impassioned Valero who keeps the audience in the palm of his hand. Valero's expressiveness, combined with an almost trance-like intensity and continuous fervor made this performance outstanding. Yet the musicians — with an electric guitar — provided a bit of the New Flamenco component that did not in any way take away from the unadulterated flamenco experience of Valero and his company. The music was a fusion between modern and traditional — yet retaining the core pure element of flamenco — more of a street "fiesta" you have walked into than a ticketed concert. Completely unselfconscious and confident Valero communicates with the audience with little smiles — like when he took off his jacket or when he counted in time to the music with his fingers. By providing a bit of comic relief Valero breaks the flamenco seriousness for a moment, wrapping the entranced audience more tightly around his finger. The dancer and the music blend seamlessly together as one. Seeing a man dance with such raw, unabashed emotion reminds you what good dance is — something that draws you into its orbit, in this case into the world of the masterfully combined mixture of passion, fluidity and flawlessness."

– Marla Seidell

Oscar Valero - Flamenco Dancer, Choreographer, Musician and Teacher
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Last modified 6/9/12