Adrian Flores Presents -'The Latin Show: The Show Where Everyone Dances'
Killing them softly
by Toba Singer
August 13, 2004 -- Hoffman Theater, Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek, California
An impressive number of people filled the Hoffman Theater, feeding in from all directions, most of apparent Latin descent as well as from a variety of other backgrounds. It’s the audience composition you’d like to see everywhere you go in the dance world, but generally do not. The mood of anticipation was palpable, and no one bore that hang-dog, almost injured look that you sometimes see among the Lobby Lizards. The look that seems to cry out, “Why do I have to spend a perfectly good Friday evening attending something I know will be bad just because I’m a friend of somebody in this?” These were friends and family, but they seemed pleased as punch to be there.
Adrian Flores must have been one heck of an impresario in his day! He knows how to pull together a show in the old-fashioned boîte cabaret style, and he can sure fill those seats! Unfortunately, what he pulled together, in this instance, missed the mark, and made you feel that you were living through a version of the film "Nashville," only Latin instead of Country. All that was missing was the anonymous violence that crystallizes in the hands of one lone assassin, though as a thin stream of people began to walk out, I did wonder whether an avenger might return …
What should we expect at the Dean Lesher in the far reaches of Contra Costa County? We should expect what we’ve been given before by the likes of Michael Smuin or Diablo Ballet—a professional performance with talent that is not years past its prime, or new, but raw when it comes to utilizing the downstage space, remembering to look at their partners instead of at their friends in the wings or, like, throwing a glance now and then in the direction of the audience: In other words, something a little more present and accountable.
There was lots of dazzle in the costumes, some enthusiastic dancing by dancers from the Mambo Romero Dance Company and the Fashionate Rhythm Dance Company, some plain vanilla choreography that was executable by the dancers assembled, and some experienced partnerships by Beto and Lani Da Silva (especially Beto, who nearly lost the top of her costume several times), and Marcelo Solis and Romina Hahn (especially Marcelo) and Silke Heleine and Alex Harnicholas (especially Silke). These were salsa (couple number one) and tango interpretations (couples two and three) and the salsa was better conceptually than the tango, but when Marcelo Solis partnered a bucket mop that then became two mops, the level of the artistry plummeted precipitously floorward.
The singing was oppressively off-key and without subtlety. Increasing the volume over notes you can’t hit, doesn’t redeem the work. After awhile, you began to think that someone rounded up everyone who had been fired in Las Vegas, locked them in a studio, rehearsed them mercilessly until every single one of their flaws was deeply encrypted, and then turned them loose on the audience. Since the playbill offered no actual program, and we had no idea of how many numbers there would be, nor whether an intermission was in the offing; and since the curtain was a half an hour late, we left after an hour and a half, having heard enough butchering of such familiar tunes as “Beseme Mucho” as well as many others. The Mariachi Los Cachorros group was the only saving grace, and almost made up for a small trio called “Inspiration Tango,” which for some reason allocated huge amounts of time to a flautist to play solos that were more insipid than inspired.
With sympathy for the hard work, and empathy for those who have lost their way, (but not their will), I feel duty bound to say—Please, just don’t go there…
Read related stories in the press and see what others are saying. Click here.