by Ernest Kearney
Those who frequent my site will be well aquainted with my boundless enthusiasm for the “Forever Flamenco!” series presented monthly at the Fountain Theatre. If you’d care to see from where this passion first arose, then your chance is coming. “Forever Flamenco!”, the once a year“Juerga”, returns to the Ford Amphitheatre on Saturday, August 9th.
For those never exposed to flamenco this is an opportunity of the rarest sort. Imagine attending a single night at the theatre and being treated to the talents of Olivier, Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, Ian McKellen and Judi Dench. Or imagine going to a concert and seeing on the same stage Judy Garland, Elvis Presley, The Stones, Kurt Cobain, Lady GaGa and Chuck Berry.
This is what “Forever Flamenco! at the Ford” offers: a gathering of the greatest artists across the generations.
Among those featured this year will be Manuel Gutiérrez, who began dancing flamenco at the age of four and was winning flamenco dance competitions by eight. Gutiérrez is the soul of “coraje” or spontaneity and to watch him perform is to realize that nothing expresses the masculine vigor in dance as flamenco does. You come to believe that when he dances the world must tremble under his feet.
Yaelisa is a dancer who can stake out a small portion of the stage and through her “cierre” (dance steps) bring forth a “desgarro”, “wildness” that is a tempest of tempo.
Mizuho Sato is a Japanese-born dancer and a testament to the global appeal of flamenco. When she comes on stage be prepared for magic.
Jason McGuire, “El Rubio”, does not “play” the guitar – he dominates it, and performs with the dynamism you’d expect of “The Big Bang”.
Cantaor Antonio de Jerez is a talent one feels grateful for having seen. When singing, one hears the history of Spain in his voice.
Nowhere can you find grace more infused with power, nor the sorrow of the human condition expressed with greater perfection than in the music and dance of flamenco. All art forms evolved outward from ancient origins, and, sadly, in that process which serves to define their artistry that primal potency, the intensity of their source, is lost.
Not so with flamenco. It has held onto its dark and tragic history, and that pain which breathes life into the cante jondo, the grand song, is as profound today as it was three centuries ago.
This year’s audience is also gathering to pay homage to one of flamenco’s most esteemed figures Roberto Amaral. In a career spanning half a century, Amaral has excelled in every facet of flamenco – dancer, singer, choreographer, composer and teacher.
He has performed with the greats of flamenco such as José Greco and José Antonio as well as Santana, Jethro Tull and David Bowie.
The Ford’s open air stage, with the stars on display above, makes it the perfect venue for an evening profuse with this city’s rich history, for The flamenco baile (dance) and cante (song) were part of California dating back to the 1700’s and the ranchos of the Spanish crown. The John Anson Ford Amphitheatre was originally built in 1920, by author and playwright Christine Wetherill Stevenson who saw the rugged beauty of the Cahuenga Pass as the ideal setting for her “The Pilgrimage Play”, a work on the life of Jesus “transcribed from the Scriptures”.
The play was performed there yearly until the original wooden structure was destroyed by fire in 1929. In 1931 the structure was rebuilt, designed in the style of “ancient Judaic architecture”. Though “The Pilgrimage Play” performances were ended in 1964, the Ford Amphitheatre continues to resemble the gates of ancient Jerusalem.
The LA Weekly has hailed this event as “the rarest of treats…for both connoisseur and novice”, and I couldn’t agree more. But where they call the Fountain Theatre’s Forever Flamenco! series “L.A.’s most significant venue for flamenco”, I say rather, it is flamenco’s most significant venue in all of North America. With the Ford show, the most diverse and cosmopolitan audience in the world is given the opportunity of experiencing not just the star of flamenco, but its legends.
Forever Flamenco at the Ford SAT AUG 9th (323) 461-3673