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Keeping the Fire of Flamenco Burning in Los Angeles: Katina Dunn and Jose Tanaka

Katina Dunn and Jose Tanaka

Katina Dunn and Jose Tanaka

By Mikey Hirano Culross

A new documentary, exploring the reach of flamenco music and dance into Los Angeles, screens Friday at the Fountain Theatre.

Conventional wisdom would have us assume that anyone directing a documentary has at least scant knowledge of the subject being explored.

Asked how much she knew about flamenco music before beginning her film project, Katina Dunn was pretty forthcomng about it.

“Nothing. Not a thing,” she said.

A journalist by trade, the Chicago native happened into a small club in Hollywood in 2010, and was instantly enchanted by a group of flamenco musicians and dancer Mizuho Sato.

“After I saw these guys playing, I went home and searched for them on Google, and there was nothing,” Dunn recalled at the Rafu Shimpo offices last week. “I knew I had to do something on them, because their performance was so moving. I knew what they were creating was incredible.”

Dunn’s directorial debut is the film “Kumpanía: Flamenco Los Angeles,” which will have a screening this Friday, at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood. Showing as part of the Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles, the film will be followed by a live concert by flamenco guitar virtuoso Jose Tanaka, who is among the artists profiled in “Kumpanía”.

Dunn’s film explores the reach of flamenco into cultures outside of its birthplace in the Andalusia region of southern Spain. The folk music – whose name translates roughly to “the folklore of the flame” – has enjoyed great popularity in Japan, where it is said there are more flamenco schools than in Spain.

Mizuho Sato

Mizuho Sato

Tanaka, 44, said his parents were part of the generation that first embraced flamenco, and his given name is a direct result of their enthusiasm. He endured endless lessons, and when he was 18, his mother suggested he go study guitar in Spain.

Young Jose had other ideas.

“I said, ‘Screw that, I’m going to Hollywood!’ I wanted to be a rock star,” he explained.

Tanaka was working as a guitar instructor at a small music school shortly after arriving in L.A. in 1987. He said he soon became disillusioned with the monotony of his job.

“At the time, hard rock bands like Metallica and Pearl Jam were very popular, and I was teaching these kids that kind of stuff,” he said. “I found that they picked it up so quickly and I felt like I wasn’t much better than those kids. I didn’t feel like I was special, and all this time I was avoiding flamenco.”

All the while, his mother back in his hometown of Kyoto continued to send news of up-and-coming flamenco artists. But it wasn’t until the renowned Spanish guitarist Paco de Lucía came to L.A. for a concert that the flamenco fire was rekindled in Tanaka’s heart.

“All the memories started to come back. There were a lot of mixed feelings, but I realized how much I missed flamenco. I was really brought to tears,” he said.

“Kumpanía” also features Sato, a native of Iwate Prefecture who teaches dance and has been performing with Tanaka’s group since 2004.

Jose Tanaka will perform a live solo concert immediately following the screening of ‘Kumpania’ on Friday night, July 19 at 8pm at the Fountain Theatre. 

Mikey Hirano Culross is Arts & Entertainment Editor for Rafu Shimpo

Kumpania & Jose Tanaka Friday, July 19 (323) 663-1525  MORE

Adriana Maresma Fois and Juan Antonio Gomez Return to Forever Flamenco March 10th

Adriana Maresma Fois

Adriana Maresma Fois

by Deborah Lawlor

We’re excited, here at the Fountain Theatre, to announce the return engagement of Adriana Maresma Fois (Dancer and show Director), and Flamenco Guitarist Juan Antonio Gomez to our Forever Flamenco series on Sunday, March 10th. Their thrilling concert is titled Ecos de Andalucia (“Echoes of Andalucia”).  

