I was fortunate to catch flamenco siren La Tania?s penultimate Bay Area performance in San Francisco Friday. Paul Parish saw her last farewell show the following night in Berkeley, and captured it masterfully for the DanceView Times:

?The hall at La Pe?a, a Latino cultural center in Berkeley, was filled way beyond capacity for the last of three farewell concerts given by la Tania. She is the West Coast’s finest flamenco dancer. Born in Andalucia, she was an important dancer in Madrid at 17, dancing with Mario Maya and Paco Pe?a. She joined the Spanish community in the Bay area about 15 years ago and immediately entered the front ranks of flamenco performers here (and we have many good ones, foremost being Rosa Montoya, who had already moved to the US in Franco’s days) . . .

The show was classic “cuadro flamenco”?three dancers (2 solos each), a guitarist, a singer/percussionist) on a small boxy stage: black curtains, stiff wooden chairs with straight backs set foursquare to us, and the first to come onstage is the guitarist, who played a moody solo all by his lonesome?in this case, the Gypsy virtuoso “Chuscales,” whose first stormy flurries of sound contained so many discordant 7ths and minor 9ths the speakers nearly went out from the dissonance. It reminded me of the last cadence of the Matthew Passion, a groaning, throbbing sound, beyond melancholy?only active grieving sounds and feels like that. It set the keynote?and yet the show was really a festival of flamenco, a gift to Tania’s fans, and its temper was full of wit and good feeling.

The performers were Tania, Carola Zertuche, Juanaire, the guitarist Jose Valle “Chuscales,” and Yiyi Orozco, who sat on a box that he pounded with his hands and sang like a genius.?

Like me, Paul was struck dumb by the suave Juanaire, whose style Paul?s writing reveals with wonderful clarity. I have little to add, except to underline how damn appealing his stage persona is. He?s a slip of a thing, really, with a compact nimble posterior. His velvet sportscoat and rumpled button-down shirt makes him look like he?s headed out to grab a drink in the Mission District, but he holds his jacket away from his swelling chest with utter bravado. His footwork is indisputably spectacular?his final glide of zapateado was like walking on water. Picture above all this a big-eyed face not a little reminiscent of the British comedian Rowan Atkinson, and you?ve got a faintly campy sense of humor as the topper.

The other discovery of the night (besides the excellent musicians) was Carola Zertuche. Her youthful excitability can?t compete with La Tania?s glamour, but she did a damn elegant job and she?s well worth keeping an eye on. And as a matter of fact she has a show, titled ?Verde,” coming up at San Francisco?s Cowell Theater on February 25.

As for La Tania?s last local bow, check out Paul?s review and you?ll almost feel you were there.

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