Ravenna Flamenco

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Wayward Flamencos

posted in performance on may 24th, 2008

Zamani Flamenco made – of all the odd things – a brief appearance at The Wayward Coffee House’s open mic night the other night (i.e. Sunday night). This was an evening I had spotted during my Greenwood Art Walk perambulations and it struck me as a fine occasion to test out flamenco on some unwitting locals – not to mention on the cafe in question.

Although I suspect we were among the least expected "open mic-ers," this particular evening at the Wayward was a quirky affair all the same – and not by accident I’m sure. There were a couple poetry readers and folk-singer-y singers up before us, but following us was a veritable smörgåsbord of beat-style poetry – complete with bongos and an indoors-sunglasses-wearing muted trumpet player. (Which all made me feel a bit Jack Kerouac-esque. Minus the head full of pills and the ruined liver, that is … . Which I guess isn’t very much like Kerouac at all.)

Anyway, moving on … .

Since the audience (about 20 people is my guess) was largely composed of flamenco "civilians," we opted for a set of Sevillanas. Something gloomy or dramatic would have been fun, but it seemed unwise to test the patience of a highly caffeinated congregation of coffee-house poets with something like a siguiriyas. (I wouldn’t want to be responsible for what happens.)

So Sevillanas it was. We had to peel back a bit of throw rug and displace some chess players (really!) to make enough room for the dancers, but it turned out to be a decent space. Rubina’s frequent exhortations to "learn how to dance on a postage stamp" served everyone well, methinks. Though "remain vigilant for small semi-ambulatory humanoids" might also have been a good warning: just as we were getting ready to start, a young child crawled out from under the chess table and made a beeline for Daniela’s path of travel. As in very nearly got stepped on by a pair of very well nailed flamenco shoes. I’m happy to report, however, that tragedy was narrowly averted and the number went on as planned. The dancers were golden, of course. As I also didn’t massively (or even minorly, really) tank any of my falsetas – and as the applause was palpably beyond "courtesy" – I’m counting the outing as a success.

I’ve since been back to this spot to investigate whether this might be an apt location for a longer flamenco show. And I’m not sure what to think: on a Friday night there is a folk/prog/rock quartet (with bongos – am I sensing a theme here?) and a handful of student-y looking types all intimately involved with their laptops, regaling in the free WiFi. I’m trying to imagine something as imposing as a flamenco dancer (let alone two) in this tableau. It’s a strange fit.

And this is one of the perennial oddities of working in a flamenco ensemble: it’s hard to know here (as in perhaps most places outside of Spain) just exactly how to place a flamenco group. Despite the affinity many people feel for flamenco (or at last for the concept of flamenco), it’s still very much a foreign form. And I don’t mean foreign as in "well duh, it comes from Spain," I mean foreign in its rhythms, in its movement and pacing, in its apprehension of musical significance. And in it’s aggressiveness. I mean, how could one possibly continue catching up on online episodes of "Lost" with a very loud and imposing subida demanding every ounce of said one’s consumer-culture-stooge attention? There’s such a peculiar battle between art – and, well, everything else, really – going on here.

And I’m not sure who’s winning. But if it’s WalMart and Fox, I’m happy to be on the losing team.

There – end of rant.

Now go play!


tags: sevillanas, open mic, accompaniment, zamani
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