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Flamenco Inesita

Inesita

The Heredia Family

The Heredia Family

Sometime after the first decade of my professional dance experience, two contacts developed out of previous engagements. This is, I believe, an interesting story from my perspective which relates to my ongoing exposure to Flamenco art.

The narrative that unfolds here is an outline of subjective memory about the warm friendship and participation I had with the Heredias, a family of Spanish gypsy heritage.

 It is not the purpose of this story to focus on the brilliant guitar artistry of Rene Heredia. It is well documented elsewhere and I acknowledge his celebrity apart from my interest in his personal background as a member of this family.

The various threads of events all leads to the idea of this article.

In 1949, shortly after my marriage to Bernard, an all solo concert of my Spanish Flamenco repertoire of dances was booked into the Wilshire Ebell Theater in Los Angeles. I was accompanied by a pianist for the stylized Spanish dances I had performed on concert tours and for flamenco by Jeronimo Villarino, a prominent flamenco guitarist who had worked with some of the greats in this art. I had met him in earlier years of my career.  The program was long and varied and was well received by press and public.

Subsequently, Villarino and I were contracted at the Orpheum Theater in Downtown Los Angeles for a week’s engagement on the bill with other artists. I had done some Vaudeville “gigs” in previous years in the environs of Los Angeles. This was an attempt to revive the old vaudeville formula of live stage presentations of a bygone era. It never really caught on but it made an interesting episode for those of us who could perform in this environment.

The connection between my genuine flamenco works and the commercial world of show business somehow collided into another area.

In the mid “40’s , as I have related in other posts, I danced as a Spanish dance act in “The New Meet the People”, a legitimate stage presentation which was a revival of a very successful show produced by a group of theatrical  showmen. Among them was a gentleman by the name of Edward Elliscu,  I performed two solos in the show, one a male Farruca in masculine attire and another  dance using a fan and castanets with music by Ernesto Lecuona called Gitanerias. It always made an impression. Both used written music and were accompanied expertly by two experienced pianists. For the public we had at that time, it went over very well. It was frankly theatrical with a Spanish flavor. The long run of 10 months added to my “fame” due to much newspaper coverage at the time.

 In the interim I went on tour with Pan- American Concerts over a period of five years.  During one of the engagements of several weeks, I worked with Carlos Montoya, also a well-known flamenco guitarist who performed with some of the great dancers of the era and performed later on as a soloist. This brings me to the nub of my tale.

 In the early part of 1950, I was contacted by Edward Elliscu, of Meet the People” fame. He and some colleagues were producing a presentation called:” The dancer says—“: The format was a series of programs at the Coronet Theater in Los Angeles with dance artists discussing their dances and the construction of their work. I was one of two personalities along with a choreographer/dancer, Benjamin Zemach. I needed to hire a guitarist as Villarino was not available at the time; Mr. Elliscu had a young son who was taking guitar lessons with Jose Heredia. The elder Heredia recommended his son Enrique, instead.  At our meeting, his two sisters, Fatima and Zoraida were included in the arrangement. We spent some time together rehearsing my Alegrias with the girls contributing excellent “palmas “as support to my dancing. The newspapers commented favorably on the program. It was my first foray into speaking in public about my work.

To backtrack in this story, in 1942, (World War II), I appeared in a show with a Latin-American dancer by the name of Ramon Ros, who had a booking at a Las Vegas Hotel called The Last Frontier. He put together a show featuring himself with three other couples in dances such as Rumbas, Sambas, and Tangos. I was his partner in these numbers. In addition, the show also included two solos of my own; one a dance called Claveles Rojos, a composition by Manolo Garcia-Matos, brother of Antonio Triana, the great Spanish dancer of the 1940’s. My other dance offering was the Farruca, which I requested to dance on a table. The staff at the Hotel built me a 3 by 3 foot table. I always considered dancing on a small table “very Spanish” or “muy Flamenco!”

 In 1950, I was approached by George Bilson, a producer who knew of my work from The New Meet the People and from my concerts with Pan-American Concerts. He had seen my Farruca performed on the table and the other dances in my repertoire. The film was a featurete to be presented in vaudeville style with Jack Paar as the presenter of the various acts in the movie. Liberace, the  popular pianist, was one of the performers. The film was titled Foot Light Varieties.

The rehearsals for the movie, at RKO Studios in Hollywood, took place over several days. The filming was on a set furnished to appear as a living room. My Alegrias accompanied by Enrique Heredia and embellished by the excellent “palmas” of Fatima and Zoriada Heredia gave it the stamp of genuine flamenco.

