An image of Inesita during her Alegrias in May of 2019, and the entire company
As a dancer, I have often encountered a strange conception of what dancing really is nd how one thinks of this art. Many theories have been offered to explain how one achieves mastery of a discipline that requires just as much dedication as learning to play an instrument or embarking on a course of study which demands dedication to detail and particulars.
I have been astonished to discover many students are unprepared to begin with simple technic and basic movements to train the body and mind.
The concept of beginning with fundamentals without music is an idea that does not enter into the thinking of the beginner.
Consequently, this attitude results in confusion about how to progress in the study of the work.
Much has been written about the process of acquiring knowledge in this particular art form with all its many aspects. The special methods of working in Spanish dance and Flamenco is a challenge in a very unique way, Since the music is unwritten. It is open-ended and the dancer must lead the musicians into the dance patterns. There is no other way. This concept is difficult to understand for the unvitiated. An Andalusian flamenco singer (cantaor) Miguel Galvez with whom I worked on several occasions, told me that in Spain the song comes first. (en Espana, el cante viene primero)
The popular view is that music is the inspiration which inspires one to dance. The idea of moving with no accompaniment is foreign to someone who thinks of dance in any form. This firm belief in the efficacy of music as a support to moving in time and space seems an excepted idea.
Flamenco or its true name, Cante Jondo (deep or profound song) is based on song rhythms out of which the guitarists derive the melodies or falsetas used to accompany singers. The rhythm or compas drives the work. The dancer must put down this structure as a percussive lead or conductor of the the work. There is no other way to perform in this art. With vast experience I know this is the method.. The rhythm is the dance and melodies are subservient to the whole.
As I have written before, the score is written as the dance proceeds. Flamenco is organic.
With experience and training this concept is absorbed. Either one is exposed from early childhood to the “compas” or it is acquired through much study. This is challenging as all art is but the reward is mastery of the form.
In Spain, the performer with the special knowledge is called enterado or informed.
On Saturday, August 14, 2021, Inesita will open the new season of performances presented by APAC ( Alhambra Performing Arts Center) under the Artistic direction of William Yee.
Inesita will bring her Company of dancers singers and musicians to the stage of the Sage Granada Park United Methodist Church,
Inesita stars in six of her solos with the collaboration of dancers, singers and musicians in a program of traditional flamenco of Andalucia. Featured are Miguel Bernal, Clarita and Ahmae supported by the music of Stamen Wetzel and Benjamin. plus the Arte Flamenco Ensemble.
A film devoted to the long dance career of INESITA
The project that began on May 25, 2019 was an idea of Claudia Wells, actress ( of Back to the Future fame)and business woman whom I met in 2016.
We were immediately taken with each other as women who had long careers albeit in different worlds of the entertainment industry.
Numerous ideas were germinating in Claudia’s mind to bring my work to a wider commercial public. Ideas were explored in a number of areas such as talk shows; news stories on the major networks and even plans to have makeup and hair styling done. None of these approaches came to fruition as time went on.
The 10th anniversary of my association and collaboration with APAC under the artistic direction of William Yee was an opportunity to film the performance as a starting point. This was accomplished with the permission of Mr. Yee. Only later did I discovered that the footage used was hardly a complete view of my work but merely bits and pieces that highlighted only facial expression and much time on my feet and shoes without any thought to emphasize my technique. The date was May 25th, 2019.
On May 27th an elaborate crew with a great deal of technical equipment of cameras and lighting was set up in my home and effected an actual movie set to do an Interview with Claudia and me. All the furniture was rearranged to simulate a different scene.
At this moment it was announced that a 90 minute feature film was to be made. No prior discussion of this was offered to me. I was not given the privilege of deciding if I had any interest in a documentary of my career and life. This seems odd and unfair to say the least! Since the die was cast, there was no turning back. Five hours was spent in this indicial session. An interview conducted by Claudia herself and me; both of us dressed in glamorous clothes was filmed. A sequence devoted to my playing of the Harpsichord was wasted on up-close camera angles showing the inner workings of the instrument itself and little on my fingers over the keyboard. Some time was spent filming the surroundings of my property with its elaborate gardens front and back. More camera work was done in my dance studio with an explanation of my various percussion instruments such as castanets, tambourine and dance shoes; and the display of posters on the walls of past performances. Not a bad beginning, but it was only an introduction.
