Forever Flamenco, the Fountain Theatre’s sizzling hot signature flamenco series, moves to the Fountain’s new outdoor stage for three, 3-night weekend events at the end of July, August and September: July 30 through Aug. 1; Aug. 27 through Aug. 29; and Sept. 24 through Sept. 27, with all performances beginning at 8 p.m.
Boasting some of the best-known, most highly respected flamenco performers in Southern California as well as special guests from New Mexico, New York and Spain, each performance will be directed by a different artist.
The first performance of the summer, on Friday, July 30, will be directed by bailaora (dancer) Lakshmi Basile “La Chimi” (pictured above.) A tribute to the late cantaor (singer) Jesús Montoya, the evening is sub-titled Pinceladas Escandalosas (“Scandalous Brush Strokes.”) Featured artists include cantaors Antonio de Jerez and Reyes Barrios; guitarristas (guitarists) José Tanaka and Kambiz Pakan; and special guests David Castellano, Laura Castellano and Cristina Moguel of “FlamencoFlavor,” direct from New York City.
Subsequent performances will be directed by Vanessa Abalos (Aug. 1); Reyes Barrios (Aug. 28); Ethan Margolis (Aug. 29);Fanny Ara(Sept. 24); Alexandra Rozo (Sept. 25); and Antonio Triana (Sept. 26), with specific line-ups to be announced.
The Fountain Theatre has been presenting authentic, heart-pounding, Gypsy flamenco dance and music since its founding in 1990, under the auspices of theater co-founder and then co-artistic director Deborah Culver (a.k.a. Lawlor). Forever Flamenco was inaugurated as a series in 2003, with the Fountain quickly becoming L.A.’s go-to venue for the art form. The Los Angeles Times calls Forever Flamenco “the earth and fire of first-class flamenco.” The series is currently produced by longtime Fountain associate producer James Bennett.
This spring, the Fountain built an outdoor stage in its parking lot in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Audiences have been enjoying performances under the stars since the June opening of the company’s Los Angeles premiere production of An Octoroonby Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. Performances of An Octoroon are scheduled through Sept. 19.
Tickets to Forever Flamenco range from $40–$65. Seating will be socially distanced and masks required as mandated by the County of Los Angeles on the date of each performance. The Fountain Theatre is located at 5060 Fountain Avenue (at Normandie) in Los Angeles.To purchase tickets, call (323) 663-1525 or go to www.FountainTheatre.com.
Fanny Ara in ‘Forever Flamenco’ at the Fountain Theatre.
by Victoria Looseleaf
The Spanish term for a heightened state of emotion and authenticity, “duende,” roughly translates to a single word, “soul.” It’s also the elusive ingredient at the heart of flamenco, the centuries-old art form whose Andalusian origins, while not completely known, are an exotic blend of Jewish, Arab, and Roma (also known as Gypsy) cultures. Commonly thought of as an art of suffering — and punctuated by fiery footwork, rhythmic hand clapping, and raspy-throated singing and guitar playing that can veer from sensuous to scorching — flamenco, when performed by true artists, not only has the power to exist in a profound and mystical place, but can be a transformational experience for an audience, as well.
Happily, amid the urban sprawl that is Southern California, there also happens to be a rather tight-knit community of flamencans that stretches from Los Angeles down through Orange County and into San Diego, with upcoming performances including the Melissa Cruz-directed “Forever Flamenco — Evocar” (L.A.’s Fountain Theatre, October 27); Lakshmi Basile (San Diego’s Café 21, the Gaslamp location, November 2); the Spanish superstar Farruquito (Segerstrom Center for the Arts, November 6; the Soraya in Northridge, November 9); and Ethan (Margolis) Sultry and friends (Fountain Theatre, November 24).
That said, the indisputable Godmother of the L.A. flamenco scene is Deborah Culver, who co-founded the 78-seat Fountain Theatre in 1990 with Stephen Sachs, and has been presenting flamenco concerts under the banner, “Forever Flamenco,” ever since. Dubbed “the earth and fire of first-class flamenco” by the Los Angeles Times, the series has been weekly, biweekly, or monthly, with Culver estimating that they’ve produced in excess of 500 unique performances over the years.
Culver said she was drawn to the dance for a number of reasons, first and foremost, that it’s a “great art. It’s compelling, it’s mind-blowing, it’s gorgeous, and we have some very good practitioners here [in L.A.]. I danced it, too, of course, but really, I respect the pros.
“Throughout my time producing Forever Flamenco,” added Culver, “I have seen the community grow, mature, and exceed even my wildest expectations, and there are many dancers who are really pulling it off, who are really in tune with flamenco.”
