Ana Martinez is a small, determined woman whose style represents the spirited rather than the elegant side of Spanish dancing. Vivacious, with an undercurrent of mischief in her manner -- Kitri grown up -- Martinez has speed and stamina and can stamp with the best of them, but her artistry shows in her authoritative presence, her instinctive rapport with her audience, and fingers that laugh and dance on their own.
Martinez is the star of her Spanish Flamenco Dance Company, which the Spanish Embassy presented at Lisner Auditorium last night, but she doesn't try to shine on her own. Four supporting female soloists, a male partner, a singer and two guitarists are equally professional, and the program, a potpourri of contrasting styles of Spanish dancing, was well balanced, polished and a good show in the bargain.
The first half was devoted to historical and folk dances, such as "La Boda de Luis Alonso," an 18th-century-style dance for four women, and the "Jota Ostenses," an incredibly fast jumping dance for a nimble-footed trio. Singer Manolo Leiva and guitarists Paco de Malaga and Jose' Antonio were given equal time and were equally popular with the audience.
"Cuadro Flamenco," a festival of good spirits and friendly competition, filled the second half. Here two of the women -- Estefania, sweet and a bit demure, and Natalia Monteleone, cheerful and lively, more in the style of Martinez -- danced solos of their own, as did the sole male dancer, Roberto Lorca.
Lorca is an interesting foil for Martinez. Elegant and languid -- he even clicks his fingers lazily -- with a deliberately careless line that's all curves rather than the usual tense, haughty angles, he can shoot forth a volley of movement that is astonishingly vigorous in contrast.
Music, lighting and costumes contributed to the success of the evening. One dress in particular for Martinez, a polka-dot creation whose shocking pink underskirt had tiers of ruffles begging to be flounced, was a dance by itself.