The next performance featuring INESITA and her Flamenco Ensemble will be Saturday, October 21, 2017. Curtain will be 7 P.M. It will be again presented by APAC in Alhambra California. Artistic Director, William Yee. Details to be announced . The new title will be ARTE FLAMENCO.
For her 9th Season at the Alhambra Performing Arts Center, INESITA will bring her distinctive Flamenco concert to the Sage Granada Methodist Church under the direction of William Yee.
UNESCO has declared Flamenco to be an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”
Inesita’s presentation of Flamenco (Cante Jondo) embodies this idea, because of the universality of Flamenco’s musical structure. An expression of the people, it carries a message of the life force in its driving rhythms (compas) and tensions. The earthiness, elegance, strong tradition in Flamenco and its emotional content relates to all of us.
The performance will feature Miguel Bernal, brilliant dancer/ singer, Clarita, charismatic singer and dancer, as well as exciting numbers by flamenco dancers La Nubia and Jani Quintero plus the solid guitar collaboration of Stamen Wetzel and Benjamin.
Inesita will offer six dance solos of her own and participate as pianist in a musical interlude with the guitarists.
Curtain is 7 P.m. and admission is Free. Donations accepted during intermission.
On my first trip to Spain, in 1953, I was deep in study with three different masters of flamenco. On my return by ship, from Gibraltar, I met Juanele Maya and his wife and dance partner, Salome, whom I recognized from Jose Greco’s company. I introduced myself and told them how much I admired them. They were joining Greco on his next tour. Somehow, news spread that dancers were on board, and we were asked to perform. I danced Alegrias, with Juanele accompanying me on the guitar. Salome was feeling ill and did not participate.
After almost a year in Madrid during my studies in 1958-59, with three other teachers, my husband, Bob and I made plans to leave. During this period I did a concert appearance at the Embassy for Ambassador Lodge and Mrs. Lodge, Senor Arielza, Ambassador to the United States from Spain and other important guests. A lecture-performance at the Castellana- Hilton preceded this program. We stopped in Barcelona where I appeared in a show at an establishment with some other artists.
While in Madrid a contact was made with Mr. Cohen, brother-in -law of my friend, Carmen Estrabeau, a Spanish actress and singer whom I knew well. She gave my name to Mr. Cohen. He suggested we contact a Frenchman, Mr. Brueil, who owned a tablao in Paris.
Mr. Brueil visited Madrid every year to contract Flamenco artists to perform at Le Catalan. The restaurant on the Left Bank was the most famous in Paris due to its connection with Pablo Picasso, the great Spanish painter who founded this establishment with a coterie of his friends and artists. In fact, his studio had been in the same building next door to Le Catalan.
In August of 1959, my husband and I found ourselves in Paris during the month when most of the population is on holiday. After an initial stay at a pension on the Rue d’Assas, we found accommodations at Cite Universitaire, in Antony, a suburb of Paris, where we stayed very economically. In Paris we spoke with the bartender at Le Catalan about our interest. We were told the owner would return from Spain on Sept. 4th and we could see him then.
On that day, in Paris again we contacted him to explain my desire to meet guitarists and singers who might be interested in appearing with me in concerts in Paris.
When we arrived, Mr. Brueil told me in Spanish that he needed a dancer for the show because one of the artists he engaged was having difficulty with her visa from Spain.
I did not have my shoes or castanets with me, so I rushed back to Antony, packed the dance shoes, castanets, and a practice skirt and rushed back by train to the tablao. (I had noticed that Juanele Maya whom I had met returning on the ship from Gibraltar was rehearsing upstairs in the dining room.) As I ascended the stairs I saw him and he recognized me from our time on the ship.
When I returned, Juanele was still rehearsing. Everyone was very friendly including Juanele, as we passed over my dances with the guitarists and singers in rehearsal.
I began an Alegrias and the guitarist followed expertly. At the finale of the dance, one of the singers joined in with excellent palmas for support.
I did several dances including the Zapateado. One guitarist was eager to accompany me in this number because of its complex rhythms. All were impressed with my work, so they notified the mother and co-partner of Mr. Brueil, Marguerite, to watch the session. I was asked if I would substitute for Salome.
I opened at Le Catalan in the first week of September and the shows went very well. By the first day Salome did arrive and the scheduled performances were in place. Another female dancer, Laura Toledo completed the list of artists. With two singers and three guitarists we numbered nine performers.
After five days passed, Marguerite arranged to meet with me and the chef who spoke both Spanish and French. The cook translated to Spanish from her French, but since I was aware of the content of her conversation, I actually understood her. She offered a small weekly salary plus an apartment in the building next door for an indefinite time frame. I accepted with the proviso that I be allowed to hire a singer and guitarist from Le Catalan to appear with me in three concerts arranged at the American Center.
