Recollections on the NYU student film Project.
In the latter part of 1962, during the end of my third season in New York, I was contacted by some students in the film dept of New York University. I was recommended as a Flamenco dancer by Leticia Jay, a well known popular dancer who aside from her career as a Jazz tap dancer was also very involved with East Indian dance and ballet technique.
She had devised a method of Dance Notation using stick figures which could be attached to a musical staff and serve as movement and rhythm directions in the choreography. She persuaded me to learn some of her notation and apply this to Flamenco and Spanish dance. I studied the method with her for awhile.
I began work on a film directed by Robert J. Siegel and three other young men one of whom was Martin Scorsese as the cameraman. As is well known today, he is the famed film director.
I was scheduled to do a concert performance at Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts in January of 1963. I had already engaged a flamenco guitarist and flamenco singer who were both from Spain. We were in rehearsal and I asked them if they would like to participate with me in this film assignment and they agreed. The guitarist, Emilio Bonet, was from Madrid, (in fact I met him in Spain years previously when I was studying with the legendary maestro of flamenco, Estampio) . Emilio was the step-son of Manolo Bonet who played the guitar for Estampio’s private classes. Emilio occasionally would play guitar for the students when Manolo was unable to be there.
The flamenco singer, Paco Ortiz, was from Malaga, Spain. I was introduced to him by another guitarist I knew in New York, Emilio Prados, also from Spain and who performed with me in a lecture- concert I did at the Henry Street Playhouse in New York. Prados admired my dancing very much. Paco had been a dancer but now was singing flamenco very well and had a fine stage presence.
The three of us performed in the shooting of the film which took place over a period of weeks from December 1962 to February, 1963.
There were several locations around New York where the filming was done. I performed three dances; two of them with the guitar and song and a third dance stringing a group of flamenco rhythms linked together by a call (llamada) in each successive style. The final dolly shot showed my spinning slowly in the spotlight and was termed “very dramatic”. It was an original idea of mine and had never been done before.
The work was arduous. At the end of the shooting schedule the students presented me with a 14 carat gold necklace lavaliere.
During the shoot, we were contacted by the Voice of America. Someone had informed them of the odd situation of a group of American film students making a film about flamenco. A Spanish gentleman was sent to meet and speak with us and ask about the details. The result was a radio interview in Spanish which was broadcast to a Spanish speaking public. In addition, a Spanish language newspaper sent a photographer to photograph the three of us performing. This appeared in the Spanish newspaper El Diario. It featured Martin Scorsese behind his camera while we posed in one of my dances.
The end of this story concerns correspondence to me and my husband, Bernard, by one of the students who was an admirer of my work and gave us a detailed account of the follow up on the film. The length was about 9 to 12 minutes and the title was Flamenco: The Art of Inesita. This student, Robert Jahn, told us in his letter that the film did not win a prize, but was very well received at the showing.
A very recent comment on the Internet about Martin Scorsese and his films sited his early work at NYC and this film was mentioned. It was summarized as very traditional and “ordinary” in its production and again they had misinformation about the title. It was never designated as a movie about me as Inesita. The intended project was focused on “Flamenco” as a theme. Today, since the film was lost or discarded, it is only speculation regarding the assignment. Since I was the performer and I was present throughout the many weeks during filming, I know more about it than anyone. The title was never “Inesita” Furthermore I contend that the work represented the subject matter in an authentic manner and presented the dance, song, and music of this genre as it should be. The title was Flamenco: The Art of Inesita. That is the final word. I was the dancer not the subject.
Returning to Los Angeles, California following five years away in Europe and the East Coast, I continued with my dance performances plus some private teaching.
Following the death in 1999 of my husband, I resumed performing, and then in 2002 I decided to buy a laptop and learn how to use it, as I was very interested in going online, getting a Web Site, and using the technology to continue my dance activities. In the course of my exploration of the Internet, I saw a reference to my name in connection with the indie film in 1963. I was very surprised to read this student film was mentioned not only with my name but with the name of Martin Scorsese, who subsequently became the famous film director.
Only recently I discovered that I had in my possession a canister of 16 mm film. It was forgotten in the intervening years due to the passage of time and the myriad other projects I have been involved since then. Moreover, the search reveals that my name, Inesita and the film is mentioned in a biography of Scorsese by a writer, Vicente Bhutto.
My memory of Scorsese is of a quiet fellow, who spoke little, since he was not the director, but the cameraman. Robert Siegel, the director conversed with everyone during the filming.
The interesting aspect of this story is the nature of the film itself which in my opinion is a fine example of genuine flamenco as opposed to some distorted rendition which often happens. I had been in touch with Robert J. Siegel, who also was an admirer and still is. Since I have continued to perform, I wanted to have Siegel make an attempt to restore this film if possible. It can be regarded as historical.
However, the end of the story was not as positive as we had hoped. The film in the canister turned out to be only a work print for rehearsal prior to filming. Nevertheless, Bob Siegel made a DVD of this footage which shows my dancing (without any music) and an initial scene of conversation between Siegel and me. He was kind enough to upload this sequence on You Tube. It is a history as it shows my work during a period when I was dancing in the New York area after three and one-half years in Europe.