The Washington Post

August 13, 2014

“With Noche Flamenca, Juan Ogalla brings a flaunting fierceness to Wolf Trap”

By Celia Wren August 13

Maybe it was pent-up energy following all that rain.

Whatever the explanation, dancer Juan Ogalla was a burst of flaunting fierceness at Wolf Trap on Tuesday night, at the end of a watery day. The performer’s whipping head and arm movements, and moments of prowling grace, made his dancing a highlight of the 90-minute production by Noche Flamenca, the touring troupe of flamenco artists based in Spain.

Not that Ogalla was the only point of interest in an evening that gave scope to flamenco’s vocal, instrumental and dance aspects.

Some of the virtuoso guitar work — cascading, palpitating, lyrical sounds conjured into the air by guitarists Salva de Maria and Eugenio Iglesias — was breathtaking. Acclaimed dancer Soledad Barrio, who is a founding member of Noche Flamenca, also got her moment in the limelight.

Martin Santangelo, artistic director and co-founder of the company (and Barrio’s husband), prefaced the proceedings with a brief speech dedicating the evening to Robin Williams, who died Monday. The elegiac gesture — he laid a red flower in a spotlight in a corner of the stage and, a little later, the show’s dancers and musicians did the same — harmonized with the melancholy strains in the production’s music. The songs, performed with wrenching fervor by Manuel Gago, José Jiménez and Emilio Florido, had a particularly sharp, dark, plaintive tone.

A few theatrical touches here and there seemed aimed at making the production a dramatic whole, rather than just a roster of selections. In a sequence titled “La Plaza,” the lighting (designed by S. Benjamin Farrar) threw shadows of the milling performers (including Marina Elana and other dancers) onto the back wall, creating the illusion of a populated Spanish square.

And the clustered guitarists and singers often called out in appreciative or bantering tones as Ogalla let fly with his alegrias, now allowing a wrist to float upward, fingers sinuously twirling, now hurling his arms impetuously downward, or violently twisting his head and hips, as his feet pounded out furious rhythms.

Barrio’s dancing was as assured, but with silkier undertones, her black skirt swirling around her as her feet drummed on the floor. Sometimes, she lingered in a statuesque freeze for a second, before exploding back into impassioned movement.

In one striking tableau, a spotlight caught her as she brought a section of dancing to a close: She had paused, in a lunging stance, one arm flung forward as if she were tossing a gift at the audience.

It was an image that lingered in your mind as you walked back into the rain-spattered night.