The Compañía Flamenca performed at the Staller Center for the Arts this past Saturday. Flamenco has roots in Arabic culture and originated in Southern Spain. PHOTO COURTESY OF BEATRIX MOLNAR

World-renowned flamenco dancer Eduardo Guerrero’s entrance onto the stage was anything but lacking drama. Receding from the shadows came a figure in a teal suit walking painstakingly slowly down a diagonal rectangular light that led to the audience.

Each step had a purpose, as he put one foot in front of the other in sharp motions and then suddenly, three-quarters into the diagonal, struck a pose. A woman’s voice murmured, so he crossed over to a circular spotlight, dancing intensely for a brief moment, and the once dark backdrop turned to a vibrant red. 

“He played between stillness and extravagant movement. He moved from one spotlight to the next,” Orna Szenczy, a former semi-professional flamenco dancer, said. “He was playing with absolute stillness, which is the hardest thing to do on stage. He played the audience so well.”

Guerrero, along with the Compañía Flamenca, a Spanish dance troupe, performed “Flamenco Pasion,” a two-act performance with 12 different dances at the Staller Center for the Arts on Saturday, Oct. 13. 

Flamenco is a dance that originated in the southern region of Andalucia, Spain. It is a mixture of Arab, Christian and Jewish music and dance that the gypsies of the region adapted. The first flamenco schools were in Cádiz, where Guerrero is from.

As he danced the caña, one of the most important flamenco dances, with speed and bullfighting movements, he became a puppet of the guitar, struggling to break free, digging his foot into the ground, stomping over and over but also stopping to do pirouettes with his arms contorting around his body. His feet were in sync with the clapping and his wet hair flowed with the swift motions of his legs. The singers sang “Ah oh Gitano (Gypsy).” 

“I’ve seen the best dancers in the world,” Szenczy said.“He reminded me of Antonio Gades. He was very traditional. He reminded me of him but with a twist, he had something very animalistic about him. Like no boundaries, no limits.”

Szenczy’s daughter, Aline Szenczy, a research lab coordinator in the psychology department, described Guerrero’s performance as raw and his stillness as a tease for the audience. Aline Szenczy couldn’t help but say that his second solo was unforgettable, with Guerrero walking on stage with a red and orange suit that nobody could ignore.

“His flexibility, his footwork, his stamina was unreal,” Aline Szenczy said. 

Guerrero’s second solo, Segurilla, was more passionate than the former. His feet dribbled against the floor — he could fit countless steps into a four count, with his heels barely touching the ground. If his feet could breathe, you would hear no breath in between the clicks of his heels and the floor. His shoes were an instrument themselves. The musicians and singers whisper “Aguanta aguanta (hold on),” “dura dura (harder),” “ah me gusta (oh I like it)” and “caballero (gentleman),” which pushes him to dance with more intensity and speed. 

Olivia Espinoza, a junior sociology major and burlesque dancer, said that she was inspired by his performance and wants to use some of Guerrero and the dance troupe’s moves in her dances.

The dance troupe had their own presence, dancing in sync in elegant costumes. The women wore white aquamarine dresses, called batas de cola, with several layers of long trains. They skipped around the trains and used their costumes as accessories to their dance, but beyond their beautiful costumes, their best performance was when three out of the five dancers danced the farruca, a more recent flamenco style that is a traditional male dance. One of the women switched out her dress for a suit and danced with the men, keeping up with their passionate steps as they formed different lines and figures.

“I thought it was so incredible thinking of gender and expression. What I really appreciated was the femininity and actually how masculine it was, and how masculine it was to be so feminine,” Espinoza said.