Superhero sequels are a dime a dozen at the cineplex, and they often suffer from quality-control issues. Who believes a director who predicts his sequel to a comic-book franchise will be better than the last? But the director who claims “Flamenco Men II” is better than “Flamenco Men,” the original all-male Spanish dance performance produced by Gala Theatre in 2011? He is a man you should trust.
“The first time we did it, we found out it works. Now we’re figuring out what else we can do, and doing it better,” said co-director Aleksey Kulikov, speaking after Friday’s sold-out opening of “Flamenco Men II.”
His improvements included adding a fifth dancer to the lineup and getting more creative with the ensemble choreography. The resulting performance — enhanced by high-quality lighting and a mesmerizing four-man band — made for an excellent night for anyone who enjoys percussive dance and doesn’t mind if the male dancers in question wear way too much hair gel and signature satin vests.
“Flamenco Men II” balances carefully on the border between virtuosity and Latin Lover schmaltz. In the opening ensemble number, the five men were dressed in black and often paused together, each curving a hand artfully above his head while giving the audience his best dark-eyed, come-hither stare. The circular patterns onstage were particularly slinky, and unison turns, in which the men spun in sync and then pounded the floor with a just-whirled heel, were an impressive display of dominance.
Each dancer got a chance to convey individual character during extended improvised solos. Ivan Vargas was the most musical of the quintet, carefully timing his diagonal darts across the stage to arpeggiated runs by guitarist Ricardo Marlow. Domingo Ortega, who like Vargas traveled from Spain for the occasion, worked primping into his choreography, flicking his hair over his shoulders and waving his fingers as he rolled up his sleeves. When he burst into rapid staccato taps, he punctuated each sequence with a succession of little two-footed jumps, like an enthusiastic fan at a rock concert.
And then there was the man District audiences knew best, Edwin Aparicio, who has been performing and teaching in the city for 20 years. He was the one who first organized a flamenco festival at Gala 11 years ago. On Friday, Aparicio was hardly the flashiest dancer on his own stage, but he was the most beloved. And he responded to the crowd by dancing for the sheer joy of performing, not to show off.
Ritzel is a freelance writer.
The 11th annual Flamenco Festival continues at Gala from Nov. 12 to 15, when choreographer Karen Lugo will present “Flamenco Frequencies.”