The Fountain Theatre has also produced numerous flamenco concerts in conjunction with the Ford Amphitheatre, a bucolic, 1200-seat venue across the street from its much larger counterpart, the Hollywood Bowl. Olga Garay-English, executive director of the Ford Theatres since 2016, recently presented Olga Pericet, winner of Spain’s National Dance award in 2018.
“The Fountain Theatre really needs to be praised for being a stalwart with not a huge financial undergirding — I think that they really deserve a lot of credit,” noted Garay-English, who added that under her Ford tenure, they have co-sponsored three concerts with the Fountain, including Pericet’s.
“I thought that flamenco really deserved a larger stage in the greater L.A. area,” she added, “so the first season I booked it in 2017, we actually commissioned a flamenco floor, which is more percussive. I also think that flamenco is an extraordinary art form that has really deep roots and yet it has become an international language, so to speak. You really see people taking up the form in very diverse cultures because it speaks to people.”
Garay-English agreed with Culver that the L.A. flamenco community is thriving and growing. “It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy — the more excellent flamenco that is available, the more people are interested in seeing the work. People are really thirsty for this caliber of flamenco.”
One performer who has been a fixture of the Fountain’s flamenco series is Los Angeles-based Briseyda Zárate. Born in Delano, California, and brought up by Mexican immigrants, she’s performed at the space for a decade and a half, either dancing with others or directing concerts at the venue with her troupe, Briseyda Zárate Ensemble.
Briseyda Zárate and ensemble | Credit: Sonia Ochoa
In addition to beginning her own series, Noche de Tablao, last January at L.A.’s Bootleg Theater, 44-year old Zárate, a flamencan with a feline presence and feet of fire, has also danced with L.A. Opera in productions that include The Barber of Seville and in last season’s zarzuela hit, El Gato Montés, as well as having choreographed for the company in operas such as Carmen. The dancer, who lives and works several months of the year in the cradle of flamenco, Sevilla, Spain, is nevertheless, wholeheartedly committed to L.A.’s flamenco community.
“It’s an art form that requires, obviously, community,” explained Zárate. “It also requires people who perform, audiences who go see the performers, students who want to learn, teachers who want to teach and not just steps, but the culture itself, through a way of life, a country, a specific part of Spain, though it’s all over the world. It’s about connecting at the very core of the art form — connecting in the moment to the singer, the guitarist, to yourself — and creating the magic that you give to the audience.
“Flamenco is also about the audience feeling something,” she continued. “Yes, flamenco can get really difficult technically, but at its core, it’s a very simple human thing, because it comes from such a deep historical place and a deep emotional place and the music, the dance, the song transmits that place and the artist, the “bailaora” — dancer — has to be able to transmit that. Not every artist does that. People who do it like a machine and depend solely on technique, in flamenco that will never fly. That will never suffice.”
To Zárate, duende is the spirit the dancer generates and is something akin to a ritual. “You’re creating it and it’s very special and not something that can be done by anybody. It takes obviously a lot of study, and technique is the gatekeeper to how you reach that sublime place. However, it’s just the gatekeeper — there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it in flamenco. You cannot base it solely on your technique or virtuosity. Maybe you can get away with that in other art forms, but not in flamenco.”
Someone known for possessing duende in spades is Farruquito, heir to one of the world’s most acclaimed Roma flamenco dynasties. Born in Sevilla in 1982 as Juan Manuel Fernández Montoya, Farruquito has been described by The New York Times’ Alastair Macaulay as “one of today’s superlative dance artists.” Carrying on the tradition of his grandfather, “El Farruco,” the electrifying performer first made an appearance on Broadway at age 5, and is bringing a pair of shows, “Farruquito Flamenco,” to the Southland.
No stranger to drama, Farruquito, a master of line, quicksilver footwork, and authoritative presence, was involved in a fatal hit-and-run accident, eventually serving three years in a Spanish prison for the crime. Released in 2010, Farruquito came roaring back, continuing his life’s mission to share the purest form of flamenco on stages around the world.
As to the debate of flamenco being more a matter of nature or nurture, of bloodlines or experience, Farruquito wrote in an email that it is “a little of each. Theory without practice does not achieve much. And if we are looking at it as an art form, I think you have to go much deeper into that world. If you are lucky enough to be born in a family that can give you that experience in exposure, you have to work even harder to make something out of what you are given.”
Farruquito also shared his thoughts regarding duende, writing that it “means being accompanied by a certain magic that allows one to transmit something special, intimate, and ever-fleeting while performing. But for that duende to grace us with its presence, we must lure it in with passion, dedication, respect, humility, and everything else that it rightfully deserves.”
