California Fiesta 1956

In mid summer of 1956 I was asked to appear in an important event  in San Diego called The California Fiesta . The official title was “Fiesta del Pacifico” an enactment of “The California Story”. The festivities depicted the early days of the Gold Rush and related topics. I was engaged for the two week run of a three part show which included my interpretion of the notorious Spanish dancer of that period, Lola Montez. She was an Irish girl who was known more for her exploits as a courtesan. This required a dance of the Tarantella which Montez was famous for performing. The entire project was to be presented in the large Balboa Stadium. Meredith Wilson, a well-known popular conductor-musician who also was an admirer of my work led the full orchestra for the show.

All of the action was done in pantomime narrated by voices over a loud-speaker. I entered the premises riding in a horse drawn carriage and dismounted to the platform and began the dance. I too mimed the little story and later I was complimented on my  “acting” A costume appropriate for the Tarantella was provided and a tambourine. I actually consulted a teacher of mine at the time the well known dance artist, Carmelita Maracci, about the form of the dance and she graciously gave me some excellent pointers. The other part of the contract involved a short piece of Mexican dance and a flamenco number I did with guitar accompanied by Jaime Grifo, an fine guitarist with whom I had worked before.

In that same period I performed with him at the Coronado Hotel  nearby for a convention of eleven governors from various states.  I performed two flamenco dances, Seguiriyas and Farruca which was received extremely well.  A strong comment about my work on the television news mentioned that “Inesita danced with a fire seldom seen in this country”. It was gratifying.  

During rehearsal for the Fiesta I was photographed dancing on a platform in the stadium and this footage was used as publicity to promote the show. Since it was done without my knowledge and later seen on television, we notified the unions, AFTRA and the Screen Actors Guild.  The management was required to pay me a fee of $200. 

The engagement was an adventure. A large amount of newspaper coverage came out and I received praise for my dancing.

The following two years was a significant breakthrough for my career. A contract to do a full concert including my  “Themes from Goya” was offered at UCLA. This was presented by the Fine Arts Committee at Schoenberg Hall on the Westwood campus. It was sold out and featured 15 dances accompanied by guitar and piano with an assistant portraying Francisco Goya in a mimed scene. This program in June of 1957 was followed by a repeat performance at Royce Hall in essentially the same format. During this week I flew to Ogden, Utah to do a concert with a pianist, Bertha Gerson who was a wonderful accompanist and another guitarist, Enrique Heredia of the well-known gypsy family, with whom I had been friendly  throughout the early 1950’s.  There was an earlier appearance in Phoenix. Arizona, with Jaime Grifo, the guitarist and another fine pianist arranged by a different  concert management.