PREVIEW Two years ago when Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenco filled Zellerbach Hall to the rafters and awarded its performers with a standing ovation the likes of which Cal Performances probably had not experienced in a while, I felt very much like an outsider. I am crazy about flamenco, yet it was only when Barrio took to the stage that I got an inkling of why that southern Spanish form, which reaches deep in that country's Arabic heritage and perhaps even further into its even more ancient gypsy roots, still manages to take my breath away in the 21st century.
Every pause, every rhythmic explosion, every serpentine turn spoke of something inside her that needed to come out. It was powerful, intimate, absolutely theatrical, and totally genuine. She was defiant, playful, and mysterious frequently all at once. It was an unforgettable performance that probably would have been even better in a smaller venue this tiny woman held 2,000 people in the raised palm of her hand.
The rest of the company is by no means simply backup for Barrio. These are superbly trained performers who manage to hang onto their individuality despite the constraints of this type of highly controlled, technically virtuosic performance. Company director Martin Santangelo, who got his start on the stage with El Teatro Campesino, knows how to put together sizzling shows. But the primary reason to welcome this company's return is Barrio.
SOLEDAD BARRIO AND NOCHE FLAMENCO Fri/23Sat/24, 8 p.m., $24$48. Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley, Berk. (510) 6429988, www.calperfs.berkeley.edu