Indeed, high-quality flamenco, whether strikingly presentational à la Farruquito or decidedly internal, thrives on immediacy and texture. It also requires top-notch musicians. With its distinct rhythms and outside influences also coming from Africa and the Middle East, there is a timelessness that exists at the heart of this music. Cleveland-born guitarist/composer/producer Ethan Margolis, 41, known as Ethan Sultry (Sir Sultry is his production company), moved to Spain to study the art of Roma flamenco guitar at 21, eventually moving to Los Angeles in 2010.
While in Spain, Sultry and dancer Cihtli Ocampo (now his wife), cofounded the erstwhile Arte y Pureza Flamenco Company (Art and Purity), an acclaimed troupe that toured Europe and the States for a number of years. Blending American and Spanish roots music into a jazz/flamenco hybrid, Sultry has created a style bursting with complex flamenco rhythms that stem from India — with some of the melodies having an Arabic character — while the dance form, he pointed out, is an expressive, improvisational one that was first shared by Roma families in their homes.
“People don’t realize that dance is not always at the root,” explained Sultry, “because in the Gypsy household, the flamenco dance form before it got on stage, was in someone’s house, at a party, around a campfire. It was very short, about 40 seconds long, then it was over. It was about the singing and the rhythm.
“It transformed into what we see now as 10, 15, or 20 minutes of dance that evolved to be put on a stage and sell tickets,” added Sultry. “I try to feature the dance, because it’s incredible, but there’s so many dance-heavy productions. Last year we presented shows that featured songs from Gypsy inheritors and none of them were commercial artists. They spent 400 years developing this stuff and no one knows who they are. I’m trying to help people understand that flamenco is like a work-song culture — they’re singing their sorrows out and it’s not all about fast footwork.”
Which isn’t to say that Sultry is not a fan of the dance. On the contrary, his November concert at the Fountain, “Sonikete Blues: Woodshedding,” will feature dancer Ocampo, vocalist Emi Secrest, cajón (box drum) player Ramón Porrina, as well as his Ethan Sultry Group, including Lee Ritenour’s upright bassist Ben Shepherd, and keyboardist Mitch Forman, who played with Gerry Mulligan and Stan Getz, to name a few.
“The Fountain is great for flamenco,” said Sultry, “and it’s because of people like Deborah. Other than the Fountain being an intimate venue, it’s the people allowing and pushing for flamenco to happen. They lose money but keep going. They allow artists to come in, do their thing and leave. I can’t imagine that the Fountain has financially benefited much from flamenco because it’s a labor of love. And it’s not,” adds the musician,” like every city has a Fountain Theatre.”
Sultry, who has a rather astonishing YouTube video that features him playing Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns,” flamenco style, with his body-painted wife slinking around the stage, her arms raised with filigreed fingers slicing the air, has his own idea — no surprise — of what he deems duende.
“What I believe to be spirit — duende — is that [Spanish playwright Federico García] Lorca, who was a Gypsy-rights activist, put it out there as a term and ever since it’s been used all the time. It’s that sense of arriving at a real connection with the art form with your spirit. When he used the word,” added Sultry, “he was living within Gypsy circles, and he wasn’t just talking about a dancer. He was writing about their beauty, their sorrows, that’s where it came from. I believe he lived it and felt it, and once you know that, it’s hard to buy it in another setting.
“And while all art forms have a version of duende,” Sultry continued, “it’s the term within flamenco about arriving at this blissful place of spiritual expression that you can only get to if the elements of the form are true.”
Expressing her true self through haughty glances, an arched back and thrilling turns, California-born Lakshmi “La Chimi” Basile, 37, built her career in Sevilla, and currently lives in San Diego. Over the years she has performed throughout Europe and, at one point, had a company, Luna Flamenco Dance Company. A regular performer at the Fountain for years — having directed shows there, as well — Basile also danced on a weekly basis at the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Restaurant in San Diego’s Old Town district in 2017.
Now working on a project-to-project basis, Basile, who was born to an Argentinean/Paraguayan mother and an American father with Czech roots, also teaches flamenco and runs her own show at San Diego’s Café 21. While patrons might be eating and drinking during her performances, Basile said she’s had no problem with that.
“It requires a lot of stamina, but I present my show in a way that makes them pay attention. It just depends on how you attack it — and you can be mindful. That show ended up turning into a mini-showcase and I had regulars come to see me, so I was happy with how that turned out.”
But did Basile have flashes of duende during any of those performances? The dancer explained: “Duende, I believe is something you’re born with or you can stumble upon it at any given moment. It’s not something you work on like a step — duende doesn’t work that way. It either comes or doesn’t come, you can’t control it. Some people have duende moments a lot because they can transmit with a lot more ease than others.
“Even the people that have duende moments,” added Basile, “they can’t have it whenever they want. It’s more of a thing that comes, although I do believe some are born with it. There are also excellent performers who don’t have that magical moment. It’s almost like a spiritual thing — you have to channel energy in a different way than just being mental about the steps.”
