There was a time when Jose Greco's name was synonymous with Spanish dance on the American stage. That was in the 1950s -- which might as well have been a century ago for a dancer, yet Greco still performs.
Last Thursday night he returned to the Washington area, appearing with his Jose Greco Company of Spanish Dancers, Singers and Musicians at Montgomery College's Performing Arts Center. Although he limited himself to two brief numbers, it was apparent that he remains a unique stylist. Supple of step, he's as suave as if he were gliding through a ballroom on a Hollywood set. Anyone less skillful might make this seem stilted, particularly when employed with flamenco steps. Greco not only brought it off, but made a viewer wish that the young bloods of the company -- secure Fermin Calvo de Mora, alert Faustino Rios and the strong Jose Greco II -- would try for such smoothness under his supervision.
Greco II is tall and imposing like his father. He has a style of his own, making him an especially worthy heir. Extremely powerful, he inundates each step and stance with an avalanche of energy. He can also be a disciplined technician, capable of clear toe-and-heel work in a farruca, although he didn't hesitate to embellish this classical solo with multiple turns from which he leaped up, landed on his knees and again ascended into the air. In a folk dance from Galicia, he was convincing as a barefoot country lad skipping with the breeze -- yet under his lightness one sensed steel.
The other outstanding dancer, Miguel Cara Estaca, performs in a style known as "grotesque." His feet hit the floor with the impact of a pneumatic drill. His torso erupts in tremors. He doesn't jump, but instead sits on air as if it were a saddle, pulling his legs up and then thrusting them down. This small, wiry man has large hands that are superb instruments for clapping and ideal semaphores for signaling excitement.
The company's women are suitably diverse in character. La Tormento is earthy, La Chispa is enthusiastic, La Conja is sultry, and Pilar Serrano is balletic. Technically all are adequate but none is memorable. The men dominate artistically and, with flamenco singer Luis Vargas and guitarists Pedro Cortes and Carlos Lomas, also numerically.
Acoustics weren't ideal Thursday night. The theater's speakers are at the sides of the stage, and not only did the sound of the musicians, who were miked, not issue from where one saw them but it also seemed slightly behind the dancers' stamping and clapping. However, these flaws didn't prevent the audience from giving Jose Greco and his company a standing ovation.