Search

Flamenco Inesita

Inesita

Mexico

antonio-triana-c-1938-990x1280
Antonio Triana, c. 1938
img_0544
A photo of Inesita in a theatrical publication in Mexico City announcing her appearance at Rio Rita 1940.
Inesita in her first Bata de Cola (colin) 1939
Inesita in her first Bata de Cola (colin) 1939

A story of long ago…………..

 

The episode at La Golondrina so many years ago had numerous repercussions following my impromptu performance for La Argentinita and her Spanish Ensemble.

 

On that first night when I danced for the special guests, Antonio Triana was among them. I had seen him perform in their concert. He was a great personality and a marvelous foil for the two sisters, La Argentinita and Pilar Lopez.

 

On the second evening when they came again to the Café to have dinner and see my dances, Triana approached me to say how much “he liked me” I was flattered and surprised by his attention. Later he spoke to my parents and me about himself as the real “star” of the troupe and made comments about the difference in age between himself and Argentinita inplying that he was about twenty years younger.

 

He was good looking with obvious charm. Although short in stature with a high pitched voice, he was undeniably charismatic.

.

Some weeks passed and I received a letter from Mr. Triana. The tone of his writing indicated a strong interest in my dancing. The troupe was still on tour during this correspondence. I answered and received a reply. A number of letters passed between us. A large collection of this correspondence remains in my archives today. An interesting history!

 

Finally he broached the subject of an engagement in Mexico City where he planned to present me as a Spanish dance discovery and become his partner. After much discussion, it was decided that the offer was too good to refuse. In letters that followed, a contract for an engagement at a night club and a train ticket sealed the arrangement.  In May of 1940 my mother and I took the train to Mexico City.

 

Madame de Bonzo and her entire staff staged a going away celebration to send me off with their blessings. They escorted me out of the Café singing together La Golondrina (the swallow) to underline the dramatic aspect of my leaving to become a star!

 

We were greeted at the train station in Mexico City by Triana himself and a young man who evidently wasa friend of his carrying a large bouquet of red carnations for me.  We were taken in a taxi to the Regis Hotel in the heart of the City. Triana seemed very excited and he sometimes spoke in Spanish as well as fluent English.

 

His personality was as sparkling in real life as on the stage and it was impossible not to be drawn to him. As the days went by, we visited a studio where he conducted classes.  While I was there, he actually instructed me in two of his dances, one the Intermezzo from the Opera Goyescas by Granados, and another flamenco inspired piano number titled Claveles Rojos. This composition was the work of Triana’s brother, Manuel Garcia- Matos whom I met while in Mexico. I was able to learn these dances quickly.

 

At this same time, my old contact with Janet Riesenfeld ( Raquel Rojas)was renewed as she lived and worked in Mexico. We did visit her and she seemed enthusiastic about my developing partnership with Triana.  Raguel and Tarriba, her dance partner were taking classes with him at the time.

 

During this period, I was taken to a dressmaker and outfitted with two gorgeous costumes, one of a Goya inspired gown in mauve velvet and gold lace called a Maja de Goya and another in white lace as a “presentation” costume for any number of “Theater” dances. I also bought two beautiful flamenco dresses from Janet and another lovely gypsy skirt and blouse was included. A visit to a shoemaker was a must to have some special gold pumps to match the Maja de Goya and fitted with metal taps for better sound. My heelwork had not yet developed enough power.

 

Triana also remarked to me that I was only performing dances of Andalusia and not of the other provinces of Spain. Very true in those times; but my studies so far had not included concentration on regional dances and the all important Escuela Bolera syllabus. Only later, after I studied in Spain was I able to offer a wide variety in Spanish Dance. Today, Flamenco is the only popular form before the public.

 

Publicity came out in a local publication of my coming debut at Rio Rita, the establishment where I was contracted. My photograph was on the cover and Triana had given me a new name …Ines Montes. Obviously he was setting up a background from which to launch his partnership with me.  The town seemed well aware of my presence in the city. At night, many taxi cabs arrived at our hotel to offer rides to the Rio Rita. When I was backstage with my mother, the men in the orchestra and on the staff would pause in their conversations to stare at me. They seemed to associate me as the sweetheart of Triana. Such was the atmosphere in that environment.

 

Triana also arranged that I have my portrait painted by a well known artist of popular styles, C. Ruano Llopis. I sat for him and he remarked that he had never seen anyone able to hold a pose so long and so still. The painting was titled “The little white gypsy” La Gitanilla Blanca. There seemed no end to Triana’s invention of my identity. All this was mildly amusing to us and yet prophetic in view of my own dreams of becoming a Spanish dancer.

