Flamenco Louisville Showcases the Art of Spanish Dance
By Eli Keel
Louisville’s Flamenco scene has been simmering for decades. While Flamenco has never quite reached the level of popularity in America that ballet and other forms of dance have enjoyed, there are vibrant pockets of music and dance in cities and towns all over the country.
On Saturday, March 28, you can see an example of the Derby City’s Flamenco culture as Flamenco Louisville presents a tablao at Caffe Classico.
The company was founded almost 10 years ago by dancers from the freshly dissolved Ballet Espanyol. Today the company is headed by founder/co-director Diana Dinicola and co-director Paula Collins.
Accompanist and founding member Paul T. Carney spoke with Insider at Flamenco Louisville’s beautiful Frankfort Avenue studio.
Flamenco grew organically out of folk dances and music in the Andalusian region of Spain, Carney says. The exact history is not known, but it’s generally accepted that Flamenco was first practiced by Romany people in Spain, most likely around small campfires.
The grassroots beginnings may be one of the reasons Flamenco culture hasn’t enjoyed the commercial success and wide recognition some other art forms have, but it may also be due to a confusion outsiders feel when approaching the dance for the first time.
Is Flamenco the music or the dance? What do all these Spanish words mean? Are the performers improvising, or is this a set piece? Why is the audience yelling at the dancers?
Some forms of dance are performative in nature, while others, like Flamenco, are participatory.
If you check out Flamenco Louisville on Saturday, the performance you’ll see is called a tablao. There will be a guitar solo or two, some vocal performances and six or seven dances, which may be accompanied by guitar, percussion, vocals or all three.
Some Flamenco groups around the world have taken on the more formal settings and spectacle of ballet and musical theater to put on grand concerts. Flamenco Louisville feels their art is most at home in small venues, says Carney. They prefer to keep the spirit of those Romany campfires alive.
While Louisvillians don’t generally gather around campfires anymore, a small, informal setting isn’t too hard to find. Flamenco Louisville presents their monthly tabloa at Caffe Classico, an intimate space on Frankfort Avenue that is perfect for the occasion.
“That monthly thing is great, because everybody gets performance time,” says Carney.
It’s a good fit given Flamenco culture in Spain often revolves around the café. Carney says it’s the most common way to watch Flamenco in Spain, and that audiences like to have a little wine and snack on tapas while they take in the show.
The stage is set up in Classico’s back room. At roughly 10-feet deep and 20-feet across, it’s a small stage for dancing, and even smaller when you consider that guitarist Carney, percussionist John Harris and vocalist Shannon Fitzgerald share it with the dancers.
In some ways, it’s the closeness between the performers that makes Flamenco so special. This group — the dancers, musicians and vocalists — is called the cuadro.
Flamenco Louisville often performs at schools around Kentuckiana, and they typically begin with a short vocabulary lesson. There’s cuadro, which literally translated means “square,” but it refers to the close-knit group of performers.
Each member of the cuadro has a special name. The toque is the guitar, the cante is the song, the baile is the dance. What they create together is a mixture of improvisation and practiced movements and rhythm.
“When it all works together, it’s a leaderless form,” says Carney.
Flamenco Louisville also gives a short lesson on audience participation so students can catch the spirit of the performance and contribute their own jaleos (cheers of encouragement). If you go to the tablao this weekend, you may hear any number of jaleos, but some classics are “olé,” “vamo” (go!), “eso es” (that’s it) and, if there is a particularly fierce piece of footwork, you may hear shouts of “agua” (water). This playfully suggests the feet of the dancer are on fire.
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Flamenco Louisville Spices Up Frankfort Avenue
August 29, 2014
by Brandon Vigliarolo
Walk down Frankfort Avenue on any given evening, and you’re likely to hear stomping feet, the singing of Spanish poetry and the fast-paced strumming of a guitar - Flamenco. You might have the same reaction that I did when I heard about Flamenco Louisville (flamenco here?), but despite the surprising pairing Diana Dinicola and her group are alive, well, and getting ready to celebrate ten years of spicing up Louisville’s dance scene.
The evening that I sat in there were five dancers, an instructor who was also singing, and a guitarist. They danced a Tangos por Fiesta, or a party-style tango, where each dancer took turns in the center of the group improvising and trying to use all the steps they learned earlier in that night’s lesson. I was struck by the live music and singing - was this the norm for the group, and did all flamenco dancing feature a singer? “Absolutely,” Dinicola told me. “A lot of people think flamenco is a dance style, but nothing could be further from the truth.”
