Spanish Gypsies live and breathe flamenco, as "Gypsy Passion," an artfully conceived production from Andalusia, rightly suggests at the Plymouth Theater (236 West 45th Street, Manhattan).
Based in Jerez, the three generations of dancers and musicians on view perform with ingenuity, charm and dignity, qualities often submerged elsewhere in the firebrand exuberance and sensuality that the public associates with flamenco.
These elements, incidentally, are hardly missing from this two-act presentation, but they surface here with dramatic logic, not for their own sake. The dances are never performed in isolation. Each is linked to another in a loose narrative that explores the life of an Andalusian clan at work and at play: its members are as apt to do their marketing in "Gypsy Passion" as to fall in love through song and dance.
The show's originality lies in this variety: every dance is seen as different, its special aspects firmly defined when it is placed in a functional context. There may be a faint didacticism to this approach, but the commitment of the performers, including a crowd-pleasing quartet of endearing young girls, wraps the conceptual core in human warmth. "Gypsy Passion" looks perfectly at home on Broadway as a family show.
Something of a sleeper when it had a brief run in New York in April, the production is presented with support from the Andalusian Government and is the brainchild of a Spanish diplomat, Tomas Rodriguez-Pantoja. The artistic and music director is Manuel Morao, who began his career as a dancer with internationally known troupes and who is now, as he proves throughout the show, a master of the guitar.
Flamenco itself came to be defined as a genre only in the 19th century, although its antecedents were visible in the 18th century. The strict rhythmic forms of flamenco music and dance tend to be identified with Gypsy performers, but the greatest flamenco dancers are not always of Gypsy origin. Nonetheless, there is Gypsy style to flamenco that only those reared in it can convey, and it is seen in the especially serpentine arms and rotating wrists of the female dancers in "Gypsy Passion."
A campfire scene (with woodland scenery by David Sumner and lighting by Tom Sturge) begins the show. Juana la del Pipa sings out with marvelously deep-throated resonance as Concha Vargas dances an earthy Solea.
A sense of community is always projected, and the mimed rejoicing over the birth of a child becomes a pretext for another burst of dancing, in which Sara Baras, a serene beauty with clarity in heel work and an angular silhouette, comes to the fore.
The pace, a bit slow at first, picks up when the clan moves to town, represented by stylized grillwork that suggests a tavern and a market place. Mr. Morao, Luis Moneo and Antonio Moreno, the guitarists, and Lorenzo Galvez, the singer, suggest they have seen the world that the younger pair in front of them -- Juan Antonio Ogalla and Carmen de la Jeroma -- are still discovering. Mr. Ogalla is an impressive dancer, wiry and taut, surly and explosive by turn but always careful of his form, while his partner has a smile upon her lips that agrees with her polished flow.
The company's style is understated, although the joyful Bulerias features the irrepressible youngsters -- Manuela Nunez, Mercedes Ruiz, Patricia Valdes and Estefania Aranda -- charging out to perform their solos with schooled precision.
The second act, entitled "The Gypsy Village," begins with another fine singer, Pepe de la Joaquina, and is centered around a courtship and a wedding night. The choreography, credited to a collective called the Gitanos de Jerez (the Gypsies of Jerez), now takes on a more artificial but theatrical tone. Miss Baras is sensuality personified and her partner is Antonio el Pipa, a bit free in form but lively in his powerful heel work.