My dance on the table (the Farruca) was performed with written music (a composition of Manuel Garcia-Matos, brother of Antonio Triana), one of the great flamenco dancers of the 1940’s) was effective because of the confined area I danced.) As most everyone knows, the Hollywood mentality is geared to a mass audience not versed in the esoteric and arcane qualities of Flamenco puro. In the end, the Alegrias was not used in the film but my table dance remained in the final product. I was disappointed as were the Heredias, since we had devoted many hours together getting ready. The still photographs of me wearing the dress I wore for the Alegrias were used over and over in publicity posters, advertising and lobby cards. These exist today as collector’s items and are being sold up to the present moment at online sites such as eBay and Amazon and other outlets. I find it astonishing to know that the public has an interest in this history.

After that, the Heredias became our friends and we visited in our respected homes for dinner and of course much flamenco dancing and singing.  Both parents, Mr. and Mrs. Heredia were always gracious to me and my husband. Mr. Heredia worked for a company at the time where his skills in iron work were used. Privately, he fashioned an elaborate lamp in filigree design to which he attached colorful lights giving it a very theatrical atmosphere. This was an advantage as background to a Zambra which Enrique Heredia played on the guitar and I danced the particular form with finger cymbals or Crotalos to an interesting effect. All the family seemed to like it very much.

In later years, I would see Fatima and Zoraida at performances, but we did not socialize as before. I did engage Enrique Heredia as guitarist for me in several of my concerts during the late 1950’s. One at UC Riverside University, two at the Ivar Theater in Hollywood and one in Ogden, Utah with Leo Carrillo. My husband and I happened to see Rene Heredia by chance in Madrid on the Gran Via one evening in 1958 and he was then playing for and rehearsing with Carmen Amaya. We also greeted him at the performance of Manuela Vargas at Royce Hall at UCLA. He was one of her guitarists on the Ed Sullivan Show in years past. I know that one of the sisters, Sarita, played guitar, danced and sang professionally and I met her in Madrid while I was studying with El Estampio. She also was a student of Juan Sanchez (Estampio) and when I introduced myself we embraced.  Sadly, I heard she passed away some years ago. Another sister, the youngest, Carmen, also died very young. Rene Heredia continues with his successful concerts in Colorado. Again, I was informed of the death of Enrique some years ago. So many losses of my fellow artists! The tragic rhythm.

This is the story. Flamenco touches our lives and brings us together.

 A program featured in this article shows a dedication to me from the Heredia Family. It is written in Spanish and translated to English reads: To Inesita, A great artist of the Spanish Dance; we salute you with all our best wishes, Fondly, The Heredia Family.   A lovely tribute!

 

 

 

A program of a performance by the Heredia Family and their fellow artists.
A lobby card used for publicity for the movie Foot light Varieties.

 

Inesita in Solea Flamenco Alhambra 2018

Inesita in a backbend during the Solea October 27, 2018 Flamenco Alhambra

Filmed by Tina Love

Cameraman David Bradstreet

Photos from Flamenco Alhambra 2018

Inesita in Solea October 27, 2018. with Clarita, Cantaora.

Inesita and her Flamenco Ensemble were photographed backstage before the performance. It was a successful program and the public gave us high praise.

Flamenco Alhambra with Inesita and her Ensemble.
Inesita and Miguel Bernal, dancer and singer.

Pictured are Inesita and Miguel Bernal. A photo with Inesita includes her guitarists Stamen and Benjamin with Clarita, dancer and singer, and La Nubia, dancer.

Zapateado del Estampio

One of the most interesting flamenco dance forms is the Zapateado. To explain its structure in simple terms I offer these definitions.

Zapato means shoe in Spanish;  zapateado; with a lower case z. is footwork. The Zapateado del Estampio is the Dance. The rhythmic count is 6/8 time.

It is counted thus:

123 456| 123 456|

123 123    123 123.

The dancer’s count is 1 and a 2 and a 3 and a 4. etc……

The Zapateado del Estampio. was created by Juan Sanchez, also known as El Estampio. as the legendary dance artist and teacher. It also may have been a collaboration between Estampio and Antonio  Bilbao, a contemporary of his.

In any case, this work stands by itself. It has no cante and no palmas are employed for the dance. The intricate heelwork is a masterpiece of technique and variations. Originally, the steps were divided into groups of eight, and this was followed by a section known as the “campanas” : often regarded as an arrangement between the dancer and guitarist. It has disappeared in the mists of time. 

Apparently, as the years past. it may have fallen out of fashion and the dancers no longer remembered the steps.  Since the guitarists depend on the dancer’ memories it has been lost. 

