February 24, 2007 6:43pm (photo by Curt Krhounek)
It's pretty exciting for me to see the Baltimore flamenco scene grow little by little. This past Saturday my dancer friend Tamara Sol Flys gave an introductory flamenco workshop organized by Things to Do in Baltimore.
Hi Michael! Here are the pics from the Intro to Flamenco class that I taught for Things to Do Baltimore. The pics were taken by one of the owners of the organization - Curt Krhounek. The class was sold out at over 20 people! We had a lot of fun! We've already schedule another one for April 14th. It will be posted on www.thingstodobaltimore.com in the coming days. If people are interested they should sign up quickly since it does sell out. At the next workshop I'll focus on technique and the 2nd copla of Sevillanas.
OK, it's like 1:18am on Monday as I type these words. No, I'm not at home. But there is a computer here with Internet access, yay! I really should go to bed soon, but while I'm here, I might as well write a quick blog before calling it a night.
Everyone likes receiving gifts, right? I certainly do. But while I do appreciate the finer things in life, it's the thought behind the gift that really matters. Oh and let's not forget the presentation.
So the other day, I was hanging out with this dancer friend of mine and we were working out some rhythmic ideas for one of her dances--just the usual rehearsal kind of routine. But you know how it is, coming up with new contras and variations takes a lot of concentration so you gotta take a break. So we sat on the couch and talked for a while.
At one point, I needed to excuse myself, so I set my guitar down on the couch and a few minutes later, I returned but instead of picking up my instrument and sitting next to her, I just grabbed a nearby stool, sat down and picked up where our conversation left off.
We talked for a little while longer, and then totally out of the blue, she says, "Miguelito, teach me something new on the guitar."
"Sure. OK." I was caught a little off guard but I just shrugged it off, got up and picked up the guitar and found a little surprise...
Genoveva and Anna Menendez in Sevillanas. February 24, 2007 11:41pm
It's 3:04pm on Sunday as I type these words. Despite going to bed at around 5:00am, I got up at 10. When I looked out the window, at first I was pleasantly surprised to see snowfall. A minute or so later, the pleasantness was replaced by dread: I realized that I had better go out NOW and start shoveling cuz you know what happens when it rains later and then freezes overnight: you get dangerously slippery rock hard ice which is practically impossible to manually remove.
I like to think of myself as a good citizen having done my part to make the sidewalk in front of my house clean of snow, but I did the shoveling for selfish ol' me for the reason that it would be less of a pain in the butt for me to enter and exit the house with my hundred pounds or so of sound equipment later this week.
Anywayz, last night after my gig at Tapeo (which was a LOT of fun, by the way--I love the combination of dancers Ginette and Samantha Zerpa!), we had the Sala Rociera flamenco party at my house. I arrived early for a change (around 11:00pm) so I had time to chill and socialize a bit before having to set up my sound system and start the live music portion of the evening.
I was very pleased to finally see both Genoveva and Anna Menendez at the party.
It was Genoveva's first time here at the Pink Flamenco--although I did remember inviting her here for the DC Flamenco 10th anniversary party last year when she had just arrived in the area and was looking to meet and network with the local flamencos. Now of course, Genoveva is well-established in the community and making a quite a name for herself as a teacher, not to mention the fact she's also an amazing dancer too!
I don't remember exactly when I last saw Anna here for a Sala Rociera party. And although it had been awhile she still has done her part over the past year to encourage her own dance students to attend this great opportunity to dance with live music (provided by yours truly and other local professionals), meet other flamencos and just have an overall good time.
I'm kinda chatty right now cuz I'm a bit delirious from the serious cardio workout I got shovelin' snow. Plus I have a feelin' I'm going to be stuck in the house for the rest of the day, ugh. So if you're on my buddy list, buzz me cuz I'm definitely in da mood to chat!! But I'll just shut up for a few minutes and let you enjoy the rest of da pics...
Ginette, Rafaela Carrasco and Miguelito. February 18, 2007 10:05pm (photo by Claudia la Peruana)
It's 1:31 on Sunday as I type these words. Last night dancer Ginette and I both took the night off from our gig at Tapeo to attend the Rafaela Carrasco concert at Lisner Auditorium. Speaking for myself, it was the only concert in the Flamenco Festival series that I was able to attend, but oh well, that's one of the few drawbacks of being a busy local performer.
It was a 70-minute program without intermission:
Began with an overhead spotlight on center stage with a dancer, presumably Rafaela, executing short choreographic phrases without musical accompaniment. Then suddenly another spotlight came on to reveal another dancer, then it would go dark as another spotlight came on to reveal yet another. I couldn't help imagining the challenge for the lighting person staying on top of all the cues.
Eventually they'd leave their spots to interact with the other dancers, and sometimes the males lifted their female counterparts, turned them sideways and did a slow turn before gently releasing them. Sometimes I was caught off gaurd when the two males would dance with each other.
And despite the fact that all the dancers were wearing flamenco shoes, there were many times where they made a deliberate effort to not make a sound. (Although later in the program one of the dancers did in fact dance barefoot--something I would normally see in modern dance.)
While the whole experience was well-executed and very very beautiful to watch, the flamenco purist side of me was dying to know, "Um, what is this?" But I just told that side of me to chill out for awhile, sit back and enjoy and ask questions later.
When the music at first came on, yeah it was in the bulerías compás (finally something I can recognize!) but the instrumentation was different, most notably pianist Pablo Suárez was more musically prominent using the more jazzier sounding extended chordal voicings, meanwhile percussionist Nacho Arimany seated cross-legged and barefoot was playing a variety of instruments such as clay-pots (I asked Nacho what these were called but can't recall their names) and a cajón laid on its side so he could play it like a bongo.