This Saturday night, August 9th, the Fountain Theatre honors LA flamenco pioneer Roberto Amaral at ourForever Flamenco at the Fordgala concert at the beautiful Ford Amphitheatre in the Hollywood Hills. Lontime dancer, choreographer and teacher Amaral was instrumental in first launching our flamenco program at the Fountain with Deborah Lawlor more than 20 years ago.
“Roberto is a flamenco visionary with a trademark style,” comments Forever Flamenco producer Deborah Lawlor. “As he continually strives to find new and refreshing approaches to the form, he has also found an enormous sense of gratification and pride in his dedication to teach and mentor others. Many of his former students and protégés have gone on to become stars in their own right.”
Roberto Amaral (photo by Sari Makki Phillips)
Roberto Amaral began his professional career at the age of 17 and has since achieved worldwide acclaim as a dancer, choreographer, singer, composer, artist and master teacher. From 1968 through 1976, he enjoyed success as principal dancer and guest artist with many of the world’s foremost Spanish dance companies, touring extensively with the companies of José Greco, José Antonio, Ciro, Alberto Lorca, Rafael de Cordoba and Antonio Ruiz. Also during this early period of his career, he laid groundbreaking musical history as co-founder, co-lead vocalist, writer, arranger and choreographer of the legendary band CARMEN. It was the first musical group to ever combine flamenco with rock/pop music, both audibly and visually, performing alongside such musical luminaries as David Bowie, Jethro Tull, ELO and Santana. For television, Roberto has been a featured dancer and choreographer on numerous programs, including The Academy Awards (twice), The Tonight Show,The Barry Manilow Special and the Madrid-based Antología de la Zarzuela. He is the recipient of an EMMY Award for his collaboration with choreographer Walter Painter on the television special Lynda Carter’s Celebration. He has founded several critically acclaimed dance companies, including Danzas de España, Ballet Español de Los Ángeles, España Clásica and Fuego Flamenco — each of which has influenced the pulse of flamenco and classical Spanish dance in Southern California — and he has produced, choreographed and designed over 500 dance solos, ensemble pieces, flamenco ballets, conceptual suites and production numbers. In his nearly 50 year career, Roberto has been privileged to perform in many of the world’s great concert halls, theaters, arenas and nightclubs, including the Hollywood Bowl, Greek Theatre, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Ahmanson Theatre, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden and Las Vegas’ Caesar’s Palace, Sahara and Hilton International. In Europe he has performed at London’s Victoria Theatre, Paris’ Olympia Theatre, Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens, Madrid’s Teatro de La Zarzuela and Milan’s La Scala Opera House.
The Fountain’s Forever Flamenco series has been called “the city’s preeminent flamenco series” by the Los Angeles Times and “L.A.’s most significant venue for flamenco” by the LA Weekly.Working Authordesignates it “the rarest of treats… for both connoisseur and novice alike, ‘Forever Flamenco’ offers the opportunity to luxuriate in the incendiary passions of flamenco.” Dance writer Debra Levine says, “Performances feature superb gypsy guitarists and singers. Do you enjoy seeing the body in spellbinding motion? Great artistic individuality? Live music? Then go,” and Stage and Cinema’s Tony Frankel writes, “Thrilling, sexy and sensuous.”
Forever Flamenco at the Ford will celebrate Amaral’s seminal 49-year career with performances by dancers Fanny Ara, Manuel Gutiérrez, Pamela Lourant, Timo Nuñez, Rocio Ponce, Mizuho Sato, Yaelisa, Alexandra & Ryan Zermeño; singers Antonio de Jerez and Jesus Montoya; guitarists Adam del Monte, Jason McGuire“El Rubio,” José Tanaka and Antonio Triana; and percussionist Joey Heredia.
It’s back!The Fountain Theatre returns to the beautiful John Anson Ford Amphitheatre with an all-star line-up of local, national and international flamenco artists to celebrate Forever Flamenco and honor LA flamenco dancer/choreographer/teacher Roberto Amaral. Forever Flamencoat the Ford is the premiere flamenco event of the year in Los Angeles.Under the artistic direction of renowned flamenco dancer Yaelisa and guitarist Antonio Triana and produced by Deborah Lawlor, the Gala Event takes place on Saturday, August 9th at 8:30 pm at the Ford Theatresin Hollywood.
Last year’s Forever Flamenco at the Ford was a thrilling success and sold-out the 1200-seat venue. Tony Frankel of Stage and Cinema declared it “Breathtaking! Explosive! Thrilling! Sexy and Sensuous!”
