Marina Keet is one of the unheralded treasures of the Washington dance scene. A choreographer and teacher here since 1981, she has a passion for Spanish dance and a mission to make everyone else passionate about it too. Keet has spent 35 years collecting the regional and classical dances of Spain, and it is Washington's fortune that she is disseminating them here.
In her Fiesta Espan ola at Marvin Theatre on Saturday, Keet presented both traditional forms and original choreographic works, all stunningly costumed. That she is foremost an educator was evident in her presentation of regional dances from Basque, Galicia, Andalusia, Castile, Old Castile, Extremadura and Catalonia. These dances proved a revelation in the richness and diversity of styles that fall under the rubric "Spanish." The old folk dances with their filigree of the lower legs seem closer to Celtic step dancing than to flamenco, although the Spanish dances display a looser torso in their attention to e'paulement. Diversity was also the impulse behind Keet's "Gran Via," a colorful 19th-century Spanish street scene that served as the frame for "spontaneous" demonstrations of a variety of dances by the patrons of a cafe'.
Keet's "Bolero (Percussion Variations)" is a stunning essay in rhythmic and visual counterpoint for 15 dancers. Originally choreographed for South Africa's Danza Lorca, the "Bolero" is a complex work in which bodily and spatial patterns of circularity play against the hypnotic drumming score of American composer Richard Trythall.
The exuberance of Keet's company proved winning. Charo Linares, a guest dancer from London, brought her own considerable talents and expressive verve to the Aldeana, the Casteltersol, the Old Madrid Gota and, most particularly, the Rumba Finale. First-rate also was the musical support, particularly by guest flamenco guitarists Paco de Malaga and Manuel Rocca, and singer Domenico Caro.