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At flamenco festival, sexes are gleefully blurred

By Pamela Squires,

 Local flamenco artist Edwin Aparicio’s superb new production for the Eighth Annual Flamenco Festival, “Flamenco/Flamenca,” gleefully blurred flamenco’s sex stereotypes Friday at the GALA Hispanic Theatre.

In a dance form in which women smolder and men are macho, deconstructing the sexes might seem a wild departure from the norm. But nowadays flamenco is almost excessively innovative. So women prancing with men’s hats and men dancing with flowered shawls is not earthshaking. Aparicio’s edge when it comes to innovation lies in his inability to sacrifice quality for shock value. He loves good dancing no matter how far over the edge his choreography may step.

“Tangos” fiddled with flamenco’s relationship between men and women by juxtaposing two groups, each of mixed gender. Men and women danced in unison. It was unisex choreography. “Cantinas” featured three men wielding fringed shawls the way a bullfighter wields a cape, although the fringes were a bit unsettling as they continued to waggle long after the shawls were manfully thrust and retracted.

But it was the solid dancing that dominated. Carlos Menchaca’s footwork was so fast that at one point his shins blurred. Genevieve Guinn moved with contained energy like a hurricane in a bottle. Norberto Chamizo gathered energy as he moved, rather than expending it.

Veteran flamenco artists Ana Martinez (dancer) and Paco de Malaga (guitarist) closed the program. They  had been honored earlier in the evening for developing flamenco in the Washington area. Appropriately,  she performed with a man’s fedora and called the shots on stage, wrenching control from the musicians with a few imperious stares and a few barely visible but equally imperious hand gestures.

Squires is a freelance writer.

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