Everyone was pleased that I stayed, and both Salome and Laura expressed pleasure that I was part of the ensemble. The Zapateado which I performed each night received the most applause, but generally my dances went over very well with good support from the guitarists and flamenco singers. All were from Andalusia except Laura Toledo. She was of Russian parentage and French speaking due to her schooling in France. She was also fluent in Spanish and in English because of her education in the United States.
This restaurant was considered the finest of its kind in Paris. It was frequented by celebrities and many artists of the dance world including Spain. I always was taken for Spanish and that was pleasing.
The three concerts were successful at the famous American Center on the Boulevard Raspail and I was able to make extra money and receive publicity as well. Living on the Rue de grand Augustin, where Pablo Picasso had his “atelier” added a glamour and interest to the experience. I also was given complete access to the Centre (It actually was very cosmopolitan) and I had use of the gymnasium for rehearsal and the piano. There was a Library and we met many interesting people who became my followers. More appearances were arranged in outlying towns and I contracted other guitarists and singers who were available.
During this period there were some changes in the roster of artists, because of other engagements which came up and the substitutes fit in with little trouble. One aspect I noticed was the tendency of the dancers to watch each other from the sidelines. I often saw at least two pairs of eyes observing me over a screen at the side of the stage. I did the same when I had a chance. Many flamenco artists follow the work of their colleagues and try to copy and incorporate these elements into their own performances. I imagine this occurs in other fields as well.
During the engagement, celebrities came to dine at Le Catalan, among them Marlon Brando, Maurice Bejart, the famous dancer and choreographer, the Spanish stars, Pilar Lopez, and Lola Flores and Mariemma.. From time to time, well known flamenco artists would come by to greet us in the dressing room and sit in the bar below. These included Joselito, the dancer, Rafael Romero, Niño de Almaden, El Pili, and Jarrito, all flamenco singers of note. After about three months Juanele Maya and Salome left, and other dancers were engaged. When different singers were contracted, we collaborated easily on the dances and songs because everyone was experienced. I was received especially well in the bar below. One of the singers commented “tu tienes el duende debajo, Inesita.”
( Inesita, you have the goblin downstairs). I danced on a table where the customers had their drinks. It was the intimacy of the situation which changed the atmosphere and I must have responded with special “aire” or spirit.
After seven months, we realized that this experience although valuable, really led nowhere and I resigned. Everyone was disappointed that I did not stay at least a year.
I did appear on two television shows in connection with Le Catalan. Of course I danced the Zapateado on a table! I included another number, Polo, a very sophisticated flamenco form with the guitarist and singer. This was the work of my teacher in Spain, Antonio Marin.
In March of 1960 we left for England and a new chapter.
In recent weeks, a link to a Flamenco Magazine in Paris, France featured an article about the history of Le Catalan. There were several pages and among them reference to the tablao performance in which I was featured along with about seven other artists; guitarists and singers and dancers. From time to time the cast changed while I was there.
There are two images of mine in the article and a mention of my name in the last page.
Having been a performer since age fifteen in Spanish dance and flamenco, I offer another viewpoint on this esoteric and arcane art.
I was always presented as a soloist from day one. Unless I was engaged as part of a show or concert; or film, television, or some performance featuring other artists, I presented as a one woman show.
Only rarely did I become a dance partner, but this was never part of my experience as a whole. The essence of the Spanish dance and particular case of Flamenco demands a soloist to express the music and dynamics in the work.
Except in the special case of couple dances, the import which it conveys comes over as an individual entity.
As I have written in great detail of my beginnings, I entered the professional as a solo artist albeit not yet seasoned, but with considerable potential.
Entering the profession as a very young person I was fortunate enough to attract much attention due to my youth and appearance and ability. One thing led to another and I was engaged soon in a Civic Light Opera which led to a showcase in a night club. This afforded me visibility to many professionals and opened doors to the film industry and other venues where I could perform to advantage.
In this era, Spanish dance and particularly flamenco was an exotic specialty mostly misunderstood by the public but admired for its flamboyance and excitement. For this reason, I was able to succeed quickly and opportunities poured in. There were so many varied situations in which I could sell my talents.
It is notable that I received so much attention at this time. I had little competition.
Over time and much study, and experience and exposure I developed my own style. However everything evolves and nothing stays the same but moves inexorably on to new ideas. New artists in flamenco arrived on the horizon and influenced one another and allowed more to germinate and grow.
