Spanish dance is more plentiful in Washington than classical ballet this fall, giving fans a rare chance to make comparisons while impressions are still fresh. The Ballet Espan ol de Maria Rosa, at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater last night and again tonight, is a small company that tries to make a big impression before settling down to the business of dancing.
In the first half of the program one encounters plush orchestrations of scores by Isaac Albeniz and Franz Liszt, rapid alternations of the dancers, many costume changes and exhibitions of passion without buildup. Naturally, expectations are inflated and one is disappointed because the music is taped, the dancers number only eight and feeling seems as disposable as a dress with flounces.
Just before the intermission, in the high voltage finale of a jota, one is even sorry for the company because it is working very hard; it is not unskilled, and yet the effect it seeks is lost. Was this piece conceived for a hundred dancers plus a live symphony orchestra performing in an arena?
After intermission, things came down to proper scale. Instead of orchestral tapes, a singer and a guitarist accompanied the dancers. A dialogue between sound and sight was established. Dances were developed. Individual performers could be seen.
Very visible was Maria Rosa, the company's director and star. She has a pleasantly proud presence on stage, and though a bit stiff in the shoulders, is very agile in facial expression and in her hands. Among the women in the unnamed supporting cast, two seemed first rate. One possessed an especially pliant torso and the other showed balletic lightness and precision. Eduardo Montero, Rosa's leading man, is senior, just as she is, but still a strong technician.
Music seems to have been the key to making the program's second half a success. It is even more important than in other forms of dance because Spanish dance creates some of its own music. Heel work is at times so refined that it becomes more audible than visible, as in Montero's remarkable rendition of an alegrias -- the program's high point.