After a lifetime in the entertainment world, in every possible venue from “joints” to the concert halls of Europe and United States, there is a long chapter related to my ongoing performing experience.
Following the death of my husband in 1999, I was alone. And on my own. I remained devoted and dedicated to dance and music. The particular significant forms of the Spanish dance idiom are inspiring and I never tired of exploring the music and endless possibilities for expression. This is not to say “self expression”. The presentational character of this form of music, dance and song shows deep feelings which are called up from within and reveal new aspects in a constant stream of experience.
Sometime later, I decided to take a chance and call a musician friend, Patrick Lindley, with whom I had the pleasure of working in a concert in 1988. That was an occasion at California State University at Los Angeles where he taught on the faculty. Lindley is a marvelous harpsichordist and pianist as well as a gifted composer. I left a message on his phone telling him of Bernard’s passing asking him to call if he wished. He responded soon after, and we talked. I told him of my continued work with the Scarlatti dances and invited him to come to my home to see my work. We had a very nice visit. When I showed four of my new dances he was wildly enthusiastic. With this reaction, I took courage and asked him about the Harpsichord Center and the obvious connection to the Harpsichord and Baroque music. He took this suggestion and said he would speak to the director of the Southern California Baroque Association, Wm. Neil Roberts.
Some weeks later I heard from Patrick. He told me that the Association wanted some of my photos. (I guessed they were in doubt about my appearance given the longevity of my dance career.) I quickly sent some color shots taken by a student of mine not long before which actually were quite good.
However, months passed and I thought the matter was dropped.
I called Patrick once more and was elated to hear that the Association would present me in 2001 in two concerts!! Why wasn’t I notified? Perhaps they wanted to reserve the right to cancel. This seemed strange.
It was an enormous lift to my spirits and I danced for joy around the room! Of course, it was far off (this was in 2000, several months after Bernard died). I had negotiated a prestigious engagement by my own strength and a chance to renew my dance career!
During this time, I was rehearsing with Stamen Wetzel, a gifted guitarist I had known for years. We renewed our friendship and I practiced with him for months. The program I presented for the Harpsichord Center featured the Scarlatti material accompanied on the harpsichord by Patrick. I did not want to include flamenco at the time as it seemed irrelevant. (In a return engagement in 2005 I did feature two flamenco dances with guitar to bring out the relationship of Scarlatti’s music to the Andalusian forms.)
The concerts of 2001 were sold out. The venues at the Brentwood Contrapuntal Recital Hall and the Church in Pasadena were very well attended. In the whole time spent preparing for the performances no mention of compensation was offered. No contract, no conversation, no handshake to finalize the agreement between us. Towards the fall of 2000 I did receive a Brochure from the Southern California Baroque Association with my pictures and mention of my coming concerts. (Patrick informed me they wanted to have some new photos.) I had some professional photographs made in early January of 2000.
In May of 2001 the two programs were received with marvelous comments and I was satisfied that artistically it had evolved into another phase of my life work. There was a reception afterwards at the Brentwood Contrapuntal Recital Hall where the Association gave their concert series. Neil Roberts handed me a small piece of paper right there which was a $500 Check! I was astonished they were so non-communicative about the entire situation. This represented a triumph for the art and business matters.
In 2002 I was introduced to a lady who conducted interesting salons at her magnificent home in Pasadena. These presentations were lectures of various topics offered to a discriminating public. The contact was arranged through my long time student Miguel Bernal who knew of the lecture material my husband and I worked on. He rightly guessed that this kind of presentation would appeal to Carol Soucek King, the founder of this organization, The Institute of Philosophy & the Arts. When I met her at one of the Salons, and said one word- “metaphor” she immediately offered me a date to present my program.
It was extremely successful as a lecture-demonstration in full costume and accompanied by Stamen on the guitar. I performed several dances on my small three by three feet oak floor set in the large living room. There was no monetary compensation for my work, but several repercussions of value came out of the event.
Following the first Scarlatti concerts I became interested in learning to play the Harpsichord myself. (I had been classically trained on the piano from age five and studied that instrument for ten years.) I acquired a small spinet, a modest instrument and persuaded Neil Roberts to tutor me. I spent eight wonderful years learning the niceties of this instrument which has enriched my life and artistic vision. Neil Roberts passed away in 2011. It was a great loss. A few years into my study, I traded in the tiny spinet for a small Flemish single harpsichord with three registers which has more musical quality.
My story continues with an appearance again on stage. Miguel Bernal, who had spent close to ten years studying with me since age 14, asked me to be invited guest at a popular Flamenco restaurant in Carlsbad near San Diego where he was performing. I made two appearances at the Casa Sevilla doing Alegrias in the November show and Farruca and my Solea in a New Years’ gig at the end of 2002. It was an exciting end to this period.