The Zapateado is a very old traditional Jondo dance. Both Cervantes and Quevedo, another poet and writer of the Golden Age in Spain mentioned it.        

      Curiously,  Scarlatti’s D minor sonata (K. 120) reflects much influence from this dance form in its rhythms, syncopation and accents, since it too, like the Zapateado is in a duple meter-12/8 time.

The wild hand crossings in this piece reminds one of the intricate taconeo patterns, which are so typical in this dance form.

I note that Bach’s Gigue in G Major has a rhythmic structure of 12/16. This piece along with the “Sonata” of Mateo Albeniz in 6/8 is definitely compatible as a dance and the same steps used in the Estampio fit into the music as well as with the guitar.  

 

 

 

The Archive

Inesita during performance at Schoenberg Hall July 1958.
Poster for Royce Hall November 1957.

After eight decades of performing I have at last collected and organized my “papers” to be placed in a Performing Art Special Collection at the Charles E.Young Research Library at UCLA. It has been transferred to the location for processing and cataloging as an Archive of my performing life. 

It is quite extensive and detailed, an accumulation of material in many forms of work I have done since my early years. Covering numerous locations and venues; a chronological survey of professional experiences which contains history of the dance forms of Spain, especially of Flamenco. It explores areas of music, structure and form, a philosophy of art, and some personal ideas. 

The background I have as a dancer touches on much territory of style, nuance, and  experimentation. Then too, having performed on the campus at UCLA further corroborates this material to be preserved there. My solo concert appearances, lectures- demonstrations, work with young children all attest to the scope of the work. Between the years of  1957- 1969 I was presented as a performing artist at the University so therefore it appears I have come “home” to a rightful place for future generations to study and compare the past, present, and the years to come. It is now offered to the world for dance historians, artists, and scholars.  

Inesita returns to the stage of Alhambra Performing Arts Center

Bill Yee, Artistic Director of APAC visiting with Inesita at her home to discuss the next season. September 4, 2018.
Inesita in Alegrias October 27, 2018
Inesita with Bill Yee in her dance studio September 4, 2018.

Press Release for INESITA

On Saturday, October 27, 2018, 7 P.M. INESITA and her Flamenco Ensemble will return to the Stage of the Alhambra Performing Arts Center for a performance of her Flamenco dance pieces.

With the collaboration of her fellow artists, INESITA will offer her variety of dance forms in a concert format.

Each presentation shows a special character and feeling all its own.

Miguel Bernal, a brilliant dancer and singer is featured in his own solos. Clarita, singer and dancer with her charismatic personality will perform with INESITA and on her own;  La Nubia will perform two dance selections. All are supported by the solid guitar accompaniments of Stamen and Benjamin.

Earthy yet elegant, Flamenco dance and song in its depth, strong traditions and powerful feelings reaches out to all humanity in its message.

 

Looking Ahead

A recent image of Inesita dancing Alegrias with Clarita, cantaora, and Benjamin and Stamen,

Inesita is looking ahead to more performances. Working on repertoire and revising old material. We must  not stand still. To expand and grow is what makes  the life of a performer exciting. Onward and upward!!

https://specialguestapp.com/profile/inesita-inesita

 

 

A photo from the performance in 2015 with Guillermo Gonzalez, cantaor and Stamen and Benjamin, guitarists. Inesita in Alegrias.

The Long Journey

Inesita at 4 years in a costume made by a dear family friend.
Inesita in her first Bata de Cola (colin) 1939
My precious parents after their marriage, 1920.
Firsr dance dress sewn by my beautiful paternal Grandmother, Aurelia.
Grandmother Aurelia
My Dad with his Violin c. 1923
With my Dad in 1941 when I was 19.
Inesita  today June 2018

The Long Journey

In the stories I have posted there is very little about my personal life which I kept mostly private. I regarded the existence I lived apart from the theatrical profession lacks color and interest in comparison. I feared any narrative I revealed would be a great disappointment to the public in view of the glamour and mystery that the stage presents.

Now, after so much time which have been given me by some kind fate, or conversely a curse to live on beyond any expectations of my own, I feel compelled to set the door ajar a bit to the hidden self.

I regret being a timid and shy person unable to relate well to others. I envied anyone who is happily social and free of fear. But as it is, I offer apologies to those who see this flaw in me.

I have been told by friends and acquaintances that it was wonderful to see me “open up” when I perform. Apparently my own personality disappears into the dance and I become another.

This preamble leads to very early references of my beginnings. As told in other “blogs” I was surrounded by a very musical and artistic environment of my parentage and there seemed no other life that I wanted to live.