 

The work at Rio Rita was difficult. The hours scheduled to night life of a cosmopolitan city was physically demanding on me to stay alert most of the night to dance in two shows. For some reason, the performers were all paid in pesos on a nightly basis. I do not know why this was customary.

 

Despite the scheduling, I was a success. One night someone threw a coat on the floor as I finished my number. The orchestra was composed of musicians who understood the rhythms and feeling in the dances I offered. It was nothing less than an exhilarating experience. Triana himself was extremely pleased with it all and declared I was elegant.

 

Prior to the opening, we were taken to the Club and I was introduced in the spotlight as if I were an important celebrity. My mother commented to me that I was “a brave little girl”. At the time I did not see it that way, as my courage as a performer in any setting overcame my innate timidity.

 

During the initial days of our stay, Triana discovered that I was a pianist and my ability to sing some Spanish songs thrilled him.

 

Barely four days passed when Triana took me to dinner and astonished me by asking me to marry him! My first reaction was tremendous humility that this great dancer was interested in me romantically. My second thought was that although I greatly admired him, I was not really attracted to him because he was so much older than I.

 

As the weeks past, I grew to feel an affinity for him because of the dance and his obvious ardor for me. Kisses were exchanged and his amorous attentions stirred something in me, which in retrospect could not have been more than an infatuation. We attended a bullfight together and it was an exciting experience. Triana was emotionally stirred by the spectacle.

Janet heard of all this, and at first seemed to condone the idea. She declared I should “give myself to him body and soul”. This seemed to me a much overblown opinion as I was really too young and unsophisticated to be involved in such a relationship.

The situation in our trip to Mexico was complicated by two unforeseen matters that came up. Both of these problems were in fact disturbing and outside of the immediate events at hand.

On our trip by rail, a man engaged my mother in conversation and after some pleasantries realized that my mother did not have proper papers to re-enter the United States as a citizen. My mother appeared foreign; hardly a typical American type and he predicted she would have trouble convincing the authorities at the border that she was indeed a citizen of the States. (She had been born in Russia and brought as a young child with the family to America). Correspondence was begun immediately with my father to arrange documents proving her citizenship by marriage to my father who was native born in New Jersey. U.S.A. This fortunately was done and she was subsequently able to cross the border.

The other matter concerned Triana himself. Apparently he had some questionable aspects in his past which cast doubt on him as a suitor. In all likelihood, not more than rumors or hearsay. This is common in the artistic world.

By this time, I was caught up with mixed feelings for this man and I wavered between regret and exhilaration.

The entire experience gave me an aura and lift to my personality which I did not possess before. My dance skills and talent and innate gifts which were recognized by many who saw me perform were in contrast to my naiveté and lack of sophistication as a woman.

During this period, Triana gave me a diamond ring which I did return before leaving Mexico.

When we left to return to Los Angeles, Triana was at the train station to see us off. The master of ceremonies from the Rio Rita also came to say goodbye. When Triana saw him he was very jealous!

Back in Los Angeles, I found that a great deal of gossip was stirred by my association with Triana. His interest in me as an artist was an impetus which confirmed my potential and he never stinted in his praise for me as a great dancer. While it boosted my confidence, I was torn by my emotional state. This resulted in the decision to marry him, become his partner and cast my future with him.

 

When we returned to Los Angeles, letters continued about the plans for marriage and our career together. However, my mother had enormous misgivings. She did not consider Triana as a husband for me and persuaded my father to write to him and forbid the union. I was both relieved and saddened by the decision. The two sides of my own character set up a conflict within me and I realized I was too young to handle this.

In view of the events of that trip, I did come away with a rich experience, a credit of having performed in a foreign country, a lovely new theatrical wardrobe, some new dances and a strong desire to make my life work as a Spanish dance artist.

Subsequently, Triana went on to form  his own Ballet Company presented by Sol Hurok, the great impresario in those years,  and pursued his career. I still received letters from him for some time.

When he saw me dance at Grace Hayes Lodge in Los Angeles some time later, he spoke of me to my mother and said, “there is no one like her”.

 

First New York Season and the Havana Madrid

First New York Season and the Havana- Madrid

 

After six years of professional work in Spanish Dance primarily on the West Coast and South West I embarked on a venture to the “Big City”. I felt reasonably ready, although still lacking in confidence personally. Many friends urged me to test my ability in New York.  It was still the hub of show business both popular and classical. In a basic sense, they could not have been more right.

The timing, which I did not realize at that moment, was exquisite. This was 1945, towards the end of World War II.

I set out by train for the East Coast with my costumes and music and fear in my heart. The first time alone really, although I elected to stay with my aunt for a feeling of security. Armed with recommendations to various contacts, I made a call to an agent whom I met in Los Angeles, one Kenneth Later. He had been affiliated with MCA in Los Angeles, but now I was told he was newly employed at the prestigious Theatrical Agency, The William Morris Office.

