"I have been studying Spanish dancing for about 35 years and have only begun to skim the surface," declared Marina Keet at the start of the Spanish Dance Society USA's lecture/demonstration Saturday evening at Baird Auditorium.
For all her modesty, this multitalented woman has gone well beyond "skimming," devoting a good part of her professional career to absorbing, performing and passing on the glories of both classical and regional Spanish movement and music.
As a producer of lucid and varied entertainments, Keet has few equals. This past weekend, her well-trained ensemble, joined by castanet virtuoso Jose de Udaeta, presented two completely different programs that provided the spectator with both a condensed education and theatrical fireworks.
As Keet offered witty commentary from a lectern at the side of the stage, members of the group, dressed in a wide assortment of traditional costumes, performed an astounding range of seguidillas, fandangos, jotas and other dances to live and recorded music. Some were light and bounding, others sultry and grounded.
Thirty-two dances, plus one of Keet's own ballets, were performed over the course of the two programs. Though the level of dancing ranged from highly polished to merely competent (all of the dancers are Keet's students at George Washington University), one couldn't help but admire the uniformity of bearing and placement, and the overall good feeling generated by these performers.
The crowning jewel of both programs was de Udaeta. This ebullient man fairly quakes with rhythmic vitality. His fingers move over his instruments at overwhelming speed, producing sounds that conjure up chattering teeth, rain on the roof, typewriters. He performs to the music of Scarlatti, Mozart, Rimski-Korsakov and, of course, that of his native land, conjuring up rhythms not unlike those of this country's most inventive tap dancers. To see his fingers working incessantly, his arms whirling, his eyes flashing, is to experience rhythm as one has never experienced it before.