We are holding 100 of the BEST SEATS – center section, down front, up close and personal — and offering them only to our private Fountain VIP patrons. These prime seats are not available to the public. With these Fountain VIP tickets you get:
The best seats in the house: down front, up close, center section
Exclusive VIP pass to the private pre-show catered party with the artists
Festive hand-crafted gift bag with free flamenco swag
These prime VIP TICKETS are limited and will sell out. Click here to order online.Or call the Fountain box office (323) 663-1525. Note: These VIP tickets sold by the Fountain Theatre are tax deductible.
Since 1990, the dancers, musicians and singers of Forever Flamenco have been delighting Fountain Theatre audiences with the intensity, precision and exhilaration for which flamenco is known. Now Forever Flamenco returns to the outdoor stage at the Ford Theatres with this passionate expression of Spanish culture in a tribute to LA Flamenco pioneer Amaral.
Forever Flamenco at the Ford will be a once-in-a-lifetime gala event gathering some of flamenco’s finest artists together on stage, including dancers Fanny Ara, Manuel Gutierrrez, Pamela Lourant, Timo Nuñez, Mizuho Sato, Yaelisa andRyan Zermeno; singers Antonio de Jerez and Jesus Montoya; guitarists Adam del Monte, Jason McGuire “El Rubio”, Jose Tanaka and Antonio Triana; and percussionist Joey Heredia. Watch for more surprise artists, as well as a few guests and dignitaries honoring the accomplishments and contributions made by Amaral to the cultural landscape of Los Angeles.
Roberto Amaral (photo by Sari Makki-Phillips)
Roberto Amaral began his professional career at the age of 17, and has since achieved worldwide acclaim as a dancer, choreographer, singer, composer, artist and master teacher.
From 1968 through 1976, he enjoyed success as principal dancer and guest artist with many of the world’s foremost Spanish dance companies. With the companies of Jose Greco, Jose Antonio, Ciro, Alberto Lorca, Rafael de Cordoba and Antonio Ruiz, Roberto toured extensively throughout Europe and the Americas. Also during this early period of his career, he laid groundbreaking musical history as co-founder, co-lead vocalist, writer, arranger and choreographer of the legendary band CARMEN. It was the first musical group to ever combine flamenco with rock/pop music both audibly and visually, performing alongside such musical luminaries as David Bowie, Jethro Tull, ELO and Santana. As a television performer, Roberto has been a featured dancer and choreographer on numerous programs, most noteworthy being The Academy Awards (twice), The Tonight Show, The Barry Manilow Special and the Madrid based Antologia de la Zarzuela. In 1981, he collaborated with choreographer Walter Painter on the television special Lynda Carter’s Celebration. For this collaboration Roberto received the prestigious EMMY AWARD honoring his contributions as flamenco consultant and lead dancer. Most recently in 2012, he and renowned choreographer Liz Imperio collaborated on an exciting flamenco number which was featured on both the tv shows Q Viva and The Ellen Show. In 1977, Roberto formed his first of several dance companies, each of which have greatly influenced the pulse of flamenco and classical Spanish dance in Southern California for the past 37 years. The critically acclaimed companies Danzas de Espana, Ballet Espanol de Los Angeles, Espana Clasica and Fuego Flamenco are all companies Roberto has conceived, artistically directed and starred in. As a result, he has produced, staged, designed costumes, sets and lights for, and choreographed over 500 dance solos, ensemble pieces, flamenco ballets, conceptual suites and production numbers. In his nearly 50 year career, Roberto has been privileged to perform in many of the world’s great concert halls, theatres, arenas and nightclubs. In the United States they include California’s Hollywood Bowl, Greek Theatre, Forum, Dorothy Chandler Pavillion, Ahmanson Theatre, San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts ; New York’s Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden ; Las Vegas’ Caesar’s Palace, Sahara and Hilton International. In Europe he has performed at London’s Victoria Theatre, Paris’ Olympia Theatre, Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens, Madrid’s Teatro de La Zarzuela and Milan’s La Scala Opera House. In 1990 Roberto began a critically acclaimed 7 year run of performances at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood. It was during this time that many California Flamenco stars graced the Fountain Theatre stage alongside Roberto in his landmark company Fuego Flamenco. Also during this period, Roberto choreographed and worked alongside Deborah Lawlor on her prestigious theatrical accomplishment “The Women of Guernica” as well as the Fountain Theatre filmed documentary L.A. Ole!.
Roberto is and will always be known as a visionary, with a trademark style of dance, music and art that he wants to be regarded and remembered as unique, innovative and impressionable. As he continually strives to find new and refreshing approaches to his artistic creativity, he has also found an enormous sense of gratification and pride in his dedication to teach and mentor others. Many of his former students and proteges have gone on to become stars in their own right. This commitment to dance garnered Roberto the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award from the Santa Barbara Flamenco Society in 2004. Roberto still looks forward to many more years of creating new projects and to the continued training and nurturing of his current and future students.
