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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
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.
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.
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