featured photo
The Kitchen
Brought to you by
Body Wrappers;
New York Flash Review Sponsor
the New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel for women and girls. Click here to see a sample of our products and a list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always
performance at its best.

Go back to Flash Reviews
Go Home

Flash Review 2, 2-6: Flamenco, Generations
Amaya, Canales, Manolete, Farruquito, Farruco, and Soler -- and Musicians -- Fete the World Music Institute

By Anna Arias Rubio
Copyright 2003 Anna Arias Rubio

NEW YORK -- The third New York Flamenco Festival began last Thursday night at City Center with a cast of six singers, six guitarists, two percussionists (one of whom also dances) and five dancers ranging in age from 14 to 58. Including the choreographed elegance and refinement of Manolete, the instinctive improvisation of Farruquito, Juana Amaya, Antonio Canales, 14-year-old Farruco and Manuel Soler, the Gala de Andalucia benefit for the World Music Institute served up a feast of pure unadulterated flamenco to the impassioned sold-out crowd of 2,700.

The dissident opening chord on the guitar immediately set the serious tone of the "Martinete por Seguirilla"and the cante (singing) began with the booming pure flamenco voices of Enrique "El Extremeno," La Tana and Jose Valencia. Farruquito, 20-year-old heir to the Montoya flamenco dynasty, his 14-year-old brother Farruco, long wavy hair half covering his young face, and Juana Amaya enter, each first marking the rhythm and absorbing the raw emotion of the cante, then responding with lightning speed footwork. Her arms spread like an eagle soaring over the world below, Amaya seems to be on the stage and at the same time looking down on it from some higher plane. Her footwork is precise and insistent, demanding attention. Farruquito enters gliding from one side of the stage to the other as if skating, punctuated by outbursts of rapid footwork. The three dancers join together for a "palo seco" (percussion only) section, defining the martinete: a rhythm derived from the banging of the blacksmith's hammer. To use martinete, one of flamenco's oldest styles, to open the show is an appropriate statement of the history and tradition represented by these Gypsy artists.

Manuel Soler, percussionist, dancer and guitarist, then gave an all percussion solo, dancing with his cajon, accompanying and answering himself. More attention should have been given to this multi-talented artist.

Next up was a guajira from Farruco. Guajira is a lighter rhythm, what we call a "cancion de ida y vuelta"(round trip song) because it didn't develop until after the Spanish settled in Cuba. Farruco came out smiling in a baby blue suit with white shirt and boots, this time with his long hair slicked down. The playful and sweet romantic mood of this rhythm and its cante are just the right fit for this child-artist. His feet are just as powerful as his older brother's, but he uses his arms above his head more than Farruquito, and in the resolution "por tangos" he showed a growing sensuality and use of the body that will only become more irresistible as he matures.

During the rondena, danced by Farruquito and Amaya, it became evident that the singers were not sufficiently miked. Many people are not aware that in flamenco the compas (rhythm) is the motor that drives the dancer and the cante (singing) is the inspiration. The cante is the base and the beginning of flamenco, many flamencos say, the most important element. Too often U.S. audiences are only interested in the footwork and don't give the cante the attention it deserves. Several times during this evening I saw the singers straining more than they should have to in order to overcome the unbalanced sound system. "Las cosas del querer no tienen explicacion" (the matters of love can't be explained) began the letra, Amaya and Farruquito dancing for us the melancholy of a misunderstanding between partners, each explaining their own suffering and finally coming together, Farruquito gently wrapping his coat around the shoulders of his partner.

For me, the highlight of the gala came next, with the solea danced by Antonio Canales. The solea is a serious rhythm, with letras (lyrics) usually relating personal suffering; a true expression of self, followed by a cathartic release in the lively rhythm of bulerias. The piece began with just percussion and as the guitar came in, so did Canales, skulking from offstage with his shoulders and head down. He turned to face the audience and lifting one foot at a time in super-slow motion made his way downstage. He slowly lifted his arms to the heavens as if drawing some spirit out of the earth or pleading with God. He clapped his hands together, the lights rose and he stood there, waiting for the cante: "Mala sea la persona que me ha ensenado el querer" (curse the person who taught me to love). Canales is a big man, but is capable of incredibly delicate movement. Rather than paying attention to his feet, my eyes were constantly drawn to his hands, caressing the music. The soft roundness of his arms and gentle, almost feminine use the hands makes a surprising contrast, with his masculine appearance and fierce footwork. (Again, unfortunately, the mood was disturbed by the unbalanced sound system. During the second letra the singer had to keep gesturing offstage begging that the guitars be turned down.)