John Anson Ford Amphitheatre
Forever Flamenco at the Ford takes place on Saturday, August 9th. Doors open for picnicking at 6:30 pm and the show starts at 8:30 pm. Reserved seating is $50 and $75. Purchase tickets on or before August 2 and save $5. Tickets are available at www.FordTheatres.org or 323 461-3673 (323 GO 1-FORD). For Fountain VIP Tickets call (323) 663-1525 or visit www.FountainTheatre.com.
The hottest flamenco is at the Fountain! With only 80 seats in four rows, the Fountain Theatre is the perfect venue. Each performance features a roster of world-class Flamenco dancers, singers and musicians drawn from the rich pool of Flamenco artists in Southern California, with additional guest artists brought from San Francisco, Albuquerque and Spain. This month’s line-up, under the artistic direction of guitarist Gabriel Osuna, includes Fanny Ara from San Francisco and Elena Osuna from Albuquerque, as well as Matthew Amper on piano, a unique addition under Osuna’s direction.
The Company of Artists: Artistic Director/Guitarist: Gabriel Osuna Dancers: Fanny Ara, Manuel Gutierrez, Elena Osuna Singer: José Cortes Pianist: Matthew Amper Percussionist: Gerardo Morales
Founded and produced by Deborah Lawlor, Forever Flamenco is now enjoying its 13th sold-out year at our intimate Fountain Theatre. Stage and Cinema recently hailed it as “an assemblage of the greatest flamenco artists anywhere.”
Forever Flamenco Sunday, Feb 16 8pm (323) 663-1525MORE
Forever Flamenco! presents an All-Star Flamenco Weekend: Antonio Triana and Company on Jan. 17 and 18, featuring magnificent singer José Cortés (from Spain) and mesmerizing dancer Fanny Ara (born in France, trained in Spain); and Lakshmi Basileand Company on Jan. 19, featuring two guest artists – guitarist Pedro Cortés and percussionist and festero Luis de la Tota, who brings joy and fun to every show he’s in.
With only 80 seats in four rows, The Fountain Theatre is the perfect place to view Flamenco. Each show features a roster of world-class Flamenco dancers, singers and musicians drawn from the rich pool of Flamenco artists in Southern California, with additional guest artists brought from San Francisco, Albuquerque and Spain.
Friday, Jan. 17 at 8 pm and Saturday, Jan. 18 at 8 pm
Antonio Triana and Company
Guitarristas (Guitarists) – Gabriel Osuna, Antonio Triana
Cantaores (Singers) – José Cortés, Antonio de Jerez
Bailaores (Dancers) – Vanessa Albalos, Fanny Ara, Manuel Gutierrez
Sunday, Jan. 19 at 8 pm
Lakshmi Basile and Company
Guitarrista (Guitarist) – Pedro Cortés
Cantaor (Singer) – Jesus Montoya
Palmero/Cajonero (Percussionist) – Luis de la Tota
While classic and modern dance seem to be continually reinventing themselves, Flamenco remains a bedrock of the moving arts. As Forever Flamenco! at the Ford proved last Saturday, age and body type have nothing to do with the soulful expressiveness inherent in this traditional dance form.
There are many forms of dance and song that emerged as a celebration of life amidst human suffering, but surely Flamenco thrillingly stands out as an example of such an art form. There are moments in the music that clearly reflect Indian, Islamic and Moorish influence. Some Flamenco music styles (palos) have been attributed to Jewish influences, as the Jews were firmly ensconced in Iberia since Roman times. And Andalusia, home to Flamenco, is in the south of the Iberian Peninsula.
“But who wants a history lesson?” asked Artistic Director Maria Bermúdez to the sold out crowd at the Ford Amphitheater. This evening was about celebrating Flamenco and to honor Deborah Lawlor, founder of the Fountain Theatre, where Forever Flamenco! plays once a month. Bermúdez, who has an uncanny ability to gather unparalleled artists, presented a line-up of local, national and international artists for a sexy and captivating evening.
The explosive energy created by dancer Timo Nuñez at the start was, as they say, a hard act to follow. In his shiny red shoes, this tall and elegant artist began casually, but soon offered dynamic footwork that sounded like firecrackers. Then he would do a studly stroll, allowing the dance to breathe, often lifting his shirt to show a bit of skin. Sometimes, this graceful storyteller of dance stared at us as an egret looks for a fish in a lake. Although I don’t remember ever seeing such a hunky egret.
Equally thrilling was Manuel Gutierrez, who opened the second act and emulated a bullfighter. He wasn’t showing off, yet he displayed a crackling tap and pedal pyrotechnics the likes of which confirmed why Flamenco is so compelling. So fiery and passionate was Gutierrez that my companion said afterwards, “That’s it. I’m booking us on the next flight to Seville.”
