Juan Siddi Flamenco Theatre Company at the Benitez Cabaret, Lodge of Santa Fe, Aug.3, 2008
by Janet Eigner
Solar windmills, photovoltaic panels, and Juan Siddi’s Flamenco Company, all sources of alternative energy off the grid. For years, Siddi danced his modest, courtly, skillful accompaniment to Benitez’s smoking duende.
Last summer, Juan Siddi settled in Santa Fe and began renting space at the studios of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, to teach his students flamenco. When Maria Benitez decided to take a summer sabbatical this season, she invited Siddi to bring his company to the Benitez Theatre in Santa Fe, to perform six nights a week during the summer. Wow…the bull has finally let himself out of the corral, surrounded by the company’s mature, fiery women, all seasoned and sparking electricity.
The news isn’t that Siddi is on the brink of a big flamenco career; he already has had that in Europe and the Middle East. The news is that even as Benitez dances less to focus on developing Spanish arts outreach programs, she has encouraged Siddi to plant his flamenco flag in Santa Fe, emblazoned with his own fresh brand of tender and ferocious flamenco. American audiences will have a new and exuberant company to experience when they travel to the Benitez cabaret theater in destination Santa Fe.
Already a deeply experienced flamenco dancer at age 28, born in Germany to a Spanish mother and an Italian father, Juan Siddi performed throughout Germany, Spain and the Middle East. Siddi has danced as a soloist in Maria Benitez’s company since 2002. In addition, he has worked from 2001 until 2005 with the Kathak dancers and musicians from India with The Music Ensemble of Benares in the project, “Kathak Meets Flamenco.” The production toured Europe.
Siddi’s bio documents a young man performing as a professional since age 18, co-choreographing with Compania Flamenco Alhama and Noches de Amor on international tours for seven years, at major venues in Europe, North Africa and the USA. He was featured in flamenco festivals, including in Sevilla, and was principal male dancer with Rafael Cortes and Company.
In 2006 and 2007, he was principal male dancer for Teatro Flamenco’s production “Maria Benitez: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow,” under the direction of Merrill Brockway (director of PBS’s Dance in America.) With Benitez’s company, he’s toured and performed around the country, including at the Joyce Theatre in NY City, and the Ordway Center in St. Paul.
Siddi’s competent, courtly, intense and introspective performances before this year didn’t prepare Santa Fe audiences for the leap his creative freedom allowed, unveiling a fiery, nuanced sensuality, a dynamic and charismatic choreography, not seen in Santa Fe or Albuquerque until this season. The tall, graceful Siddi unveils a tender intimacy, unusual in male flamencos, expressed with his five, seasoned female dancers, and coupled with an explosive precision which renders nail guns unnecessary.
The company exudes power, earthy wit, confidence and duende, and includes the hubba-hubba dancer and gypsy singer, Rebeca Carmona, from Cordoba, Spain. This gypsy singer/ dancer, funny and expressive, sings of relationships gone bad…her hands, palms forward. reaching up, in your face, but with compassion.
The amazonic Carola Zertuche from Mexico City, executed a brilliant bata de cola, (dance with a long, fitted dress and very long flouncy train), exquisite in its restraint, skill and passion. She kicked back and lifted her white, antique, heavy bata with enormous skill. Zertuche also directs Theatre Flamenco of San Francisco.
The hawk-sharp and swift Alisa Alba, Santa Fe native also performs with the Albuquerque-based Yjastros: The American Flamenco Repertory Company. She instructs at the National Institute of Flamenco. Eliza Llewellyn, another amazon powerhouse, based in Madrid, is also a company member of Theatre Flamenco San Francisco. The dreamy, introspective Keyana de Aguero, a former student of Benitez and performer with Teatro Flamenco, studies dance at University of New Mexico.
Then there’s Juan Siddi, himself. The speed of his vibrating footwork in his last solo looked like he had levitated himself off the stage. His duet with Zertuche, sensual, restrained and tender, was unusual with his hands on her shoulders and the couple spooning in quiet dialogue. This style is much more contemporary than what has been seen in the Benitez Cabaret in previous years. He bowed at the duet, and each backed off to exit on opposite sides of the stage, a courtly gentleman, even if he’s wearing a modern, fitted suit jacket over fitted slacks, a dark dress shirt and tie.
The inestimable addition– gritty and graceful musical collaborators – alternate traditional gypsy sound with an updated flair. They include three gypsy musicians who have toured the world: Spanish-born Jose’ Luis Valle Fajardo, “Chuscales”, Musical Director and gypsy guitarista, though he didn’t appear in this concert due to family business in Spain. Francisco Javier Orozco Fernandez, “Yiyi”, percussionist and cantaor, and Ricardo Anglada, guitarist complete the small band. Their evocative, smoky sound just fits the mood and fills the small theater space.
Siddi’s newly incorporated company has performed in Europe, the Middle East and the United States. Though his presence has been lively in the rest of the world, it is unique and welcome to have this energetic and superb company based in Santa Fe. Heads up, Lodge staff: the tiny wooden stage floor probably needs reinforcing again.