Quick, syncopated clapping mixed with feet stomping were audible over the hungry crowd - I asked the bartender, Luisa, for a red sangria at the Nai Tapas Bar and immediately claimed my barstool for a good view of the evening's entertainment. It was a Saturday night, and live flamenco music and dancing runs weekly from 8:30pm-11pm, performed by Reynaldo Rincón and Romeria Flamenca. The music alone is mesmerizing, and when the dancers take the six-by-six wooden "stage" (a three-inch high wooden platform to amplify the percussive dance steps) all eyes become transfixed on the movement. Yet another form of dance that we can thank the elusive and nomadic Romani people for, flamenco is as much seductive as it is virtuosic in both aspects of the music and the dance. But you really cannot think of the two as separate components of the art form - the dancers are musicians as well: their obvious clapping and castanet playing adds percussion, but not as obvious to the audience is the rhythm that the feet add to the combative sound of the guitar. Willa Bronce, a tall, thin, and beautiful dancer with long black hair and covered in a fringed, skin tight dress (something that you might see out of a movie) graced the stage with aloof nature. Rebeca Tomás, also a member of A Palo Seco, seemed to be telling a story to the audience with her dance. If you watched only the top half her dancing, you would think she was moving in slow motion, twisting and and unfolding her arms to unravel some sort of hidden treasure. Meanwhile, in her lower hemisphere, the fast movement, heel stomping, toe tapping, trills of the foot, are the complete opposite of the tranquil movement above. A physical instrument, these dancers accompany the fiery finger picking and strumming of Reynaldo Rincón's guitar rather than ambellish it.
It turns out there were two birthdays in the restaurant - the two women, complete strangers to each other, were called to the stage to follow Willa in a mini lesson of simple flamenco rhythms. With single quarter notes building to syncopated eight and sixteenth notes, these two ladies, along with the rest of the patrons in the restaurant, got up from their seats to dance together in loud, heel-clicking unison!
Reynaldo Rincón & Romeria Flamenca, along with his dancers including Rebeca Tomás, Willa Bronce, and others can be found performing every Thursday and Saturday evenings at Nai Tapas Bar from 8:30pm-11pm. 174 First Ave between 10th & 11th Streets, New York, NY 10009 - call (212) 677-1040 for reservations.