Manuel Liñán at DC Dance Collective. September 23, 2010
It's 9-something pm on Sunday as I type these words. Between rehearsals, private gigs and my usual fun Saturday night gig at Cafe Citron, it's been a busy couple of days for me. But I finally got a day with nothing on the schedule so I "unplugged," stayed-in and seriously caught up on sleep! I'm up now so I might as well crank out a quick blog entry.
So this past Thursday, I decided to drop by DC Dance Collective to check out Manuel Liñán's ongoing masterclass and also say hello to the many dancers that I know but don't see on a regular basis. I checked my blog archives and it turns out that I did meet Manuel briefly at a post-concert party during Lisner's flamenco festival in February 2007. But that was years ago so I can't expect him to remember me.
I arrived at the dance studio about 20 minutes before the class started and gave the dancers a heads up that I was going to take pics. Met Manuel for moment and got the OK to bring my camera into the studio. Got caught up in a few conversations, time flew by and before I knew it the class started and I got to work!
Manuel demonstrating a step. September 23, 2010
I realize that sometimes people get a bit nervous when someone's taking their pics. So I have this way of holding the camera in my lap and discreetly have the adjustable display viewfinder screen pointing up so I can see what I'm taking pics of. Sneaky? Perhaps. But my intent is to document the class and at the same time, not make anyone feel self-conscious. Y'know what I mean?
Of course there are a few dancers I know that feel completely comfortable in front of the camera. In fact, there is one that seems to always sense when my lens is pointing in her direction. It's Mariana (pictured below) who took a second to pose so I could capture this moment. Thanks Mariana!
At Bambule in 2003 featuring dancers Marta Chico Martín and Sara Jerez with guitarist Ramin Rad and percussionist Jason Vera y Aragón. August 14, 2003
It's almost 1pm on Thursday as I type these words. Those of you who follow me on Facebook and Twitter knew that I had a Hispanic Heritage Month gig yesterday. The typical routine:
1. Wake up early to meet up with the dancers and singer to carpool together to the gig. (these shows are typically at noon)
2. Setup sound system while the dancers change into costume.
3. Ceremony starts. Speech or two then we go on stage.
4. 20-minute flamenco performance. Applause applause.
5. Put away sound system and collect big fat paycheck.
6. Deposit big fat paycheck and spend it.
Easy money, right? Yeah it is. But we deserve it. Us full-time artists have paid our "dues" practicing for years developing our flamenco skills so that we can crawl out of bed, show up at a gig, perform, and get paid an extravagant amount of money considering we're only actually working for 20 minutes.
But I left out one tiny but still very important item from the above routine. Can you guess what it is?
It's the tablao!!! For those of you who don't know, a tablao is very simply a wooden stage to give the flamenco dancers a percussive surface to showcase their footwork. And yesterday for the Hispanic Heritage Month performance, we had to bring a tablao to the gig because the room we performed in was carpeted.
So we arrive at gig and the singer and I carried the tablao from the car to the room. It's something I've come to accept as a part of my duties as a flamenco guitarist...supporting my dancers. But yesterday as I was carrying the tablao, a very large piece of plywood requiring at least two people, my hands were feeling a little pain. So I said to the singer, "Dude, my hands are in pain here. I shouldn't be doing this to my hands. I'm the guitarist and we have a show in 20 minutes."
Our security escort, dressed in business attire took my hint and offered to carry the tablao. 20 minutes later we went on stage and I played guitar just fine. But still c'mon I shouldn't be carrying heavy stuff right before a gig.
This morning I was thinking about how most of our clients have no idea about the technical requirements of a flamenco show. It's not their fault of course. It's up to us flamenco performers to educate them. And I'm not about to impose upon you my ideas of what kind of stage is most appropriate...because each dancer has a different level of what they'll accept as suitable for a performance. So for the benefit of those thinking of putting on a flamenco show in a restaurant, private party etc here's a small sample of some of the tablaos I've seen over the years here in the DC area.
8' x 8' on a raised platform Pictured at the top of page. Built by Jason Vera y Aragón, this consists of two 8' x 4' birch wood sheets supported by 2" x 4" lumber around the edges. This allows the sheet to have a hollow space underneath giving it a nice sound for flamenco footwork. The platform raises the stage about 6-8 inches and locks onto the latches. This kind of stage is pretty costly but it was a long-term investment for the show.
Ginette Perea dancing soleá accompanied by Miguelito at Las Tapas. September 21, 2010 (photo by Даша)
It's almost midnight on Tuesday as I type these words. Got home about an hour ago. I really should go to bed at a decent hour for a change. I have an early day tomorrow and I can't afford to show up at the gig half awake. It wouldn't be fair to the dancers and the singer not to mention our audience! But since I'm up I might as well crank out a quick blog for now and make myself productive.