Rather than flamenco being just the dance, she told me, it’s all about the three-part combination (called the Quadro) of the singer, dancer, and guitarist. “Really, flamenco is more akin to American-style improvisational jazz. just with a dancer and vocalist as fundamental parts,” Dinicolo says. There isn’t any one dominant element, and in fact all three parts are playing off each other.
Think of how a jazz guitarist and bassist might inform each other as to what part is coming next, just so the singer, dancer, and guitarist work together to control the tempo, intensity, and course of a flamenco song. If a singer is slowing down the piece and the dancer comes to a point where they wish to bring the energy level up, they perform a llamada (think of a bridge in a song), signaling the other part to follow her just as she followed them before. “People think flamenco is all about dance because it’s so flashy,” Dinicola told me, “but nothing is further from the truth..
Live music is a staple of Flamenco Louisville as well - “we here at Flamenco Louisville really think that if you aren’t performing with live music and vocals then you really aren’t doing flamenco,” Dinicola told me - and rightfully so. If Flamenco is all about the relationship between the three parts, then performing against a recording wouldn’t allow for any of the interplay that should be happening to make it real. You can’t improvise with a recording, after all.
As for the level of improvisation in flamenco, Dinicola describes it as lego bricks. “You take bricks of a prescribed size and shape and plug them together to make a finished piece,” she told me, “those bricks are each a sequence of steps, so the dancer has a lot of liberty to use what suits the mood of the music.” And that mood is intense, no matter how slow the music seems. Flamenco uses the dancer’s whole body, and I could see the workout that everyone was getting as they practiced. But the reward is great - soon nine students, along with Dinicola and her husband, Paul (the guitarist) will be travelling to Seville, Spain for La Bienal - a huge, month-long flamenco festival. They’ll be learning from some of the best inthe world, and Dinicola will be reuniting with her Spanish teachers that she’s been studying with since 2005.
Flamenco Louisville stays busy here in town as well - not only do the put on multiple performances a year, but they also regularly do community outreach at assisted living facilities, retirement homes, and schools. Dinicola herself is a teaching artist with the Kentucky Arts Council, and she does workshops, assemblies and residencies at schools all around the area.
Latin American Composers Raise the Temperature
- Rafael de Acha
“FI:RE” - Concert:nova, Flamenco Louisville, Cincinnati, Ohio. 6.6. 2014.
Concert:nova has a terrific name and a strong brand, so that not only its name, but the titles of its concerts often sport a colon separating syllables. Such was the case with FI:RE, a musical conflagration that happily mixed Astor Piazzolla, Alberto Ginastera, Osvaldo Golijov and Manuel de Falla in the warehouse space of Company on Eastern, boasting a large group of Cincinnati’s finest musicians.
Tres Tangos by Astor Piazzolla at once raised the temperature of the bare-bones industrial space, due to the playing of Anna Reider, a formidable violinist. Her sultry fiddle-playing could easily be at home in one of the River Plate or Seine bordellos that the Argentinian’s “Nuevo Tango” master evokes in the languid melodies of “J’attends,” “Vivace” and “Bonsoir.” Boris Astafiev supplied a solid accompaniment on the bass.
Ginastera fully embraced atonal writing in his mature and later works, notably in his operas. But here, in his earlier String Quartet No. 1, his music inhabits an ambiguous tonal territory, in which both the composer’s Argentine roots and Stravinsky-influenced ostinato rhythmic patterns co-exist. Ms. Reider was joined by Mauricio Aguiar, Rebe Barnes and Ted Nelson, all four giving a fierce performance of two of the work’s movements.
The first half ended with Golijov’s Last Round, for double string quartet and bass, with Allan Rafferty , Margaret Dyer, Heidi Yenney and Minyoung Baik joining their onstage colleagues for a brilliant musical mano-a-mano in two movements. The first is a triplet-filled hard-driving one marked “with movement, urgent” that eventually settles into “macho cool and dangerous,” followed by a lentissimo that unpredictably ends the previous tonal and rhythmic agitations with a straight-ahead coda.
Shannon Fitzgerald, a singer whose Irish name and looks made her absolutely authentic singing of Cante Jondo all the more surprising was accompanied by the very fine guitarist Duane Corn and joined by a superb trio of dancers: Diana Dinicola, Paula Collins, and Larissa Guy. The precise choreography of Alegrias, the spirited twists and turns of Seguidillas and the impassioned foot work of Bulerias were pure pleasure for eye and ear. The group goes by the name of Flamenco Louisville and deserves close attention: its dancers are stately, with the Spanish duende—the poetic term for charm, attitude, and passion—in plentiful supply.
In Manuel de Falla’s El Amor Brujo, Kelly Kuo led a vibrant performance with the full ensemble from the first half, augmented by flutist Randolph Bowman, oboist Lon Bussell, French hornist Lisa Conway, trumpeter Douglas Lindsay, pianist Julie Spangler, and percussionist Jeff Luft.
