If Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus had really wanted to heat up the 2013 MTV Music Video Awards last month, they could have consulted D.C. dance divas and choreographers Estela Velez de Paredez, Amanda Gill and Maru Montero. Forget twerking: The Dance Place presentation of “Latin Sizzle” on Saturday at the Atlas Performing Arts Center offered sensuous, full-bodied and gleeful instruction on how to command a crowd.
The Duende Quartet Latin Jazz group created the shoulder-shaking, feet-tapping atmosphere of an intimate club with its Cuban rhythms and its nod to the Blue Note sound.
The evening of Latin dance began with the Maru Montero Dance Company’s “Spicy Tabasco,” a classic and celebratory piece rooted in folk traditions. The next company, Pittsburgh-based Nego Gato Afro Brazilian Music and Dance Ensemble, featured a robust and masterful performance of capoeira, a high-octane African Brazilian martial art. Director Nego Gato offered a loosely structured, street-style performance.
In “Un Romance (Guajiras),” Furia Flamenca’s expressive and precise Daniel Paredez and the crisp but lyrical Velez gave a sexy performance that stole the show. Their costumes were also singularly professional, with skirts that might otherwise be shown on a catwalk. Maestro guitarist Torcuato Zamora played so intensely that by the end he had broken a string.
That said, DC Casineros showed off some sizzling choreography for a splashy ending. Arguably the best male dancing of the night was found in the “dance battle” pairing of William Sanchez and Adrian Valdivia for “Anda . . . Rumbero Anda.”
DC Casineros, a company that was born in the Washington, D.C., nightclub Habana Village in 2005, displayed a warm, sensuous and playful mood with “Goza con Todo.” Alison Blank and Amanda Gill are a pleasure to watch. Their fluid bodies undulate from their shoulder blades through to their pelvises in one wave-like movement that mesmerizes.
“Rueda de Casino Estilo DC Casineros” ended with an invitation for the audience to dance, and dance they did. Duende Quartet played on for a stage full of audience members of all ages doing their best to divine the feeling of an Old Havana dance hall.
FitzGerald is a freelance writer.