There is no place to hide

Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca present Ni Bien Ni Mal, Todo Lo Contrario

2 minute read
Four dancers sit in chairs, dimly lit, gesturing towards the audience. Two more stand behind them, one points to the audience
Noche Flamenca performs 'Ni Bien Ni Mal, Todo Lo Contrario' this weekend. (Photo by Jesse Rodkin.)

The husband-and-wife team of Vilcek-winning dancer and choreographer Soledad Barrio and artistic director Martín Santangelo are bringing their Noche Flamenca to the CHI Movement Arts Center for a studio performance of Ni Bien Ni Mal, Todo Lo Contrario (On the Contrary, Neither Good nor Bad). This will be a rare opportunity to experience the sounds and movement of flamenco performed up close at the highest level; as Santangelo said, “To see the gestures of the faces, to see a finger move of the guitarist.”

Raw and true

The company last performed for an audience at Plays & Players Theater in February of 2020, right before the pandemic shut down all touring. It’s been over two years since they took the stage, so the company wanted to try out the show before they opened at the Joyce in New York. “The space is so raw and true,” Santangelo said, “I can see things in that space that I don’t see in the theater.” There’s no place to hide, so you can’t get away with stage tricks.

Truth is what good flamenco is about: “people screaming out because they can’t go on with their lives, and they have to find a way to wake up the next morning and go on with their lives—that has to do with flamenco, the reason that it exists,” Santangelo said. When asked what audiences should look for, he said, “the communication between the musicians, the singers, and the dancers.” Like great jazz, he said, they depend on each other. “That communication is the thing to look for, the main hook.”

The day before I spoke with Santangelo, Barrio had received the Vilcek Foundation prize, awarded to immigrants who are leaders in the arts or sciences. The prize last went to a dancer in 2012, when Mikhail Baryshnikov was the recipient. At first, Barrio thought winning the award was a scam or a joke, but the man on the phone finally convinced her. “Soli was on the floor in tears,” Santangelo said. For Barrio, and as for many performers, the pandemic has meant years without their audiences, so it was important for her “to feel that she was valued.”

What, When, Where

Ni Bien Ni Mal, Todo Lo Contrario. Presented by Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca. $30. April 2 and 3, 2022, at CHI Movement Arts Center, 1316 S. 9th Street, Philadelphia. Tickets online. (Tickets are sold out as of the original publishing date).

Audience members must show proof of Covid-19 vaccination and ID; masks are optional.


CHI Movement Arts Center is an ADA-compliant facility.

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