The young mezzo-soprano Kate Tombaugh sang the part of the haunted gypsy girl, Candelas: her lyric voice rang clearly, her chest tones were impressive, and her handling of the Spanish text and Gitano accent were authentic. The Flamenco Louisville artists danced and acted the parts of a silent group of women who accompany Candelas on her journey from abandonment and despair to liberation in the course of the work’s all-too-brief two acts.
Flamenco Louisville Puts Emotion in Motion at The New Vintage
- Aug 17, 2013
After a several month hiatus, there is nothing like getting out and seeing a good show and August 14th was our lucky day. The New Vintage (formerly Uncle Pleasants) hosted a free performance by the renowned “Flamenco Louisville” from 9 until Midnight and this collection of talented artists brought a refreshing and powerful new energy into what was once a very different venue. Of course, it had been almost 2 decades since I’d visited this establishment and back then it catered primarily to the punk and metal music scene.
Upon our arrival several positive changes were immediately visible. The front door was open and the sounds of rhythmic dance, light percussion and Spanish guitar were gently wafting into the night air. Not loudly mind you, but just enough to give a pleasant pause to someone walking past. We were greeted by the bartender immediately and service was quick and friendly, including directing us into the room in which “Flamenco Louisville” was performing.
This was the first time I’ve watched this talented group of Bailaoras’, Cantaoras’ and Musicians. Now, I am woefully disappointed for missing previous performances. The verbal storytellers are the Cantaoras’ (singers) and both Suzanne Allen and Shannon Fitgerald portrayed the emotion necessary to project understanding, even for those of us who are ‘slightly’ rusty on our Spanish.
The Bailaoras’ (dancers) of the evening were Diana Dinicola, Lisa Canter, Grace Mican and Larissa Guy, who all performed fluidly on stage, seemingly at one with the music and surroundings. Diana Dinicola both danced and played the role of an elegant herald, providing brief descriptions and introductions prior to each performance. Group dances were minimal, as the majority of the performances were done solo or in a ‘pass the shawl’ sort of way. This was particularly enjoyable, as the style seemed far more traditional, allowing each Bailaora to interact and project her individual energy into the audience.
Each Bailaora contributed a special kind of energy to the stage and Diana Dinicola’s years of experience, dedication and passion are obvious in her performance as she confidently moves onto the stage. She illuminates strength, poise and grace, transforming with a radiant energy that reaches out to interact with the patrons. If one could give the heart of Flamenco a face, Diana’s would be most appropriate. The raw power of her performance will subconsciously have you sitting on the edge of your seat, just anticipating her next climactic change.
With a small stage and a lot of seating congestion, Larissa Guy brought the patrons to their feet for a better view during her solo performance, our party included. From the moment she rose from her chair there was an explosion of intensely powerful emotion, whipping the energy in the room. Nothing stirred when she paused, but the second her foot hit the floor, the air crackled with life. She was a storm, bursting with emotional electricity on the stage.
It is true that music soothes the soul, but some music also compels the soul to dance. The music that entwined with the Bailaoras’ this evening was performed by Paul Carney on guitar and John Harris, who did an amazing job on percussion. We’ve had the pleasure of seeing Paul play once before, but actually seeing him on stage with Diana and “Flamenco Louisville” is without comparison. There is a magic that sparkles between them that seems to further ignite the passion of the performance. The timing was impeccable, as if invisible signals passed between them. Perfection.
Another unique aspect of Wednesday’s show was the reintroduction of Flamenco traditions. “Flamenco Louisville” embraced the audience as part of their own community by bringing in authentic Tapas to share with patrons. For those unfamiliar, “Flamenco Louisville” is the longest standing Flamenco group in Louisville that performs and educates others via workshops, classes and educational programs about the ancient Spanish art of storytelling, song, dance and music.
Those who have the pleasure of seeing “Flamenco Louisville” on stage will quickly not only see, but will meld into whatever emotions these passionate performers emanate, be it sadness, anger, joy or love. Flamenco is emotion in motion, but perhaps Diana Dinicola described it best on her site:
“Flamenco gives expression to ALL the emotions, not just the happy ones. I can be sad, angry, joyful. It allows me to turn whatever I’m feeling, even if it is something dark or “ugly” into something beautiful. As a woman, flamenco makes me feel incredibly powerful. And I am not waiting for a man to give me the opportunity to dance; I can dance solo, or with a group but a partner is not required. I also really appreciate that you are expected to get better as you get older. You are expected to have something to say in flamenco – “dime la verdad” – and the life experience to back it up. Nor do you have to be any particular body type. Some of the most respected dancers have substantial bodies. I respect that.”