Being an only child and only grandchild, (my father had no siblings), I was doted on by all the adults in my life. Spoiled? Without a doubt.

Here then is a small view of those tender years. A photo of a little pink ballet dress –a tunic really, sewn by my beautiful paternal grandmother, Aurelia. Somehow this was saved through the vicissitudes of life in good condition. A faded snapshot taken at four years of age while posing in a costume made by a dear friend of my parents It does not show its sequins and beads. The shadows in the image made my knees appear bruised or dirty. There were no smart phones then!!

And now as I appear today.

I remain humble and grateful for more time to do what I love and share with those who honor me with their presence. I ask forgiveness if I sound maudlin. Having lived through so many epochs in my chosen profession, I am a link to the past. Just as flamenco joins past to present in its method; so the endless chain of rhythmic pulses are totally in the moment and yet completely out of time. Although I gaze  back from the here and now, I do not dwell in the past. Since I embraced technology sufficiently to write this way to the world, it has added another dimension to my life.

 

 

 

Duende: what is it?

Inesita in Alegrias March 2017

Duende: What is it?

So many explanations have been offered about the mysterious element “Duende” and what it is. Is it some magical mode of being achieved in the process of performing flamenco? Can it be called up at will?

I wish to add my voice to the many interpretations of this word. The Spanish language dictionary gives a definition as ghost, fairy, elf, goblin, etc, No reference to flamenco at all. A further definition it offers is “something that turns up unexpectedly.”

I have written at length of my own beginnings in this artistic expression, therefore I don’t want to become redundant.

When I began study in this dance form I never heard the word flamenco. I was taking classes in Spanish dancing with Michael Brigante, an Italian-American who had a marvelous body placement and excellent castanet technique. This  along with ballet classes was how I spent my first two and one half years learning Pasodobles, Jota, Bolero, Sevillanas and a number of stylized dances to Spanish music by composers such as Falla, Albeniz, Turina, Valverde,  and others. The accompanist was a pianist. I left Brigante after this initial experience in the art.

My next teacher Jose Fernandez, concentrated his classes on the theater dances with superb castanet technique scored to the music as an instrument. We had only written piano music to dance to.  Actually, I was given this instruction free of charge. This came about through my friendship with Janet Riesenfeld who introduced me to Fernandez. He was interested in me as a potential dance partner. This never developed as I have explained  in other posts.  I spent several months with Fernandez and then enrolled in classes with Carmelita Maracci, a wonderful artist in ballet and her own distinctive style of Spanish forms. She too was marvelous with the castanets. It was while working with her for a certain time that I first heard the word “flamenco” There was no guitarist, only a pianist. Later in the early 1950’s I studied in Spain under El Estampio, ( Juan Sanchez) in addition with Regla Ortega, and Antonio Marin. ( teacher of Eduardo Serrano, (El Guito). As I have written in other posts, I took classes with Alberto Lorca and the Pericets, and I studied the Muiniera with a specialist. In all that period, no mention of “Duende”

So it went. I first began to dance with guitar on tour in the 1940’s. From that time on, I performed several flamenco dances along with the expected theater pieces and the inclusion of regional dances from other provinces of Spain.  An aficionado once published a tribute to me in a Santa Barbara newspaper as discovering an “exaltation” in my dance. It might have been another version of this special feeling.

During the number of months I danced at the famous tablao in Paris  known  as “Le Catalan”, I was told by one of the flamenco cantaores that I had the Duende while dancing in the Bar below. ” Inesita, tu tienes el Duende abajo” Perhaps the intimacy and special environment of the room where I performed on a table created the Duende in me.   Difficult to say. In my view, the spirit surged in that small space and invoked a special mental and emotional feeling which took over.

I think Duende is being totally focused on the dance and music plus concentration and complete control of the material. It is notable that in the other forms of Spanish dancing such as the regional, the Escuela Bolera and stylized dances Duende is not mentioned. Contrary to what is generally regarded as “self-expression” in any art, I believe the dancer disappears into the work to reveal another entity.  

While I was in New York concertizing in solo programs a critic from Dance Magazine wrote that “the soul of Spain had invaded the body of Inesita and she was dancing to set it free” Duende? Who knows?

Perhaps I was drawing on some reserve of energy after a long program and the concentration was intense. Another critic in London declared that I had no trouble summoning up the Duende. A lovely compliment and a way of praising my work which was much appreciated ! Most of the time, I soldier along hoping that the audience feels what I am trying to convey. So there you have it.

 I leave to others to ponder the meaning of this inexplicable state of being.

 

 

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