The ridiculously sexy and sensuous Fanny Ara (think Salma Hayek) offered us a dance which was defiant, seductive, searching and scorching hot – and WAY too short. Mizuho Sato was another classic beauty who I wish had more stage time. All of the guitarists, whether jazzy or classical, were some of the best I have ever heard. Jason McGuire accompanied Ms. Ara with smoldering fast fingerwork that was a brilliant combination of new age work, á la William Ackerman, and traditional Flamenco. I can’t believe all of that music came out of one guitar. Likewise Jose Tanaka, who overlayed his work with a soulful yearning and accessible dissonance. The other guitarists – Antonio Triana, Ben Woods and Adam del Monte – were ably accompanied by the extraordinary percussionist Joey Heredia.
Alejandro Granados was a man drunk with life and passion. Somewhat nattily dressed in red pants, Granados looked like he could be a seaside merchant or a pawn shop owner. But looks and age have nothing to do with the spirit of Flamenco. Audience members actually began to shout as this older gentleman executed a timeless combination of dance artistry and comedic storytelling, giving us more character than an O’Neill drama.
It may be politically incorrect to mention a woman’s age or body type, but whether we are supposed to say Rubenesque, full-figured or otherwise, there were some women on stage whose magnificence proved that anyone can master Flamenco. Lourdes Rodriguez, with spangles around her waist, brought whimsy, silliness and celebration to her dance (she was the one I most wanted to run up on stage to dance with). Linda Vega’s work was so admirable that I was shocked to discover that this was Ms. Vega after knee surgery. Well done! Most impressive was Yaelisa, a middle-aged woman who proved that time cannot quell the fiery gipsy spirit. This seasoned performer with amazing rhythm was humorous, expressive, joyful and reflective, vacillating from a spunky spirit to a trance-like seduction.
The vocalists were no ordinary singers; to the untrained ear, it may seem like they are struggling to hold a note, but that wailing and fluttering is the evolved style of the suffering gipsy, and, at times, sounded eerily like the plaintive yowling of nomadic Native American tribes or the spiritual yearnings of Jewish Sephardic music. Our powerful singers were Jose Cortes, Ana de los Reyes, Pelé de los Reyes and Ismael de la Rosa.
In some of the group numbers, it was difficult to ascertain what was choreographed and what was spontaneous, but all of these impeccable artists worked together seamlessly, occasionally eyeing each other’s body parts (feet, hands, hips, eyes) as they performed with rhythmic intention – no differently than the most passionate lover looks upon a paramour during sex.¿Hace calor aqui? I would have preferred a stronger finish in some of the sets, as dancers just casually strolled away. But come to think of it, I’ve had some lovers do that, too.
The free-for-all in the finale included one of the most captivating moments captured on stage when four young girls executed some flawless dancing in colorful Flamenco flocked skirts. These artists who promise to bring Flamenco into the future were more than adorable – they were breathtaking and inspiring. Then again, so was the entire evening.
Pele de los Reyes, Deborah Lawlor, Maria Bermudez, Ana de los Reyes
Forever Flamenco at the Ford, our Gala Concert at the Ford Amphitheatre celebrating 20 years of Forever Flamenco and honoring Deborah Lawlor, was a thrilling event and a huge success. It was unsurpassed as an evening of flamenco artistry. Stage and Cinemahailed the night “Fantastic” and “breathtaking and inspiring”. The event also exceeded as a fundraiser: the 1200-seat venue was sold-out.
Prior to the concert, our special VIP guests were treated to a private catered reception where they enjoyed food, wine, social mixing with the flamenco artists, and festive gift bags.
One of L.A.’s most accomplished arts impresarios will float in flamenco heaven this Saturday night when her helming of her 20-year-running series “Forever Flamenco!” will be honored in an all-star performance at the Ford Theatre.
Deborah Lawlor, southern California’s key importer of the gypsy art form, will take a rare turn as spectator, and not producer, when her favorite flamenco artists — dancers and musicians — hot up the outdoor amphitheater’s nippy night air.
Concurrent to this tribute, a moving and well-crafted flamenco-themed play, “Heart Song,” is enjoying one-month run at The Fountain Theatre, the wonderfully funky East Hollywood house where Lawlor launched “Forever Flamenco!”
The recognition must be gratifying for Lawlor, whose dance journey began during her Riverside childhood. The self-described “flamenco nut” was raised in a dance-friendly family (her aunt Olga Hammond was an early modern dancer). Her arts-loving mom organized frequent performance forays into L.A.
One memorable outing was to see Jose Greco at the Wilshire Ebell Theater.