This first piece set the tone for the evening. Rafaela Carrasco most definitely was here to entertain us, but at the same time she wasn't afraid to push the artistic envelope a bit and challenge our perceptions and personal tastes.
Here's a relevant quote from her interview at Flamenco-World:
"I'm tired of sensationalist shows seeking easy applause; I'm against selling oneself out. I need to be told honesty even if it's very scant. I don't ask for a big deal technically; I don't care if you give me three turns or one or none. What I want is for you to tell me truth and honesty."
Solo un solo (Malagueña)
Again this piece opened with a single spotlight but this time it was a lone flamenco guitarist playing in a libre style. I didn't recall the sequence of palos from the program and it was too dark to read it at that moment, so I played the mental game of "Guess that palo." My instincts told me it something from the fandangos family and sure enough it was confirmed a few minutes later from the opening "Ay!" of singer Antonio Campos as he and a female dancer walked onstage from opposite sides. When the rhythm of the guitar became more regular, the guitarist played very simple traditional accompaniment for the palo of a Malagueña.
In my experience, it's been very rare these days to encounter a Farruca in a concert. The accompaniment for this piece consisted of guitar and cello, although the singer did sing an entrada then quickly left. A dim spotlight came on stage left revealing what appeared to be a pile of black fabric. I must've had this puzzled look on my face, because as I was about to figure out what it was, Ginette nudged me, "It's a bata!" (a bata de cola is a very long flamenco skirt that was used a lot in the old days) And sure enough that's what it was. A female dancer picked it up and held it behind her as she started to slowly move around stage.
At some point more lights came on to reveal two male dancers, and they were wearing bata de colas too! The flamenco purist side of me woke up again and asked, "What's going on here?" I told it to shut up again and went back to enjoying the performance. When I thought about later, it dawned on me that since the legendary female flamenco dancer Carmen Amaya garnered her fame by going against tradition wearing pants (when women at the time only danced in skirts) and danced the Farruca (which was traditionally only a male dance), why not turn the tables a bit and have men wear skirts and dance a Farruca? I tried very very hard to keep an open mind, but I just couldn't watch these guys dancing with bata de colas without chuckling to myself. They knew how to handle the bata as well as any dancer I've seen, but was still a bit on the strange side.
Eventually I stopped fixating on the cross-dressing costume detail and sat back and enjoyed the piece as a whole. I especially liked the music. Farruca can be a very repetitive and musically-numbing but the guitarist was very creative in his choice of harmonies. There was just enough of a musical hint of a traditional Farruca that I could still recognize the palo so that when he musically seduced me into another harmonic realms it didn't bother me much because at the same time I was mesmerized by the almost human vocal quality of José Luís López's cello.
Entre dos (Taranto)
When this piece came on, I knew that a lot the local dance students in the audience were probably on the edge of their seats enjoying every moment with anticipation. Local flamenco teacher Genoveva is currently teaching a Taranto in her classes. Anna Menendez happens to also be using Taranto a lot in her classes. Now that their students are armed with a basic knowledge about this palo, I'm sure they found a lot in this performance that resonated with what they learned. Speaking of Anna's classes, I'm about to head out and play for her class in about an hour so I'll quickly finish up this blog and hopefully some of you readers out there will add some commentary about the other pieces in Rafaela Carrasco's Saturday night concert at Lisner Auditorium. (Or maybe I'll just pick up where I left off when I get home later tonight)
De antaño (Martinete)
Soledad acompañada (Soleá)
Hanging out with Joaquin Grilo, Isabel Bayon, La Moneta, Manuel Linan, Olga Pericet and Marco Flores
Paco de Málaga, Joaquín Grilo, Ana Martinez and Isabel Bayón. February 13, 2007 11:46pm
It's 2:55am on Wednesday as I type these words. Yeah it's late but the good news is that I got into the after-concert artist reception for free--well actually I was invited (my thanks to the staff of Lisner and the Embassy of Spain). The bad news is that going home after the metro closed at midnight, I had to take a taxi which charged me double-fare due to the weather. Oh well. At least I got some pics of the performers and got to meet them in the swanky surroundings of the Circle Bistro.
I took my time nursing a single glass of delicious red wine while enjoying a fancy assortment of tapas--although the presentation was gorgeous as they were served on silver platters by wandering servers, some of them were so artfully prepared, I coudn't quite identify what they were made of, but trust me, they were all very tasty.
I found it funny when I heard someone mention that some of the dancers seemed shorter than they expected. There's something about being onstage, apart from being elevated a few feet, that makes these dancers seem taller. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that we are visually drawn towards them onstage and somehow the emotional impact of the cante, guitars, palmas, jaleo and percussion combined makes them seem bigger. And let's not forget good posture, line, costuming, facial expression. So many factors.
Despite their larger-than-life presence onstage, someone else mentioned that in the intimate ambience at the reception, they were pleasantly surprised that these "stars" are really down-to-earth kind of people. I found myself very comfortable just walking up and talking to them. Although I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that, with the exception of Joaquín Grilo whom I've met before here in DC, the rest of the cast I didn't really know that well at least not well enough to instantly be able to say who's who. Not that I don't appreciate them. It's happened before when I've gone to concerts in the past to see well-known flamenco artists. After the performance, I'd go backstage as usual and find that I can't recognize anyone with certainty. Well sometimes I think I know, but of course, I don't want to offend some of them by using the wrong name.
You all saw the Bienal de Sevilla show last night at Lisner, so there's no need for me to say more about the artists. But feel free to post your comments on my message board. I'll just shut up now and show you a few more pics...