Later welcomed me and asked for my press book which already contained a respectable amount of publicity representing my concert work on the West Coast. Some weeks later I was notified that I was to open at the Havana Madrid night club on Broadway as featured Spanish Dancer. I recall being slightly disappointed that it was only a night club and not a possible appearance in a musical or some theater work.

I was very wrong.

I prepared for the engagement with my music and went to the Club. The cast consisted of the headliner, Diosa Costello, a Puerto Rican dancer and singer with a tremendous personality and flamboyant style of singing and dancing. The next performer on the roster was Jerry Lewis: at that time a single and brash comedian of only 19 years who was to become one of the most successful comics of that era. He became fascinated with my performance and wrote a note to me and sent an autographed picture as well.

The atmosphere at the Havana Madrid was an odd combination of artistic professionalism and the underbelly of brash show business. Apart from the serious performances of my own dance and others, the show featured a line of typical chorus girls similar to the ones I had known in San Francisco years earlier. Among them were some tough minded women who often boasted about how much they expected in return for their sexual favors. I recall one of the “girls” commenting that money was the only thing that made her passionate, and another remarked that only a four carat diamond would be acceptable.  The old adage “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” seemed true in this company. I took it all in as usual and left them to their pursuits.

 In keeping with this situation, I met a young Mexican-American girl through some mutual friends who attached herself to me with eagerness. In retrospect, I now understand her motives as she was in all probability an experienced woman of thirty and out to capture the attentions of a wealthy man. I and some of the acquaintances at the Club surmised she was accustomed to being “a kept” woman. In the end she accomplished her goal. Sylvia Pedroza was the daughter of a Mexican actor and well informed in the machinations of the business. She had no ambitions whatsoever to make a film career although she certainly was attractive enough; but perhaps lacked any real talent. She met her “rich man” at the Havana who set her up in the Salisbury Hotel and she became in effect his mistress. When he gave her money, she spent it right away. “I know my men” she said. I suppose this strategy worked and instead of  continuing in this way, her boyfriend married her. He was a business man and he was keenly aware that if he didn’t take her she would look elsewhere. I believe she had a child with him and who knows what the end of the story is. But these threads and anecdotes serve to color the background of my own experience. None of the middle- aged men who were buddies of Sylvia’s husband were in any sense attractive to me. I could not imagine being close to any of them.

I opened the engagement at the Havana Madrid doing my Gitanerias dance with the castanets and fan plus a duo appearance with a lovely dancer named Nitza who was not really a flamenco artist but a versatile performer of different styles. We became friends. After about three weeks another dance team who had been engaged for the show dropped out for some reason and I was asked to do another number. I quickly complied with my Polo of Albeniz, dancing in male costume, and it was a hit with the audience. Thus I remained for ten weeks at a salary of $125.00.

I gladly paid 10% to the agent, a younger employee from the William Morris Office. He showed up regularly to collect his money.

I was seen by many people and numerous dancers during this run. Just at the opening of the engagement, we all heard of the death of La Argentinita, who succumbed suddenly in New York from cancer. It was like an omen. Nitza herself predicted that I would be her successor. At the time I regarded this as a very big order. Nitza admired me greatly. Somehow, I didn’t absorb the significance. Apart from this, one night the great dancer, Antonio of Antonio and Rosario fame came to the club. Antonio sat ringside exactly in front of me and watched intently as I danced Polo of Albeniz. It was a wonderful composition of rhythmic patterns based on Bulerias that I had learned from another dancer. She had been a friend of a Spanish dancer by the name of Mariquita Flores. Much material passes from one to another and in my interpretation I had found something special. I performed this dance many times in concert and made it my own.

After living in Los Angeles, although a native New Yorker, I found the harsh environment of the metropolis over whelming. As my stint at the Madrid ended, winter set in and I experienced a sort of malaise. There were many reasons for this. I may have been tired both physically and psychologically from the events of previous years. I had married at 21 and with much conflict I finally divorced my husband.  I had poor judgment. I was called by the Agency to accept a ten day date in Boston, Mass.  I never returned the call. I did not want to go.

img_0525
Inesita in Polo of Albeniz c.1945

Other opportunities presented themselves and I rejected everything due to my state of mind. Following ten months in New York I returned to Los Angeles.

Gradually I resumed my career on the West Coast. Some of it was gratifying; the continuation of my association with Edward Perkins and his concert tours, some club dates and film work. The technology of television began  and I made several appearances on the new medium. I was more comfortable but it was leading nowhere in particular. During that time, I was contacted by Marcel Ventura, the manager for Antonio and I was offered an engagement with them to go on a concert tour to South America. I received a call and a letter, but ultimately rejected this as I thought I would be diminished by this. This was a mistake. I did not consult anyone or seek advice concerning this opportunity.  My judgment remained cloudy.