For the longest time, the Tuesday night manager at Las Tapas, Даша (pronounced DA-sha) has been offering to take pics of the show. I finally took her up on it for this evening's show featuring dancer Ginette Perea. Thank you Даша!
José and César Oretea aka Duende Camarón at Vinoteca. September 19, 2010 10:43pm
It's 2-something pm on Monday as I type these words. And yes I'm proud to say I just arrived home after a fun night at Vinoteca. Things never seem to go as planned. This always happens. I promised myself I'd only have one beer and leave early. Don't get me wrong, the show was excellent...I just didn't want to stick around too long and be tempted have a couple more drinks and spend more than my struggling artist budget would allow.
As I was about to leave, I got a text from a flamenco fan who saw my Twitter update (announcing that I was going to Vinoteca) and so she decided to drop by. I hadn't seen my friend in a while, so I decided it wouldn't hurt to stick around for just one more drink. We split a bottle of Spanish wine, which by the way are half-off during Flamenco Sundays! $32 bottle slashed to $16 split between two came to $8 each plus tip.
Next thing you know it's 11:00pm. The show's over and I was about to rush off to catch the 11:23pm metro home. So as I was saying goodbye to everyone, I was introduced to this Italian girl who apparently is a regular. She asked, "Where are you going?"
And I jokingly replied, "We're going to your house to party all night!"
"OK! Let's do it!" Wow...this totally caught me off guard. But I went with the flow.
"Allright let's go!
So scratch the idea of catching the last train. I worked out another ride home and we headed to my new Italian friend's house for a few drinks with the Oretea brothers and friends.
After-party at our Italian friend's house. September 19, 2010 11:54pm
So after a few drinks, it was time to leave. Didn't want to overstay our welcome, y'know? César offered to drive me home which was totally in the opposite direction, but José said, "Why don't you just crash at my place?" I didn't have any plans in the morning, so I said, "OK!" And just like the old days (back in 2004) José and I sat out on the porch at his house, being the late night vampires that we are, and talked about music, life etc until who knows what time.
Monday morning hanging out with José and his nephew. September 20, 2010 11:46am
Next morning I was woken up when someone came in the room and announced, "Come upstairs for breakfast." So I joined the Oretea family for some coffee, bacon, eggs and some picante empanadas, yum! Got to meet José's nephew who seems to already have a headstart on decent rasgueo technique! No surprise.
So what's the point of all of this? Well, as much fun as I have doing flamenco for a living, I still need a vacation like everyone else. But I can't afford it right now. So the closest thing to a vacation is to leave the guitar at home, not think about work, go out and relax and go with the flow which is exactly what I did. Did I spend more money than I should have? Yeah. Is it the end of the world if I did. No. I'll figure somethin' out. But am I more relaxed now? Yes. Mission accomplished!
No that's not me in the picture, but I wish it was. What a simple life a dog leads! Yeah so that's the most recent photo in my camera—during a break from rehearsal at a dancer friend's house. Whenever I write a blog I always have some photos of a recent flamenco-related event to publish along with it. But I haven't been out and about as much as I wanted to the past week, so that's the photo I'm going to publish today. Enjoy it!
In case you didn't know, here in the USA, from September 15th to October 15th is officially Hispanic Heritage Month. As it turns out a lot of end of summer festivals happen around this time and this year, especially this weekend there has been a lot of flamenco performances (many of them FREE!):
- September 17th: Flamenco Aparicio in Alma Flamenca at the Creative Alliance in Baltimore
- September 18th: Furia Flamenca at the H St Festival
- September 18th: Flamenco guitarist Marija Temo at Bloomingdales in White Flint
- September 18th: Natalia Monteleón's Arte Flamenco at Rockville Town Square
- September 18th: Manuel Liñán flamenco masterclass at DC Dance Collective
- September 18th: Furia Flamenca at the Lincoln Theatre in honor of Rita Moreno
- September 19th: Furia Flamenca at the International Chilren's Festival at Wolf Trap
Sadly, I couldn't make it to any of the above events. I'm sure some of my photographer friends will send me some pics to publish in a future blog. But to redeem myself for not getting out to do my photojournalist duty this weekend, I'm going out to Vinoteca tonight for the rumba/flamenco show.
But I'm doing so against my better judgment—on my struggling artist budget, I can only afford one beer. Hopefully I'll see some of you there tonight and nudge nudge, feel free to buy me a drink!
P.S. The next couple of weeks are packed with flamenco happenings. Checkout the calendar, show your support for the local flamenco community and come out to a show or two.