Overall, it was a great show and the metamorphosis of Uncle Pleasants into “The New Vintage” is far more appealing than previous years. I could have done without the red and white stage lights glaring into the audience. However, if they continue to play host to entertainment such as “Flamenco Louisville”, we’ll be frequenting the venue much more often… although perhaps with sunglasses.
Multicultural dance performance to spice up TTU
Thursday, September 09 2010
By Jenda Wilson
More than 500 years of historical dance converge into one flamenco performance at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 21, in Tennessee Tech University's Derryberry Auditorium.
"La Esencia Del Flamenco" the Essence of Flamenco is a performance featuring choreography that is both collaboratively created and improvised on the spot. Flamenco is a style of music and dance native to the Andalusian region of Spain.
The performers hail from Flamenco Louisville, an organization devoted to all things flamenco including classes, workshops and professional performers. Diana Dinicola, a co-founder of Flamenco Louisville, will be part of the performance group as well.
"We've been creating and rehearsing like crazy," said Dinicola. "We can't wait for that moment when the whole performance connects with the audience."
Dinicola, who has extensive training from multiple flamenco programs, has traveled the world to perform and interact with other celebrated flamenco artists. She is also an active educator, teaching flamenco in underserved communities in Louisville, Ky., and throughout the state through ArtsReach.
The performance repertoire is based on a system of song forms, or "palos," which allow improvisations around commonly known musical structures. The artists will perform via "cante" (singing), "baile" (dancing) and "toca" (playing of musical instruments). "La Esencia Del Flamenco" incorporates elements of melody, poetry, rhythm and movement into one complete presentation.
It is a Center Stage event hosted by the President's Commission on the Status of Women, which provides educational opportunities about specific issues and events that enhance a general awareness and appreciation for diversity on campus. The commission also promotes an awareness of women's issues and oversees the TTU Women's Center and programming of interest to women in the community.
Leslie Burk of the TTU history department staff and member of the programming and publicity subcommittee for the commission, wrote the Center Stage request to bring the dancers to TTU. Burk has danced in the Middle Eastern style for nearly 20 years and the flamenco style for seven.
"Part of our focus with the commission is bringing diversity to campus through educational programming," said Burk. "This performance is a great mix of multicultural diversity and empowerment. Flamenco is a very empowering dance."
In conjunction with "La Esencia," there will also be a quick-start introductory flamenco class taught by Dinicola during dead hour the day of the performance. The class, to be held in Derryberry Hall Auditorium, is open to everyone all ages and skill levels and will cover three elements of flamenco: "brazeo," the movement of the arms and upper body; "zapateado," the footwork; and "compas," the rhythmic underpinnings of flamenco.
By Jill Hoskins
Since moving to Kentucky in 1999, Home At Last and Flamenco have been two of my greatest passions. Most of the time, these two, very different interests have very little to do one another.. . .
But on June 19th, for one phenomenal evening they had everything to do with each other!
Since moving to Kentucky in 1999, Home At Last and Flamenco have been two of my greatest passions. Many folks have heard of Flamenco, but still aren't quite sure what it is, often confusing it with other types of Latin dances like Tango or Salsa. Flamenco is a style of music and dance that originated in the Andalusian region of Spain, combines guitar, singing, percussion, and elevates it to an extraordinary level. Most of the time, these two, very different interests have very little to do one another. Animal advocacy and Spanish guitar? Homeless animals and crazy fast footwork? Sanctuary life and castanets?I think you get the idea.
But on June 19th, for one phenomenal evening they had everything to do with each other!
Flamenco Louisville, accompanied by musicians from Alma Gitana, put on an amazing show at Natasha's Bistro in Lexington all to benefit Home At Last. It was an evening filled with inspired performances, gorgeous costumes, and of course, lots of passion!
Dancers Lisa Canter, Paula Collins, Diana Dinicola, Grace Mican- Work, Mary Ann Silveri, and Charlie Marshall brought out all the stops, using fans, shawls, hats and castanets and changing from one extraordinary costume to another. Guitarists Paul Carney, Duane Corn, and Bob Elliott provided the stellar music that didn't stop all evening long! And the beautiful Suzanne Allen captivated us with her strong, beautiful voice and her continuous reminders to help the animals. Everyone who came out that night to support the animals was in awe of the performance and agreed that it was one of the best evenings Home At Last has been lucky enough to be a part of.
For me, it was especially touching, because as I looked around the room, it was the sum of my last 11 years. I was actually brought to tears a couple of times not only due to the power of the performance and the generosity of the performers, but to see how my two worlds, usually so separate, were able to come together in such a beautiful way.