Following this restaurant show, I heard from a former student of mine, Coral, who had formed a company in Las Vegas where she lived. She was planning a concert with her troupe and asked if I was interested in appearing as Guest Artist. Included in the contract were workshops of the Escuela Bolera to train for the performance of a selected pair of Escuela Bolera dances. We agreed and confirmed a fee and date. It was decided to use Seguidillas Manchegas and the Boleras Sevillanas. I flew to Las Vegas in November of 2003 and spent a weekend as a guest in Coral’s home. I conducted some classes in the Escuela dances and was able to train several dancers in the troupe to do the steps. Coral wanted me to perform my Scarlatti dances as she knew a pianist who was skilled at Harpsichord, Cynthia Harris. Cynthia came to Los Angeles to rehearse with me on the two Scarlatti Sonatas I chose to perform. She was excellent. I flew again to Vegas in January of 2004 and spent days rehearsing with the troupe, the guitarist and Cynthia. It was a pleasant experience. Coral was very fair to me and I was able to realize several hundred dollars out of it and a video. Though not professional, this served as a record of the dances I did. I also performed a Solea with guitar and some Bulerias cambios in the final scene. The members of Coral’s company were extremely gracious and respectful to me and my dance. A fine comment of my work appeared in a review by a critic in a Las Vegas show business publication.
In the previous year of 2001 I did visit Tucson, Arizona and spent a few days with my first cousin, Walter Parnes who arranged for me to dance at a Private Club with a guitarist he sent for from Scottsdale. This experience turned out rather disappointing as a video was made but inadvertently destroyed. The audience was enthusiastic and the guitarist impressed with “my power”.
I also did a party appearance for a friend in Encino as a favor and for this I asked a fee for the guitarist (Stamen Wetzel) and requested a donation. I wanted to stay in the “loop”.
In the months following the Las Vegas gig, Neil Roberts asked me to do a return engagement for SBCA and a date was set for February 2005.
At a lecture-performance of a keyboardist, at the Harpsichord Center in December of 2004, I met a lady, by the name of Mary Hannon who published a Newsletter for pianists and keyboardists titled PianoForte. We had an interesting conversation about my Scarlatti dances and the upcoming engagement with the Harpsichord center. She attended my concert in February of 2005 at the Art Center in Eagle Rock presented again by the SCBA and it was very well received. This time I had in addition to Patrick Lindley the guitar accompaniment of Stamen for two flamenco dances, the Solea and the Estampio Zapateado. Both performances were well attended. I was given $1200 to cover my fee and expenses. It was fair and this return engagement was another success. Mary Hannon interviewed me for her Piano Forte Newsletter and it appeared later in an issue of 2005. The article was a discussion of my work with the Scarlatti Sonatas as dance material and my studies on the Harpsichord.
The next four years were fallow. I was rehearsing often with Stamen and colleagues and I was in contact with other guitarists and a singer, Miguel de Malaga, with whom I had worked in past years. During 2002, I called a dancer/actress friend I knew for years and she put me in touch with an acquaintance who helped me learn to use a computer. I had desired to own a computer and the knowledge to use it for professional reasons. I met with him and with his advice acquired a laptop and spent months learning a new language. My involvement with the Internet resulted in my own Website online and the ability to research important topics related to my profession. With this help I was able to organize and edit at last all the flamenco material Bernard and I worked on during the 1960’s and beyond concerning the structure and form of flamenco. In addition, the laptop gave me a tool to use the Internet for contacts and promotion.
Those years from 2005 to 2009 were productive but I missed performing in public. In late 2008, I was contacted by a friend of mine who asked if I would be interested in appearing in a flamenco attraction she was producing for an organization in Alhambra. A concert series had been established in 2006 by William Yee who had an artistic background as well as business experience. I expressed interest and we went ahead. The focus of the presentation was to be the dancer and singer Yvette Garcia and her group. Also engaged was a modern and ballet dancer, Albertossy Espinoza who had some training in Spanish dance. Yvette had her guitarist plus her husband who did sing flamenco. I engaged Stamen to play for me and it was agreed that each artist was to receive an honorarium of $130.
It was a lot of planning and labor to produce this event, but finally we put on the show and it was a rousing success to our great surprise. The hall of 200 seats was packed and everyone was pleased I had a “following”. At the end of the program it was arranged to have the entire cast dance into the audience. I was immediately surrounded by a number of friends and fans some of whom I did not know but appeared to remember me from years ago.
This venture encouraged Mary Hannon who had developed an interest in my work. Soon she approached Stamen and me to present a program which she would sponsor in a modest way. Meanwhile, she had met a pianist, Neil Galanter, a brilliant musician who specialized in Spanish music and Mary arranged for us to meet in my studio and see some of my work with Stamen. At last a suitable venue was found at a Woman’s Club in South Pasadena. A date was set for a concert with the pianist, Neil Galanter, Stamen, and a guitarist friend of Neil’s who played in a classical style. I included some of the stylized dances in my repertoire. Employing a pianist for the first time since 1963, added a different format.
