On July 22 Juan Siddi’s Flamenco Santa Fe presented seven dances and one vocal number at the Aspen District Theater. The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet has just assumed the management of Siddi’s troupe hence its appearance in the Colorado resort town. A protege of Maria Benitez, who was a fixture in Santa Fe for many years, Siddi formed his company in 2008. Two of the dances (Segiriya and Re-Encuentro) received their World Premieres at the District Theater. Siddi choreographed all the dances – three with Carola Zertuche who was the principal female dancer. The company comprised four other female dancers, three singers, and five musicians – two guitars, a cajon, a cello, and piano.
While this is flamenco, Siddi’s version of it is to traditional flamenco what Astor Piazzolla’s tango is to the original Argentine dance. Siddi uses flamenco more as a departure point than as an end in itself. His choreography is very creative and covers a wider creative canvas than flamenco’s traditional incarnation. Though there is the usual amount of heavy foot stamping and hand clapping characteristic of flamenco, Siddi’s dancers move in patterns related to classical ballet as much as to Andalusian and Romani culture.
Anyone familiar with the corrida de toros, also an Andalusian invention, will immediately recognize the movements, postures and poses common to both. Thus it was no accident that Siddi was clad in the chaquetilla (jacket), camisa (shirt), and corbatín (tie) of a traje de luces in his solo Solea. A soleá is one of the basic forms of flamenco music. Siddi’s performance was a riveting combination of virtuosity and grace. His vision and realization of flamenco reaches the highest level of artistry. Fortunately the rest of his company is as good as he is.
In addition to Carola Zertuche, who is as much a virtuoso as Siddi, the four other women dancers performed at a level equal to the two principals. One of them (Radha Garcia born in Calcutta, India) also played the violin. Versatility was also found among the singers. The two women vocalists (Coral De Los Reyes and Kina Mendez (both Gypsies born in Jerez de la Frontera) though no longer young could also dance with panache and style. The male vocalist, Jose Cortes, ” was born into a renowned Spanish gypsy family from Almeria”; he played the guitar in addition to his singing.
The singing clearly displays the Moorish influence on Andalusia. The region was part of an Islamic Empire for almost eight centuries. Cante flamenco is as important as toque (guitar playing), and baile (dance). In addition to the Islamic influence, cante flamenco was affected by Jewish synagogue chants.
The capacity audience was as enthusiastic as that at a bullfight where everything goes spectacularly well. The only down note was the person in charge of the curtain. He brought the thing down for good after just two curtain calls though the audience seemed ready to grant the performers many more; clearly a remedial course in curtain management is needed. The show will be repeated in Aspen on August 5. From mid June until mid August the company performs regularly in Santa Fe at the Maria Benitez Theater. Highly recommended. If you’re in the vicinity, Siddi’s show is a must see.