Flamenco is a mature art form: it deals in burnt emotions, passion and rage kindling in flamenco’s throaty singing, mercurial guitar playing (smooth, then harshly strummed), and hard beating dance. In Sol y Luna Zorongo immerses the audience in flamenco culture, providing a program of technical excellence and vivid feeling with (thank goodness) no storyline to get in the way. But good as all the performers and musicians are, the evening belongs to two: Domingo Ortega and Susana di Palma.
Domingo Ortega, a Spanish guest artist, is a flamenco virtuoso. He can simply keep time (which is all that most of us can do), but he prefers to delay, to hit not the dull center of the beat but the sweet spot just before late, the fat, the pink of the beat. He can keep up with anything, slamming his heels as fast as the guitarist can strum, but Ortega’s not merely following the music: he appears instead to be leading it, fully in command. His arms and upper body create aggressive arcs and stances as if he was born angry, and he never loses track of his upper half in the frenetic motion of his feet. But Ortega’s virtuosity isn’t limited to flamenco technique. He is, for lack of a better word, a virtuoso seducer. He held the opening night audience breathless, hanging on every teasing leaving-off and reeling at every pyrotechnic blast, swooning over his bad-boy attitude and silky black knight-white knight suits. Watching him, I got the feeling that when the word gets out, Ortega will have a Sunday audience full of women in their underwear, and he won’t care.
Susana di Palma is an artist of a different stripe. An older performer, she still has sharp technical skills, but she keeps them a bit in reserve, bringing out a fast sequence just for the fun of it (or so it appears). What di Palma places first is her dramatic versatility and the freedom that versatility yields. Like James Sewell ballerina Sally Rousse, di Palma has a girlishness that yet never belies her age and a wisdom that never shrivels into cowardice or sentimentality. In her one solo di Palma creates such a complex character on stage—a woman who hears the music and can’t help herself, a showoff who’s half making fun of her own excess, a bawdy woman intent on hiking her skirts up as far as they’ll go, a woman crying over her heart’s wildness. She held the audience spellbound, almost afraid to disturb her with applause.
Sol y Luna is a great chance for audiences not only to become acquainted with flamenco but also to see two top-flight performers. You can take the kids, but I suggest a date instead. Flamenco’s adult fare: it takes a little living to appreciate the smoky artistry here—artistry of heartbreakers and the heartbroken.
Sol y Luna continues through December 2 at the Southern.