In thinking of past and present shows of all sorts in my career, I find it especially interesting to experience the various ways the public reacts to performances after the dancing is over. Having danced in so many situations from cabaret to concert and back, the individual venues offer many different ways in which the audience responds.
In some instances, there is no feedback due to custom or other factors which prevent a follow up. In many bookings, as in years gone by, there are reviews afterwards in newspapers, articles in publications, letters from management, faculty or admirers.
In recent times, concert appearances are followed by well-wishers backstage after a show, visits to the dressing room, or other “green room” contact.
A notable case is appearances at the Havana Restaurant and Bar where the show is presented in a very intimate setting. In the immediate moments after the last dance and song is done the audience surrounds the performer upon descending from the tiny platform.
It is a gratifying feeling to be greeted in this way without a delay by friends, acquaintances, fellow artists, and strangers anxious to make physical contact and to express pleasure in what they have witnessed.
Apart from this, in today’s world when a phone takes a photo, it requires little more than pointing the device at the subject. An instant, and it is there!. Furthermore, having a picture taken together with people whom I do not know, or only casually is a special tribute.
Above all, it is satisfying to realize that my dance moves someone to express a feeling to me.
In 2006, I made a trip to Spain for a special event which seems unrelated to the subject of Flamenco, but in a number of ways was important to me as it concerned the music of Domenico Scarlatti. This Event was under the auspices of FIMTE the International festival of Spanish Keyboard Music. ( Festival Internacional de Música de Tecla Española )
I have written extensively about my involvement in the Sonatas he wrote as the significant influence of flamenco music and dance made an enormous impression on Scarlatti while he lived in Spain during the last twenty-five years of his life. The more than a dozen works I presented in dance form was augmented by my additional study of the music itself on piano and later on the harpsichord. As I have written previously, I performed these dances I made over a period from 1970 to 2004 in various concert appearances.
As a musician, Scarlatti, could not help be drawn to the richness and variety of the rhythmic complexities of Flamenco in all its manifestations and his compositions reveal this in many ways.
I have found examples of many Spanish forms in his music and was able to make dances from this material because the sonatas I chose for them uncannily matched the flavor of the original dance forms. Dances such as those from Aragon, Castile, Galicia, as well as rhythmic sections reflecting the essence of flamenco such as Tientos, a very old flamenco form, and in one case the melodic strain of “el Vito “are very evident in Scarlatti’s musical works. This particular Sonata is K. 119 in D Major. Not the least is an outstanding example of his interpretation of the famous “Bolero” out of the history of Escuela Bolera material. This Sonata is listed in various catalogs.
With this in mind, I attended the Symposium which concentrated on the subject of Scarlatti’s impressionistic music, his methods of construction, and his inspiration from Spain. The event held in Mojácar, on the Andalusian south coast near Almeria featured a week of lectures, concerts and discussions. I took a friend with me to facilitate the trip which was a little more than one week.
While there I did broach the subject of one of my theories about a particular sonata which contained a passage very reminiscent of El Vito. It was of course not a copy of the melody but had a similar lilt and texture in triple time. When I spoke with one of the participants about this, she was amazed about my discovery in one of the Sonatas. She was familiar with the song and dance “el Vito”.
It was a fascinating experience. Musicians of that specialty from all over the world attended and it was ended with a grand dinner on the premises of a hotel in the town. We had excellent accommodations in a small family run hotel in the town of Mojácar. The actual center for Fimte is located in Almeria, but all the workshops, concerts, and discussions were held in this tiny community.
The trip over from Los Angeles was a flight to London and then another flight on Iberia Airways to Madrid where we finally took a small plane to Almeria. From there we traveled in a taxi to Mojácar as there was no transportation available to take us there. A real adventure!
There had been a delay in our flight from London to Madrid as the plane was late and we missed the first concert. We did arrive soon enough to attend a short harpsichord concert and a cocktail party reception for the guests.
During the discussions I had another conversation with one of the guests about the idea I had which related to the Tientos, a very old flamenco rhythm I detected in Sonata K. 545 in B major. This was in Alla Breve time. He thought I should submit a paper about this finding. Subsequently I did send in my proposal at a later date. The response was that the subject was “very interesting” but apparently they had a large amount of submissions and were unable to consider it at the time.
As I have indicated in a previous article, teaching has not been my special interest and has always been a private enterprise offered to those interested in coaching and serious study of Spanish Dance, flamenco, and the other forms of the dance art of Spain.
However, in the past a number of opportunities came up during my career to give master classes in a special situation.
The first of these occurred when I returned after my concert season on the East Coast and I had established a reputation. There was around the 1950’s an Organization known as the California Association of Dancing Teachers based in Los Angeles. I was approached by a dance teacher I knew for years to do a Master class and this was presented sometime in 1955.
