For her concert at the Dance Place Saturday night, Raquel Pen a presented a scaled-down version of many of the works her company performed several months ago at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Although the smaller troupe, consisting of Pen a, three female and two male soloists and two guitarists, fitted nicely into the intimate space, the program itself did not.
Spanish dancing, despite the stomping and furious clacking of castanets, is a subtle art. When dancers are separated from an audience by only a few feet, what should be subtle can become exposed.
The younger dancers, less skilled and experienced than Pen a, didn't diminish their projection and performance style. Mime was too broad; a pouting interlude in the otherwise delightful and excellently performed "Jota de la Dolores" was cloying; dramatic moments in the excerpt from "Soledad" were overly theatrical.
Somehow, the dances even seemed longer. Pen a's solos, particularly the "Zapateado," continued long after they were finished. Encores worked into the fabric of a dance were performed to an audience tired of clapping.
It wasn't until the last two numbers that both performers and audience relaxed. "Seguiriyas," with its infinite variety of small tapping steps danced with exquisite control by Pen a, and the finale "Fiesta Flamenca," a party piece with solos for all the company's women, both looked at home.