Quick: Get a picture in your mind of a flamenco performance.
You probably flashed onto the staccato dancing? Maybe castanets? Perhaps the long, ruffly Bata de Cola dress?
But there’s more. The music is just as important as the movement. All of it will be on display this weekend at the annual Festival of Flamenco Song in Miami, at the Adrienne Arsht Center.
“The singing is essential. … It is the lifeblood of the flamenco art form,” explains Celia Fonta, who with her husband, Paco, runs Siempre Flamenco, a nonprofit for the preservation of flamenco and the producer of the festival. “And yet it is the thing that is most lacking in the United States and Miami.”
So they created the festival mimicking the flamenco events in the Andalusia region of Spain, on the southern end of the Iberian peninsula just north of the Strait of Gibraltar.
“Usually they are in the summer,” Celia Fonta says. “There are at least three singers and sometimes four and a dancer, and maybe two or three guitarists. These festivals can last anywhere from two or three hours or up until the wee hours.”
Paco Fonta explains that often people “think that flamenco is the dancer and the castanets. But real flamenco comes from the heart of the singer. It’s very emotional, and it comes from Andalusia and the small towns and the people, and how they live there.”
The art form is believed to have evolved from the mournful cries of a persecuted people when, after the Spanish Inquisition, the Moors, Gypsies and Jews were expelled from Spain.
“You had this one period in history where pretty much all these people were living in peace, so there are very strong Jewish and Gypsy influences,” says Celia.
There are many different styles of flamenco, “each with a unique rhythm that is pretty strict and you have to adhere to,” Celia explains. But she adds that many of them can be broken down into two groups: Cante Jondo (deeply serious) and Cante Chico (a little happier song).
At the festival, the guest artists will include La Macarena de Jerez, a self-described Gypsy; Israel Paz, a flamenco singer from Madrid; and Javier Heredia, a festero from Seville.
“A festero is the soul of the party,” Paco Fonta says. “This is the guy who inspired everybody. It’s like an art that is lost. The rest [of the festeros] are already old, or they passed away. It’s a very special thing to have him with us.”
Celia will also premiere a new choreography titled “Luz de la Manana” (Morning Light) using the iconic “Manton de Manila” (large Flamenco shawl) in the Cantinas style.
“The shawl is very, very connected to Andalusian culture,” she says. “this goes back to when the Philippines was a colony of Spain. The women there made these beautiful shawls. All the women in Spain loved them….and a lot of singers started using them as costumes and then the dancers would use them as a prop. It’s very dramatic for the stage.”
The Festival of Flamenco Song in Miami will take place at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., in Miami. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets cost $38. Call 305-949-6722 or go to ArshtCenter.org.
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