The following week later, another date for more footage was set up and an exhausting session of six hours ensued. I realized then that no clear plan or “script” was had. The hard work of six hours was wasted in a haphazard manner. Talk and demonstrations of the dance and a mock “lesson” was done with Claudia as the “student” which did not flatter her and seemed innocuous.
The film used did not show me to advantage and I regarded it as useless.
The following month I was booked into the Havana Bar and Restaurant for a show, (my ninth time) and the last I did. Calix Lewis Reneau became intensely interested in the event and arranged to spend the evening with Mario Colangelo and another lady assistant to film this performance.
When I announced that a small exhibit was set up at UCLA Library in connection with my Archive papers, Calix again was excited to shoot a sequence there. The staff at the Charles E. Young Research Library did not really give us permission but a day was arranged that we meet and do still another shoot.
After that we met two more times in my dance studio to film additional material of my activities. Again, the sessions lacked any specific plan or thought. Calix Lewis Reneau wanted to film me putting in a plea or “pitch” to Martin Scorsese the most prominent figure in the film world because of his early connection with the student indie film at NYU back in 1962/03 when he as the cameraman and three other young film makers became interested in my work as a “flamenco dancer” and were very eager to make a movie of my work. The original film which featured me in three dances with my own guitarist and flamenco singer ( both from Spain, was lost or discarded but “a work print” was made at the time which I had in my possession. This was eventually uploaded onto YouTube by Robert J Siegel the director of the 9 minute film.
Mr. Siegel was and is a great fan of mine and was interviewed in New York by associates of the production team here in Los Angeles. I have the interview and it is very complementary and it is most precious to me. However Robert seems to have trouble with some of the memories in connection with the work. He relates an incident where I invited him and Scorsese to our hotel for lunch for a Spanish meal. This never happened. I know. No such event took place. My memory remains excellent.
Finally, a concert was set up at El Arte Flamenco Dance Theater in Alhambra. The date was March 14, 2020 and called ‘An evening with Inesita”. This was planned for over a year by Clarita my singer and fellow artist of many years and on the Sunday before, our company of 10 rehearsed for three hours. The weekend of the 14th fatefully saw the outbreak of the pandemic and the sellout house of 150 was reduced to perhaps 20 hardy attendants to the performance. Out of fear of infection by the deadly Covid-19 understandably the film crew also abandoned us due to their concerns. It was suggested that because of my advanced age that I, too. should cancel. This I found outrageous and unprofessional and something I would never contemplate. I was furious that they expected me to do their bidding, To let everyone else down would be totally unfair. My obligation to the rest of the company was firm. I regarded this almost insulting and I was incensed by this idea. This does not mean I did not take the virus seriously. I took the risk knowingly. That was my prerogative.
The program was received with great success. Well wishers afterwards were eliminated as a precaution.
Even my wardrobe mistress and her husband, a film art director urged me to cancel and I flatly refused. No one was infected. I received a standing ovation after my final piece.
Following this an additional shoot was in order; and with my connection to Clarita as an artist and close friend, the crew set up a session at the location and an all day filming session was accomplished on August 28th. A compliance officer was in attendance to ensure safety and we were all required to be tested for Covid. I was negative as was the rest of the crew. I spent an arduous day of an interview on camera and was filmed in five of my costumes doing portions of dances for camera effects. And that was it. No more was or could be done with the virus running rampant through all our lives. I survived due to my strong constitution and immune system and was successfully vaccinated twice with no illness what so ever.
At last some editing was finished and I understand it was done by assistants and not the main producers/cameramen. These were individuals whom I don’t know and don’t know me.