First, we did a program for the Club itself and were paid a small fee. About two week later an afternoon program was performed with a more elaborate performance and surprisingly we drew good attendance and made a bit of money. On the side, I contacted Bill Yee of the Center for the Visual and Performing Arts. I had invited Mary to attend a flamenco concert by another dancer who was very good. This was also produced by my student and they had about half a house. During intermission, Mr. Yee approached me and spoke of my “fame” and asked me to email him. I subsequently did this with the idea to ask if he would present us. Bill spoke to me of his interest in presenting me as the headliner and as “Flamenco diva”.
After much discussion I decided to take Bill Yee’s offer and appear in my one woman show. A date was agreed upon for September 18, 2010, and I performed with Stamen and Benjamin, another guitarist friend of many years and the cantaor, Miguel de Malaga. We had a successful program with about half a house and I made expenses and a bit over. This helped to boost my reputation due to the Internet which picks up every morsel of data about everyone. There seemed to be no end to the stream of information that was generated by these last three appearances. I performed seven dances and the guitarists played duets and Miguel a song solo. The audience gave us an ovation. A resulting follow-up was a Lester Horton Life Time Achievement Award presented by the Dance Resource Center.
In 2011, Mary Hannon offered to present Neil Galanter, Ryan, the young guitarist friend of Neil’s, Miguel de Malaga, Stamen and Benjamin with me. A small theater was rented, the Secret Rose in North Hollywood, and I agreed to take equal billing to Neil under the circumstances. We had a full house. It was a loss financially for me but the concert was a success. The proceeds were split between Neil and me.
With this flurry of exposure, I renewed contact with Bill Yee, and he was eager to set up a sequel to the original “Flamenco Alhambra” in 2012. (He had followed up his email to me directly after the solo program in 2010 suggesting I invite other dancers to present a company with my role as dancer/producer.) I agreed to this idea and finally recruited a cast of 12 to present in 2012. This entailed a great deal of work apart from dancing, but in the end, we had a full house, and a smooth performance. It was my first foray into organizing a Company, but it worked rather well, despite it being my first attempt.
After this success, Bill projected another Flamenco Alhambra, and the 2013 version was accomplished not without some worry and the sad and sudden passing of our flamenco cantaor, Miguel de Malaga. This time, Bill advertised free admission with “Donations accepted” and the hall was overflowing! It was such an attraction that people were turned away with standing room only. During the rehearsal and the actual show, we were being photographed by a young photo-journalist who asked to shoot the activities. His name was Jaime Zapata from Bogota, Colombia. He was a student at El Camino College in Southern California. This project was a class assignment for photo-journalism and he was looking for “an interesting person” as a subject to use in the assignment. He spent about ten hours at the venue in Alhambra taking over 100 pictures of our preparations and the dancing. It was very well done.
Another program was presented in October of 2013. A new performance was also scheduled for 2014.
Now as I see ahead to another season of performing, I cannot help but look inward at the many influences which drove me on. At the same time, ghosts stir in my mind as I think of friends who have passed on. Looking backward and forward at the same moment! This is a true metaphor for flamenco itself. With music that is not written and exists only as a mental and physical memory, there is constant renewal; we do connect the past and the future all in the same instant by the unique structure of this form!
As an update, the October 19, 2013 show was an artistic success, with some people saying it was the best so far. The first in 2012 had more material and variety in the presentation. However, opinions differ.
A new Flamenco Alhambra was set for June of 2014 and a poster was seen on the CVPA Webpage. During 2014, some flamenco friends invited me to be Guest Artist at a small venue known as the Havana Club Bar and Restaurant in El Monte, where flamenco dance and song is presented. I could not refuse. So there I am again back at the beginning. What goes around comes around!
The first and most gratifying development of 2014 was the registration of the “Mystery of Flamenco”, an edited and compiled work which I assembled and submitted to the Library of Congress. After some months, I was finally contacted by the Literary specialist, initially by a long email and finally by two phone calls. He asked that I authorize him to name an original author of the concept and credit myself for editing and compiling the text. I immediately agreed and I would receive confirmation within weeks that the work is registered and copyrighted with the Library of Congress! A triumph for this final task and a tribute to the enormous effort both my husband and I made to put flamenco in perspective. The Certificate of Registration was received in the mail not later than two weeks following my conversation with the Literary Specialist. The copyright from the Library of Congress states my legal name and my pseudonym of Inesita as the author and editor of the text and credits me with the compiling of the material in its final form. The specialist commented that the work was very interesting.
The appearance at the Havana in El Monte was stimulating and refreshing due to the intimacy of the tiny tavern—a bar and restaurant specializing in Cuban food. The audience reaction warmed me and everyone was respectful and gracious. Perhaps this is because of my long running performance resume. Without a doubt, it was a happy moment at this late stage of my career. Pure flamenco belongs in this sort of ambiance.
I was asked back to appear again as guest and performed in October of 2014 as well and in a return engagement in March of 2015. Still another was performed in 2016 and another projected for 2017.