Adriana Maresma Fois and Juan Antonio Gomez will be coming to us from Jerez de la Frontera, in Andalucia, Spain, via the Flamenco “hub” of Albuquerque, New Mexico – the two towns between which the couple divide their time. Adriana is a very elegant dancer, who yet surprises us with moments of great passion.  Juan Antonio is a brilliant guitar soloist as well as an impeccable accompanist.

Joining them for this show is formidable singer (cantaor) Antonio de Jerez, and bailaores Mizuho Sato and Manuel Gutierrez, two of L.A.’s most impressive Flamenco dancers.  Mizuho is known for her deep interpretation of the cantes  (songs), as well as her assured technique.  Manuel has taken L.A. by storm with his extraordinary footwork and fierce passion.

Deborah Lawlor is the Producing Artistic Director of the Fountain Theatre and the creator/producer of Forever Flamenco. 

Forever Flamenco  March 10 (323) 663-1525   More

‘Forever Flamenco’ July 15th at the Fountain Theatre

Los Angeles, Calif. – June 18, 2012 — The Fountain Theatre’s acclaimed Forever Flamenco! series returns home to the intimate, 78-seat Fountain Theatre SundayJuly 15 @ 8 pm.

The line-up includes guest dancer Christina Hall; dancers Arleen Hurtado and Oscar Valero; singer

Jose Cortes

José Cortes El Muleto”; guest guitarist Benjamin Woods; percussionist Joey Heredia; and guitarist/artistic director Antonio Triana.

Created and produced by co-artistic director Deborah Lawlor, The Fountain Theatre’s Forever Flamenco! series is now in its 9th smash year. 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. Named “L.A.’s most significant venue for flamenco” by the LA Weekly, the Fountain, with only 78 seats in 4 rows, is the perfect setting in which to enjoy the art form up close,.

Arleen Hurtado

“Antonio Triana has put together an exquisite line-up for the 15th,” says Lawlor. “Singer José Cortes comes from a Gypsy family in Southern Spain—he’s an extraordinary singer, with a gorgeous rich tone, who excels in the soleares and the bulerías styles of flamenco. Cristina Hall is a lovely dancer, graceful and feminine, who has just returned to the U.S. from an extensive stay in Spain. Joey Heredia is a master jazz percussionist who discovered flamenco a few years ago, and is now dedicating much of his talent, time and joy to enriching the percussive element of flamenco.”

Forever Flamenco!” takes place on SundayJuly 15 @ 8 pm. All tickets are $40The Fountain Theatre is located at 5060 Fountain Avenue (at Normandie) in Los Angeles.  Secure, on-site parking is available for $5. The Fountain Theatre is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible. For reservations and information, call 323 663-1525 or go to www.FountainTheatre.com.

Photos: “Forever Flamenco” Back Home at the Intimate Fountain Theatre

Deborah Lawlor

After almost one year of presenting the smash hit Forever Flamenco in the 300-seat Gallery Theatre  in Barnsdall Park, producer Deborah Lawlor brought it “back home” to the intimate 78-seat Fountain Theatre for a special concert on March 18. The show was passionate, exhilarating, and a dynamic reminder that nothing beats experiencing Flamenco up-close-and-personal just a few feet away from your seat.

The thrilling close proximity was also a blessing for longtime Flamenco photographer Bruce Bisenz, who has brilliantly chronicled the Flamenco scene in Los Angeles with his camera for many years.

Here is a collection of vibrant photos of the March 18 performance taken by Bruce Bisenz, including this one we’re now using for  the new Forever Flamenco poster:

“This extraordinary image was one result of the performance, ” says Bruce.  “So perfect that it looks like a posed set up.  I would point out to you the symmetry of 100 years of Flamenco (1912 and 2012), both ladies in white dresses,  their complementary posture and, finally, the change in the role of women as indicated by the extraordinary and uninhibited Paloma, live and unposed.This is, again, the result of the intimate magic of  Flamenco at the Fountain.”

More Gorgeous Photos by Bruce Bisenz of the March 18 performance of Forever Flamenco at the Fountain: 

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