As I walked into the Asian Arts Initiative to attend the third Tablao Philly, produced by Pasión y Arte , the works of local young artists were visible in the lobby – photographs, paintings, sculptures and a myriad of other mediums. A tightly packed room with offerings of wine and Spanish tapas, drew in the audience as the space filled with the sound of rhythmic feet meeting the floor.
Three women began to make their way into the space as vocalist, Héctor José Márquez and guitarist, Raphael Brunn were just starting to create the night’s soundscape. Artistic Director, Elba Hevia y Vaca asked us to vocalize when a moment made us feel something special, and between the clapping, the music and the movement, there was plenty of audience participation to go around.
Each of the three flamenco dancers executed the same movement vocabulary in an entirely distinctive manner. They were given the freedom to decide how the choreography best fit them. Not only was their movement unique, but their expressions were as well. One portrayed lightheartedness, while another held the gaze of determination, and the third continually changed and shifted her intensity and speed of movement. Ultimately, if something was a bit too fast, she simply smirked politely.
Next up was a series of solos that offered insight and a deeper understanding of each of dancers. Amilia Hernandez exhibited a strong focus on movement from her arms. It originated in her shoulders and did not stop until it reached her fingertips, as if water was moving through her. As the tempo of the music picked up, so did her quick feet, using much of the space, traveling as far as the stage would let her.
The second dancer, Xianix Barrera, had a striking presence with her height and purple ruffled dress. She was extremely refined in her movement, her head remaining absolutely still as her body kept moving. Her gaze into the audience was impactful, while her movements in her arms, torso and feet were subtle. Her fingers held as though they had a constant breeze moving through them. Her hand movements, gestures and fingers became the focal point of attention. Her floor length skirt seemed to influenced where and when she would move next, with each turn ending in a drop of her skirt to the floor and another lifting it off again.
Alexa Miton, a petite spitfire moved with unwavering conviction. She moved at such a rapid speed that her flower never had the chance to stay in her hair. She was not concerned with large movements; rather, she had her own journey that was more directed inward. At times, her movement and music would come together so quickly that I felt the room could burst. Without warning, it would all abruptly come to an end that one could never have anticipated. She would pursue each movement with such ferocity until completely exhausted, only to rest a moment, reset and start all over again.
The fourth dancer and special guest Raquel Heredia Reyes was dressed in black with red draped scarf and matching shoes. Her movement came from every limb, and she never stopped moving. What struck me about her was her genuineness; she took a moment to wipe off the sweat of her unfailing vigor. Her feet were so quick that the audience members moved to get a closer look. At one point, only her foot was moving. She was a bird that had been captured. She could not escape, but the rapid flutter of her foot was setting her free.
Throughout the evening, there seem to be a game of tag between the music and the movement. Sometimes the music would inform the movement, or vice versa; a harmonious counterpart that ultimately brought to life these tasty morsels and left us wanting more.