Some of this material is undoubtedly interesting, but the slow motion effects begin to be repetitious; besides the pace cancels out the tensions in the dance patterns. The best passages of my performance seemed to be left out and the judgment of what is exciting or distinctive in my performance is not present. Narration by me used as a voice over is over done and distracts from the actual dancing.. However one item to me is effective and should be retained. At the end of the entire film which they presented, I am heard to say “My name is INESITA and I am a Spanish Dancer”. and then I disappear behind the curtain. A dramatic and special gesture.
At this point, I don’t know what will happen with the work. The production team wishes to continue. I remain dubious whether the results will reveal or impart my personal attitude about the art I have devoted my entire life.
Time will tell.
Thoughts on the concept of the woman dancing in Flamenco
It is not my custom or desire to comment on world events. I am a person of the theater and remain apart from ideological and political matters. In this one instance I see a parallel to the art to which I have devoted most of my existence.
In the world of events over the last year, I am caught up in a preponderance of conflicting ideas and forces changing the way we live. A disastrous pandemic and political upheaval I have never seen in my lifetime.
I remain liberal in my outlook on the global scene although never progressive or extreme in any sense of the word.
As an artist who has performed in other parts of the globe and have friends of numerous other nationalities and races I consider myself “a citizen of the world.”
To focus on the particular point in this subject, having known Spain and its culture, I found that in most cases, the woman in family life is very strong. I would call it a matriarchal society. This seems to permeate the psyche of the population and I have noted evidence of this.
Waldo Frank, a writer of the 1920’s, an American, but highly versed in Hispanic Culture wrote about the Spanish speaking world. In his book, “Virgin Spain” (1926) his chapters on the Andalusian Dance and its practitioners, he brings out some facets of this idea.
His writing approach is poetic and symphonic. In descriptions of the performers. I think he saw the essence of the work which we refer to as flamenco. Without writing about the structure or form, his summation of a woman dancing gives a portrait of the true nature of this genre.
Because flamenco is not notated, the score is written as the dance proceeds. The performer is the conductor and guitarists and singers must obey the percussive lead of the dancer. I have put down these comments again and again. The form is poorly understood and rather esoteric and arcane. The responsibility lies on the dancer and to have this knowledge is imperative.
Frank writes “The woman dancing in flamenco is “mother, teacher and priestess.” This is in a symbolic sense. As metaphor, it is not to taken literately. The signals given in the dance are built in and function to move the dance patterns smoothly one into the other. The llamada, (call) closes the door on the passage just completed and in the same action opens the door to the next.
Robert Graves, writes in his book ,” The White Goddess”, In Mythology, the two headed god Janus signified a new beginning looking both backward and forward. January is named after him. But before Janus thousands of years before , a two headed goddess named PostVorta and Antevorta, was a symbol of this concept. She who looked both backward and forward : She had the power to shut what was open and open what was shut, as the hinge which connects the door: the door on which the year swung”
This obviously relates to the Seasonal Pattern on Earth. In prehistoric times the dependence on sustenance from Mother Earth was paramount. Ritual dominated society.
Flamenco is a throwback to the endless chain of the rhythm on our planet. It is Universal.
In an uncanny way the Andalusian dance reflects this because of its very nature. It is a continuum.
This acknowledges that the male dancer also must follow the rules and law of the rhythm ( compás) but the male role seems meant to be a lesser figure within this art. This is not to diminish in any way the dynamics and tremendous artistry displayed by many marvelous male artists.
My message here is leading up to the point that I am a feminist.
I have always been pleased that so many women are holding prominent positions in government all over the world. It is only a hundred years since women were granted the right to vote in the United States and have a voice.
The recent election which includes the vice presidency of a woman is a great lift to me.
Waldo Frank further states that the woman dancing sends a message of “love vision and sacrifice; as opposed to lust, nakedness, and madness”
Intensive work is continuing on the Inesita documentary about her career and life experience as an artist in this fascinating field.
Here is a photo out of the past taken as an action image in London, England during the two years spent there..