A year later in Mexico City, in connection with two concerts I did in the Capital I presented a master class at a local dance Academy, the Carmela Burgander Spanish Dance School.
While in London, doing concerts and lecture- demonstrations on Flamenco in particular, I was invited to present a master class/lecture-demo for the Imperial Society of Dancing Teachers in London. It was held at Victoria Halls, London. This was undoubtedly a prestigious assignment and it was received enthusiastically. This occurred in 1961 during the two years I spent in England. When I did two concerts in Liverpool presented by the English Speaking Union I was asked to do a master class in a local dance school while in that city.
I was also approached by a Dance teacher who attended the event in London, and had an Academy of Dance in Philadelphia and she contracted me to do a master class at her school in 1962.
As time went on, and I did have a period of teaching privately in Los Angeles during the years 1970 to 1993, I conducted a master class at UC Irvine around 1990. These classes usually featured extensive verbal explanations.
In more recent years, I conducted master classes in Las Vegas during a concert there, and one more in the Los Angeles area principally on the Escuela Bolera.
An Over View I have always been somewhat pedantic in my approach to the dance art of Spain. Initially, I was as many others attracted to the fascinating form of dance and music which is popularly known as “flamenco”. This is a natural perception experienced by almost everyone. However. there are many facets musically and aesthetically. The reason for this is that there is a blending of native or folk elements in performance as opposed to theater presentations. I have written in much detail about the subject because of my vast experience in my performing life and the many associations I have had with other artists. It has been the result of lifelong study as well as endless exploration which leads to one revelation after another. The Spanish dance, which of course, includes flamenco, takes into its embrace the different provinces of the Iberian Peninsula and each one of the special materials peculiar to that region. Each province uses diverse instrumentation, styles, and songs and is rich in nuance. The only form which is not written is flamenco because it is handed down from one generation to another as an oral tradition. Each form or “palo” has a special character but all are “song rhythms” evolving from distant cultures.
The Andalusian gypsies and other natives to that region have an obvious advantage to be born into the flamenco environment that makes it possible for them to learn it in very early childhood as a language of forms. For those of us not from that culture it has to learned as a second language. With much study, diligent practice, observation and exposure ( and hopefully with some natural gifts!) it can become a part of the life experience.
There have been so many influences over the decades that altered the understanding. New ideas abound and this is not destructive but enriches as these new concepts evolve.
Flamenco is Eastern in character. The tones are closer together than in Western music and therefore present a mournful and mysterious impression. In this way it affects the emotions in a different manner. I cannot over emphasize the importance of seeing Spanish dance and particularly the structure of Flamenco as embedded in musical form. Compas in the dance and musical is vitally important. Without rhythm there is no music. The organization of time in music and dance is fundamental. In Flamenco, the guitarist follows the dancer who puts down the beats for the guitarist who reads it as a score. Sometimes the melody or falseta begins on a third count or 2nd beat. The entrance of a particular strain rarely commences on the first beat of a bar. This fact can sometimes be confusing to the beginner who may not understand musical structure. There frequently is controversy over what is flamenco. What categories do the various rhythms fall into? One view is that flamenco or cante Jondo, ( deep song) can only be performed with guitar as an unwritten form. This is the true nature of the dance, song, and music. Often, it is asked whether Sevillanas is flamenco. Of course it is. It is accompanied by guitar. However it can be written down. One outstanding feature of the Sevillanas ( actually a form of Seguidillas) is that it is a couple dance and therefore differs from a dance such as Alegrias, Solea, Seguiriyas, Bulerias which is normally of any length. A sevillana is always the same length fitted to the verse. Fandangos( there are a number of versions ) are also measured to the length of the copla and that is the principal difference. The Spanish dance as I have pointed out so often in many ways can be regional; folk dances of Castille, Aragon, Galicia, and Valencia. These have various instrumental musical accompaniments and are NOT flamenco. The balletic 18th Century style of the Escuela Bolera, and important category as a vocabulary of the Spanish idiom must be included, Lastly, the theater dance or stylized presentations which contain elements of Flamenco, folk material, and the Escuela Bolera used to be more popular than is today. This kind of performance is considered Impressionistic and must be accompanied by written music as a composition. It is a complicated subject and I present this as my view after a lifetime of exposure.
Having just posted a private video of three dances I did in 2003, I note some of the changes which were made in the dance patterns, rhythmic passages, and variations. This is interesting in light of the method of creating Flamenco.
The dance material has evolved over time. I compare these examples with the current performances I have done. Some of this is improvement and other aspects may be inferior. In any case, one can learn by comparison.
Within the last year, I was notified that a Japanese Magazine, titled PASEO featured news of Flamenco artists around the world and I was informed of an article in reference to a documentary about my career filmed by Tina Love. A black and white image of the page is featured.
It is well known there has been a great deal of “aficion” about Flamenco in Japan for many years.There will be a follow up in coming weeks.