Through July 16 at the Geary Theater, 415 Geary (near Mason), S.F. Admission is $14-55; call 749-2228.
-- Joe Mader
Flamenco at its best is a fiercely personal, self-involved form; amazingly, the 7-year-old Madrid troupe Noche Flamenca boasts enough individualistic dancers to cast a soap opera. There's Alejandra Ramirez, mouselike but spunky; Noe Barroso, young, bewitching, frustrated by his romantic inexperience; Eva Marin, mature, knowing, and elegant; and Bruno Argenta, roguish and suave. The common denominator among them is that they are all nearly worthy of the show's reigning star, Soledad Barrio, wife of Artistic Director Martin Santangelo and the very embodiment of duende. Barrio, who performs alone only once during the program, in the climactic Solea, looks dejected when not dancing, dutifully clapping along with the exquisitely soulful musicians in the background. Center stage, she prowls hips-first, with a deeply arched back, and her long balances and impossibly tiny clicks of the heels command equal suspense. But the show's inspired choreography, much of it by Santangelo, serves her co-stars well. The opening Alegrias gives just a provocative hint of a plot, Ramirez and Barroso alternately chasing and defying one another, rarely in unison and yet somehow always in sync. They reunite by dance's end, but Eva Marin looms suggestively in the distance. Flamenco die-hards in the audience reverently stomped along to the inventive rhythms; those newer to the form are likely to be taken in by the company's family atmosphere, worthy of an exotic miniseries. Mediate the experience as you will, but catch this show before it heads for its annual run in New York.
Noche Flamenca performs Tuesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m. through July 15 at Theater Artaud, 450 Florida (at Mariposa), S.F. Tickets are $20-25; call 621-7797.
-- Rachel Howard