“I was a little bit bored by him,” Lawlor admits. “He stood in one place and did footwork. The intimate atmosphere was lost in the big theater with shows like his.”
Years later, Lawlor, sophisticated after pursuit of a flamenco education, explains, “There’s the virtuosity and there’s the meaning. You can get bored by pure virtuosity. I learned that flamenco is the play of rhythm and contre-tiempos, the palmas [hand claps]. There is a whole world of rhythmic stuff going on. If you are just watching a dancer stomp his feet, you can be bored. The more musical background you have the more you can enjoy it.”
A multilingual world traveler who has lived and studied abroad, journeying between India, Australia, Egypt and France, Lawlor notes: “Flamenco is a kind of inward expression; to project it out is a different feel. ‘Cause the songs themselves can be very intimate, some very dark, about death, but you have to kind of go with the lighter aspects of flamenco, the joyous songs as well as the tragic ones.
“Of course, I love it a lot. The more you get into it, the more it opens up to you.”
Saturday night Lawlor will be surrounded by the international band of gypsies she has cultivated and promoted, a group of singers and dancers cherry-picked from Europe and from the flamenco communities of San Francisco and Phoenix.
One of her prime protégées, the acclaimed dancer Maria Bermudez, is producing the show in honor of Lawlor’s huge achievement.
“Forever Flamenco! was born of Deborah’s love and total immersion into flamenco,” says Bermudez. “Young dancers, up-and-coming dancers, seasoned professionals and international dancers – all of us have all come through Forever Flamenco! at the Fountain. I took my first baby steps there.”
Bermudez, considered to be one of the foremost international flamenco artists in the world today, resides in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, the “birthplace” of flamenco. She was the model for one of the lead characters of “Heart Song,” a role she has played for the past few weeks.
“Forever Flamenco!” at the Ford dancers will include Roberto Amaral, Fanny Ara, Maria Bermudez, Alejandro Granados (Spain), Manuel Gutierrrez, Timo Nuñez, Linda Vega and Yaelisa; singers José Cortes, Ana de los Reyes (Spain) and Ismael de la Rosa (from Spain); singer/composer Pele de los Reyes (Spain) of the Grammy®-nominated group Navajita Platea; guitarists Adam del Monte, Jason McGuire, José Tanaka, Antonio Triana; and percussionist Joey Heredia.
Lawlor loves “Heart Song” a drama written by her longtime Fountain Theater co-artistic director Stephen Sachs. She says, “It’s just lovely, it’s wonderful.”
“Heart Song” at the Fountain Theatre
“Heart Song is a joy. It’s all woman cast, and the crew is all women. It has the aspect of flamenco but it also a mother-daughter drama about a Jewish woman who didn’t realize her mother had been in the [concentration] camp; she never spoke about her childhood. Anybody can relate to that.”
The sure-to-be-sizzling Ford flamenco program and the well staged and performed “Heart Song” are both recommended. We especially love the Ford’s historic Cahuenga Pass setting, a stellar venue for a pre-performance urban picnics.
Guitarist Antonio Triana and dancer Maria Bermudez.
Flamenco artists Maria Bermudez , Antonio Triana and Pele de los Reyes made an early-morning live TV appearance on Univision KMEX 34 today to promote our upcoming Forever Flamenco at the FordGala Concert at the Ford Amphitheatre this Saturday, June 15th at 8:30pm.
Univision 34, Los Angeles was the first UHF station in southern California, and the first to broadcast in Spanish in Los Angeles. Univision 34, Los Angeles serves the Hispanic community and offers programs that inform Spanish-speaking viewers about local and global events that educate and entertain.
Hailed as “LA’s most significant venue for flamenco” by LA Weekly, the Fountain Theatre returns to the Ford stage after a two year absence, bringing the finest local, national and international flamenco artists to celebrate this passionate expression of Spanish culture. Forever Flamenco’s dancers, musicians and singers have been delighting audiences for years with the intensity, precision and exhilaration for which flamenco is known. This year’s show pays tribute to the founder of the Fountain’s flamenco program, Deborah Lawlor, a Los Angeles icon and ardent supporter of the art form for more than two decades.
The Forever Flamenco All-Star line-up includes: Vanessa Abalos * Roberto Amaral * Fanny Ara * Maria Bermudez * José Cortes * Alejandro Granados * Manuel Gutierrez * Joey Heredia * Jason McGuire * Adam del Monte * Timo Nuñez * Rocio Ponce * Ana de los Reyes * Pele de los Reyes * Ismael de la Rosa * Lourdes Rodriguez * Mizuho Sato * Jose Tanaka * Antonio Triana * Linda Vega * Ben Woods * Yaelisa.
Enjoy These Photos from Today’s Live TV Appearance
Forever Flamenco at the Ford Saturday June 15 (323) 461-3673MORE