For this seventh edition, dubbed, "Somos Flamencos" ("We Are Flamencos"), co-founder and artistic director Yaelisa cherry-picked a group of Spain-based dancers and musicians to present a world-premiere commission of the same name. Most of the performers proved familiar, with each a star in his or her own right (guitarists and singers as well), and solos dominating the proceedings.
The mood quickly turned, however, into a testosterone-fueled stompfest, as David Paniagua attacked the floor with machine-gun precision to the sensitive sounds of guitarists Ricardo Rivera and Miguel Pérez. In a kind of call-and-response mode with singers Manuel Malena, David Lagos and El Picuo, Paniagua then ripped into a frenzied series of turns and backward kicks before removing his velvet jacket.
Yaelisa's more sculptural solo, "Taranto," allowed her to display a lusciously arched back as prelude to an accelerated polyrhythmic show of flashing feet. A wall of sound -- heightened by the singers wailing from some deep, mystical place -- flowed into a musical interlude that also featured the earthy vocalese of Encarna Anillo, her plaintive moans a hotbed of pleasure and pain.
A compact Andrés Peña (the Joe Pesci of flamenco), lunged with primal authority in "Martinete." Unleashing a fusillade of stampings that countered upraised arms, Peña whipped through dizzying turns with a bullish swagger.
While more interaction between the dancers would have been desired, the solo bar was raised by María José Franco, whose troupe opened the 2007 festival. In an anti-diva statement (or perhaps a sartorial nod to going green), José Franco first appeared in last year's gown, albeit showing some serious mettle in the heavily feathered orange frock, before donning a lacy black number. Slicing the air with determined arms, her hair flying, José Franco exploded with unbridled passion and sinewy bends, an alluring fireball of pent-up emotions.
Juan Ogalla's commanding presence also riveted. Stalking the stage stallion-like, the statuesque Spaniard sported a business suit -- one punctuated, that is, with a polka-dot ascot. Dazzling with sharp, jabbing footwork, Ogalla had a haughty demeanor that was belied by a dimpled smile, sensually curling hands and hurricane legs. Indeed, his fleet feet refused to calm down, the percussive heel-toe action in "Alegrías" an Olympian achievement by any standard.
Closing the two-hour program with "Fin de Fiesta," the company, which also included guitar ace Eugenio Iglesias, came together with a scorching bang, Yaelisa and Ogalla holding each other's waists in a noble, if brief, pas de deux. It may have been a slow burn, but "Somos Flamencos" turned up the sizzle, topping it with a big helping of duende (soul).
"Somos Flamencos" performs Tuesday and Wednesday, 8 p.m., $33-$100. Also, Antonio El Pipa Flamenco Company performs Friday, Saturday, 8 p.m. and next Sunday, 6 p.m. $38-$100. All performances at Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Dr., Irvine. (949) 854-4646. www.thebarclay.org or www.ticketmaster.com