The quiet heartbeat of a drum throbbed in the darkness of the Town Hall theater. As the stage-lights slowly warmed, palmas joined the pulse, slowly and delicately. As the singers entered the stage, the musicians were ready to transform the place into a dim-lit Andalusian café. The annual Flamenco Festival New York 2008 opened earlier this month at Town Hall with Cuatro Esquinas. The program highlighted singers Carmen Linares and Miguel Poveda, guitarist Juan Carlos Romero, and dancer Pastora Galván.

Carmen Linares has been internationally lauded for her graceful style over her award-studded 30-year career, having won prizes at the Competition of Flamenco Art in Cabra, the Silver Medal of Junta de Andalucia and Spain’s National Music Award. She has also appeared in Carlos Saura’s 1995 film, Flamenco. On stage, she reigned with unquestionable passion. Wearing layers of red velvet, she glowed like embers. Her voice was both gritty and fluid, and she lead the other musicians with the poise and elegance of a true goddess. Miguel Poveda, who was nominated for a 2000 Latin Grammy for his album, Suena Flamenco, sang his canto jondo as if there were blood in his throat, intermittently singing of a woman with eyes as green as albahaca (basil).

Throughout, guitarist, Juan Carlos Romero, who has written music for such dance companies as the Ballet Nacional de España and the Compañía Andaluza de Danza, kept the emotion going. A master guitarist, he seemed calm as his notes went wild. Pastora Galván took the stage in her New York debut with curving fury and bull-like force. Bending her knees and snarling her lips, she stomped her feet and cast powerful stares at the singers and the audience. She danced three distinct interludes, dispersed between pieces. For the first dance “De mi casa a tu puerta,” she emerged in a white ruffled dress that evoked the feathers of a dove. For the second dance, she danced a sevillana with a large shawl, beckoning Poveda, who sang to her. For the third dance, “La Gabriela,” she danced a moody taranta, ending folded over a chair, overwhelmed by Linares’ sad song.

For the grand finale, Poveda, dressed in black like a torero, sang with Linares, linking in and out of songs. Galván returned at her finest in a beige dress, topping the night off with strong zapateados. The audience responded to the finale of the 1 hour, 40 minute show with a long standing ovation.

Don’t miss the other Flamenco Festival performances which continue until February 24.