Flamenco group amazes McKinney Theater

Tim White

The melodic sounds of mezzo-sopranos, flamenco dancers and classical guitarists echoed through Saddleback College’s McKinney Theater Saturday night.  De Gracia y Pasión, Southern California’s premier classical Spanish and Flamenco Company, performed a bill of selections from operas such as “Goyescas” and “Carmen.”  Formed in 2008, the company is artfully led by expert guitarists Randy Pile (Saddleback guitar instructor) and Scott Wolf.

Pile and Wolf’s extraordinary guitar performances were nearly overshadowed by the haunting voice of Janelle DeStefano during her sublime performance of Georges Bizet’s “Habanera.”  DeStefano’s lengthy resume boasts countless nationwide performances, all the while pursuing a doctorate of musical arts at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music.

Completing the ensemble were the graceful movements and epic taps of dancers Micaela Castellanos, Rosmaria Galan, Alexandra Rozo and Lorena Santiago.  Their unity as a company became apparent during the second act’s set of alegrias so engrossing that they evoked some audience participation.

The true showstopper occurred during the final montage of tangos, when Isabella Simpson, 6, charged the stage, keeping beat with her seasoned colleagues.
“I was surprised [by her performance],” said Steve Simpson, Isabella’s father. “This was the first time she was alone on stage.”

Simpson has been studying dance for three years, and the art of flamenco for two years, under the tutelage of Castellanos.

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