So much attention has been given to Canales's experiments with flamenco and grand theatrical productions that many people have forgotten that under it all, the Man Can Dance. It was absolutely thrilling to be reminded of how Antonio Canales got to the position to be able to experiment. When he threw down his jacket and let loose for bulerias, it was hard to stay in my seat. It was also a nice touch to see young Farruco accompanying Canales with palmas (clapping).

The second half opened with Farruquito dancing an alegrias. He entered joyfully in a dashing white suit, calling for the letra with his brilliant footwork. He is so connected to the compas (rhythm) he appears to be in a trance; nothing is staged, nothing is faked. The singers and guitarists are hanging on to every nuance of his long lean body to find their cues. It's electrifying. We dancers know what it means to be addicted to dance, to NEED to dance, but imagine literally being born to dance. While still a toddler, Farruquito was chosen by his grandfather El Farruco to continue his legacy. Being a dancer is not a "choice" Farruquito made, it is his vocation, his destined path. When I watch him dance, I don't only see the 20-year-old in front of me, I see the grandfather in his dignity, and in the way he clutches his jacket. His face is beautiful and young, but it has an ancient quality, his deep-set eyes carrying the whole history of his people. He is definitely worthy of his task.

Juana Amaya gave us a solea wearing a soft layered red dress. Amaya appears so internalized when she dances, it almost seems we shouldn't be watching. I find her a little scary. "Yo me meto por los rincones" (loosely translated, I lose myself) began the letra. While some dancers languish in the mood of the letra, or struggle against it, Amaya always appears defiant. She expresses herself through her remarkable feet more than most female dancers and her use of only one guitarist gave the impression of a very personal conversation between her feet and the guitar. She holds her body controlled in an attitude of hyper-awareness, only softening slightly to deliver her very minimalist bulerias, but even then the powerful letra sang by La Tana said "my death is my cry of freedom." How strong a statement is that?!

The great maestro Manolete danced the rhythm of alegrias. He began dancing in his chair, with his masterful feet singing around him. Like all the artists in the gala, he was exposing his soul through the "arte," but he expresses himself using refined and intricate choreography. His 58-year-old body is small and perfectly proportioned like a ballet dancer's. Manolete's technique is elegance; he made several "cortes" (full stops) so perfect it seemed the musicians even stopped breathing for the time he held himself aloft. Even with the heavily miked floor, his feet sounded light, like the tapping of fingernails on a table. A counterpoint to the grand master dancing was the very young singer who sang two classic letras of alegrias. The reverence shown by the youngest artists for the older generation throughout the show was a pleasure to see.

This inter-generational respect continued in the fin de fiesta (grand finale), done traditionally in the rhythm of bulerias. All the artists came out together, even the singers and guitarists taking their turns with a "pataita," dancing for each other. This is always the funnest segment of any flamenco show. Canales waved his polka-dot handkerchief, while singer "El Extremeno" imitated the distinctive pose of Juana Amaya. I left with a huge smile on my face, even before receiving the small bottle of Spanish olive oil provided to every audience member by the Junta de Andalucia as we filed out. Now if only WMI and Miguel Marin Productions, producers of this event, would bring the festival to Philadelphia and more U.S. cities next year!

Anna Arias Rubio began her training in dance and music at age four. After training in ballet with Margarita DeSaa and John White at the Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet, she started studying modern dance in her early teens with Joan Kerr and Susan Hess. Anna moved to San Francisco in 1982, continuing her modern training with several teachers, including Lucas Hoving and Ed Mock, and began flamenco with Rosa Montoya (of the important Montoya Gypsy clan) and with the late Maestro Cruz Luna. By 1986 she was a member of Theatre Flamenco of San Francisco under the direction of Miguel Santos and Adela Clara, performing throughout the Bay Area. In 1991 she returned to Philadelphia and became a member of the Flamenco Ole company under the direction of Julia Lopez and Carlos Rubio (no relation), performing, teaching and giving lecture demonstrations around the country. After living in Spain for a couple years, Anna continues to study in New York with Nelida Tirado and Olympia Estrella from Sevilla, in Spain with La Chiqui de Jerez and recently with Inmaculada Ortega. Anna and her husband Tito Rubio, a flamenco guitarist from Spain, give classes and perform throughout the Philadelphia area with their group Flamenco del Encuentro. Anna was awarded an Artistic Fellowship for the year 2001 from the Independence Foundation.

Go back to Flash Reviews
Go Home