I did not stay in the same mind set but took on new challenges of presentation to avoid stagnation. Because flamenco is unwritten and becomes flexible and open to revision, the enormous evolution of the form was inevitable. I made innovations of my own to encompass other approaches in my Themes from Goya suite which was presented nine times and then moved on to concentrate on making dances to the Sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti which enhanced my repertoire. These new versions of the same elements in the music were not always as popular or commercial enough to succeed and prosper as the more popular presentations did, but I believe it is wiser to try other methods than mark time. Even taking on the task of doing lecture-performances expanded the vision to those who would listen! And then I returned to concentrate on pure flamenco! By analyzing the form and structure it was possible to offer more insight into the music, and methods of this art. Flamenco is made up of fragment pieced together and can be altered and rearranged.
In today’s world where footage of shows can be quickly transferred to the Web, the visual becomes an interpretation which can grab attention in a way that a live performance may not.
Video and film is actually another medium and the impact is distinct from a live performance in a theater or tablao setting. The perception changes. Having had footage of film or video within the past sixty years or thereabouts showing my work the progression of altered structure becomes very obvious.
It is said that “one picture is worth a thousand words “and so I have included much of what has been recorded over this period. It is almost tragic that so much of the great dancing of the distant past has been lost due to lack of the technology. In short, this has been a boon; or perhaps there is a downside as well. Nevertheless, there is still nothing like a live performance and its immediacy to the spectator.
So I leave these musings with the public and let them decide.
Having spent decades as a performer in this unique dance form, I offer a perspective on its essence. The word flamenco is an odd choice to designate an art which is distinctly Spanish and more specifically of Andalucía . There have been a number of explanations why a word which means Flemish in Spanish is associated with the form of dance, music, and song recognized as the exciting, flamboyant, mysterious display of technical skill it is.
One example given is the elaborate dress of Flemish courtiers during the reign of Carlos I. It was adopted and connected with the Andalusian Gypsies during this era. However this came about, it is now ingrained in the public perception.
The true name of flamenco art is: Cante Jondo: Deep or profound song. I have often heard “En España el cante viene primero”. “In Spain the song comes first” This is true in a musical sense since the guitarist’s chords which are used to accompany singing are the basis for the tunes or melodies (falsetas) which develop from the chord structure. The rhythms or compás which are attached to the melodies drive the work. Moreover, flamenco is not Western music but Eastern in origin. As such Eastern scales tend to have a falling cadence. The tones are close together creating dissonance and ambiguity. This presents a mournful and melancholy feeling, whereas Western musical tones have a tendency to rise and give a different impression.
Without question much has evolved over many decades. The incorporation of different chords such as jazz and other musical influences have changed the texture of performance and the entire presentation of what is seen today. Some are displeased with this but as in everything else in culture, whether language, fashion, life styles or advances in all manifestations of art, new ideas are presented. Forward thinking is inevitable. I personally have altered my material as the years pass to bring it into the present.
Flamenco has always possessed a strong tradition and a rich vocabulary. Out of this material, develop interpretation and much variation. The dance has a character which is not duplicated in any other dance style. Unlike other techniques the dance turns in upon itself and is held taut to the body. A kind of stillness which can be eloquent is part of the language of forms. This explains why one can perform movements in a very small space and still convey feeling. The tensions, kinetic urgency, and focus, are central to the form. Articulation, attack and nuance, all attributes one expects in a musical performance. Each performer colors this with his or her own personality.
Above all, flamenco is a musical art. Because of the methodology in the system and the reality that it is an unwritten, open-ended form, the dancer functions as a musician to conduct and ring the changes from one variation to the next. We know the guitarists gaze never leaves the dancer. The feet making intricate patterns, arms accenting movement, all is rhythm which dominates throughout a performance. The cantaor (singer) too, must obey the force of the compás. And the guitarist is watchful throughout. The collaboration and interplay of the elements of song, guitar and dance is demanding, not to mention the addition of hand clapping or palmas and other percussion added to the score. Since all is non-verbal and without notation, it creates the power we see and accounts for its popularity today as never before.
Without rhythm there is no music, therefore it is mathematical. Flamenco is organic. The end of one variation opens the door on the next into infinitude.
Those four little pieces of wood! How mysterious and secret they are to anyone who has never held them in their hands! At the first sound of their sonorous peal, there is a fascination not felt with any other percussive instrument. It is difficult to fathom how they convey such power!
At first, the uninitiated places them on the middle finger of the hand and rattles them to try to understand how they can achieve that special quality.
Very often, someone will try to learn in a very short time. It can’t be done.
The minute movements of the fingers have a special action which requires concentrated study and fierce focus to learn.
