Saturday, May 18, 2013

Uno y dos... Ay Flamenco Otra Vez. ¡Olé!


We've been attending openings and performances and literary gatherings and so on and so forth fairly often since moving to New Mexico last fall, far more often if the truth be known than was the case when we lived in California. Or at least it seems so.

Last night, it was Jesús Muñoz at the National Hispanic Cultural Center (a venue we've practically made our second home...;-).


Yes, very much so. Flamenco is called El Alma de España, yet it's probably not "native" Spanish, it's Gypsy, Gitano, and it reflects the Gypsy soul fully as much as the far more reserved and proper "Spanish" soul.

This was in essence a taberna (tablao) show, one that showcased two bailadores, two cantantes, two guitarraistas (one electric) and a percussion virtuoso. As I said at the show, "I want to learn to play The Box." (El Cajón)

It was, from beginning to end, in a word, brilliant.

We've noticed that flamenco has become pretty much the default (modern) Hispanic cultural art form in Albuquerque, and it's made strong inroads in Santa Fe and in the rest of Northern New Mexico. It's not a traditional art form in these parts, so I understand, only fairly recently introduced and popularized by such artists as Maria Benitez -- who was actually instrumental in introducing me to flamenco somewhat more than thirty years ago in St. Louis of all places. Flamenco classes and workshops are going on constantly and seemingly everywhere, and solo, duo, and group performances are frequent. We attend performances as often as we can, and if our health issues allowed it, I don't doubt we'd be attending classes at the very least.

We'd seen Muñoz's choreography in Rudolfo Anaya's "Rosa Linda" and thought highly of it. His "Red Note" production was being promoted on lobby cards at the performance of "Rosa Linda," so we thought why not plan on going and got ourselves some tickets. Little did we know...

This production was the distilled essence of Flamenco, just two dancers, two singers and a handful of appropriate musicians. In addition to Jesús -- who danced superbly -- the nearly legendary "La Chispa" (Valeria Montes) repeatedly stole the show with her fiery and intricate movements and perfect attitude. Her introductory dance with a Spanish shawl was mesmerizing and earned an enthusiastic response from the audience. But every time she appeared, the crowd went wild. Not that they had any less enthusiasm for Muñoz himself.

His moment, really, came when he "painted with his feet." Just before the intermission, a large piece of black plastic was brought out from the wings and laid on the floor; a somewhat smaller piece of something black -- maybe itself made of hard plastic -- was lowered from the flies. Stage hands applied red and white paint to a corner of the hard plastic. Jesús appeared in jeans and t-shirt and paint-stained white flamenco boots. He proceeded to dance. Every now and again, a stage hand would squeeze more paint from a ketchup dispenser while Jesus continued to dance. In the end, he took off his boots and marched off into the wings. His painting was raised from the floor and was displayed with two others, the others done by Reyes Padilla (whether while he danced, I don't know!) in the style of the work by Muñoz. The paintings hung through the intermission.

Singers José Vega and José Cortes Fernandez had extraordinary and complementary voices; their songs formed the basis for the improvisations of the dancers, but they also had their solos and duets and they were captivating.

Just so the guitarists, Ismael De La Rosa and Yosmel Montejo, whose accompaniment, along with their own virtuoso moments, made not a little magic on stage.

But my attention was drawn repeatedly to percussionist, K'tumba (Francisco Xavier Mera Rodriguez). Ay, if only...!  I thought, I would love to sit on The Box and play...!  But then, I've longed to do that for many years. One day, I keep thinking, one day for sure... Psst, he's doing a workshop on Monday and Tuesday....

There was an after party at the Hotel Andaluz in town. We had to skip it because we are old now, and it was very late (for us) to be out and about, and we faced a long drive over the hill back home. Yet were we just a bit younger... 


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