There are dances in Northern Spain in which dancers of Aragon, Castile, and Navarre and other provinces of the Iberian Peninsula use the castanets on the middle finger and a resounding clap is produced in a quite different technique. And it is surprisingly effective for the demands of this kind of vocabulary and music.
But the Andalusian , the virtuoso, attaches the cords of the castanets on the thumb where it is anchored in a double loop freeing the four fingers of the right hand to operate and slide over In succession from the small finger to each in turn to make a roll.The right hand performs the roll and the left maintains the beat with only the middle finger. This has to be reversed in the case of a left-handed player! I should mention that the instruments are tuned so the bass, macho (left hand) is one third of a tone lower. The right hand (hembra) has the higher voice. Coordination between the two hands is achieved with much practice.
Herein lies difficulty to train ligaments and tendons of the hand to play upon the open castanet. But this is function and not yet art.
I began the study of these small miracles at age 14. These were the first lessons. The effort of beginning to manipulate them took several weeks. Gradually, the ability to play a rhythm in a simple 4/4 or 3/4 count becomes a part of the brain and one proceeds to the next stage.
Now the arms must move with the music and in time and castanets become an accompaniment.
Castanets (pallilos ) have a well known history extending back to Ancient Greece and Egypt. So I won’t elaborate on the subject. There is a fascinating bronze from this early period of a buffoon dwarf dancing with castanets!
In a previous post, I related my early experience and study with a teacher who had a fine castanet technique and I learned a great deal. After time I was able to handle their role with confidence. Learning to dance, move the arms and master the complicated and sophisticated vocabulary of Spanish dance was not easy, but being young it was possible and after a year of using plastic castanets I acquired a fine pair of professional castanets and moved to the next level. When I was offered a chance to study with José Fernandez at no cost, I was overjoyed to be given this opportunity to learn an approach that I had not anticipated before. Castanets must be scored as an instrument to function as another voice in the musical matrix. It is more than underlining the rhythm but carving out a part of their own as an element of the whole.
My castanets playing made such an impression, that a friend and mentor, Raquel Rojas, the dancer, actress and writer who encouraged me in my earliest endeavors wanted to borrow my palillos to use in an engagement!! I was flattered and stunned that my castanets would now perform in effect on their own in another’s hands! The rich history of the castanets in the career of Antonia Mercé, La Argentina, and her superb mastery of the castanets as a real musical instrument is well known. I was honored to have the opportunity to record my castanet playing with piano accompaniment on Period Records in 1954 when I was concertizing on the East Coast. I dedicated the disk to Antonia Mercé’s memory. The music I selected for the assignment was based on some compositions by Albeniz, Turina, Malats, and Valverde. These dances were specialties of Antonia Mercé. I had learned these works from my first teachers and had perfected them to the point of performing them in earlier appearances. Essentially they were theater or stylized dances which lent themselves well to a castanet score. The Escuela Bolera (School Dance) always featured castanets. They were the true “classic” fundamentals of the Spanish dance. The vinyl disk was advertised as INESITA and distributed all over the world. It was prominently displayed in Sam Goody’s, a well known music store on Broadway!
Strangely, the management of the Record Company issued the flamenco repertoire on side one which I recorded with Juan Martinez as guitarist for the flamenco dances. Perhaps they perceived the flamenco as more appealing to the general public. I considered the castanets superior to the flamenco work at the time, but had no control over the release of the material.
Juan Martinez was a dancer as well as a competent guitarist who appeared with La Argentina during her tours. This is mostly forgotten history!
Flamenco dance, song and guitar music does not usually lend itself well to castanet playing as the use of palmas,pitos and the cajon dominate the performances. The rhythms contain a rich tapestry of off-beating and crossing tempos which are best manifested in complicated hand clapping and heel beats. Flamenco has a distinct construction which stems from the song forms and demands an aesthetic contrary to written music. The composers of Spain offered great beauty of harmonies as well as rhythmic qualities in an impressionistic manner. Flamenco as an earthy form has a tension not found in the formal music of these composers. Nevertheless their scope has attributes lacking in “cante jondo “. The complexity of the flamenco idiom is astonishing and the past is swallowed up in new ideas and I regard it as natural. Everything evolves. Originally, the castanets were a feminine aspect and male dancers frequently ignored them. Nevertheless, there are many fine castanet players among male artists today and I applaud this. The gitanos, tended to regard castanets as associated with the aristocracy. So their use was avoided in favor of the more spectacular display of hand clapping and finger snapping at which they excelled. I also discovered that in the Domenico Scarlatti Sonatas of which I have written, the music is so rich that most of this music needs no percussive addition.
In my view, castanets are very special. They can shout or whisper; murmur and speak to us in a language all their own. Palillos! Like nothing else!