Throughout I nevertheless remained active.

In 1948 the situation changed. My mother became ill with cancer and suffered until her death in 1949. A year earlier I had met a man who was involved in his own intellectual pursuit as a producer of radio interviews with outstanding authors. He produced, wrote, and presented the programs himself. Along the way, he became interested in my work and after a year he proposed marriage.

My early marriage was a passionate one, but the relationship faltered due to many factors and dissension between my mother and my husband. The resulting conflict tore me in different directions and I decided to leave him.

Bernard, my new acquaintance, was smitten from the first meeting. At first, I was unsure of my feelings as he was more than ten years older. However, he seemed to have a steadying influence on me and I once again considered marriage.

Although we came from different backgrounds, we shared an interest in the arts and literature and eventually we seemed compatible. He was to be an enormous help in many ways. In short, he gave me direction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Watch and the Gold Bracelet

Espanolita_Inesita_59.

The Watch and the Gold Bracelet

During the period of my third season on the East Coast, we had accommodations at a hotel in the theater district of Manhattan and it was certainly not luxurious but was adequate for our needs.

During our stay at this hotel, we were aware of a couple across the hall from us who had a jewelry business in their apartment. The man and woman often quarreled and we could hear their arguments almost daily as the door to the establishment remained open. The woman always seemed to be on the receiving end of verbal abuse and it was uncomfortable to listen to them. One night my husband heard the woman weeping.

My husband and I also occasionally had words and I surmise that she might have been aware of it.

One evening she knocked on our door and when I answered she said “beautiful girl” to me. It seemed she did not speak very much English, but her actions spoke a great deal. She handed me a genuine gold bracelet, which I tried to refuse, not knowing what to do with it. I felt awkward and at the same time I understood her blight. It occurred to me, she was relating to me as a woman and perhaps what she perceived as a similar situation to hers.

After a discussion, we asked a friend to try to exchange the valuable bracelet which I would never wear, to a man’s watch. About a year before my husband’s Hamilton stopped working. This was accomplished and a very good time piece with 17 jewels was bartered.  I thought of this as an adventure and a poignant story.

History

With the Internet today, all sorts of memorabilia rises to the surface. Just recently, several items relating to “The New Meet the People”,  a production I appeared in during 1943-1944 in Los Angeles was posted in Google search.

Having written a blog about this experience of my past performances, it was very interesting to see that the souvenir program of the show was being offered for sale online. The facade of the booklet and the entire contents of photos of the cast are displayed. The price is ansouvenir-program-1943-990x1280montage-of-inesitas-photos-in-the-souvenir-program-990x1280 astonishing. $149.99!

Antonio Marin

espanolita_inesita_21-farruca
Leap in Farruca Photo by Peter Basch 1954

Antonio Marin

In the early months of spring, 1959 in Madrid, I began classes with Antonio Marin. Someone  had recommended him as a very good flamenco dance teacher and I was given the information to find his studio.

Predictably, he conducted his dance classes in the old part of town in Lavapies, where he taught in a basement. The floor was only corrugated plaster or some similar material with a lot of damage from heelwork. It seems some of the best flamenco is found in this kind of location. A dank room with no amenities but with plenty of atmosphere.  I heard that he was the teacher of Eduardo Serrano, “El Guito” I actually did meet Eduardo once in the studio. He was then about 16 or 17 and dancing marvelously in the Pilar Lopez company.

Later I realized Marin was crippled.  A youngish man, probably in his mid forties, he was seated in a chair by a table and was obviously not used to putting on  airs. His manner was gruff but friendly. I explained that I was interested in learning more about Bulerias and he began teaching me with the aid of some young people, a girl and  two boys who were in effect his legs. I found out later he had been a dancer and unfortunately stepped on a rusty nail somewhere. The wound went bad and his leg had to be amputated. He had a great deal of knowledge.

I discovered  an old dance acquaintance, Antonio de Cordoba was studying with him and I saw him in private class. Cordoba was the companion of Triana when I was in Mexico, and we knew each other through other friends and as the partner of Mariquita Flores, a dancer of Spanish heritage. Antonio was Mexican by birth. Marin was instructing him verbally and the demonstrations were carried out by his young assistants.

I learned a few steps and since there was a young guitarist playing for the classes I arranged to employ him as accompanist in practice/rehearsal sessions at Amor de Dios Studios.

One day in practice I went through some dances with Andres, the guitarist, and the boys observed me closely. I did Alegrias, Soleares, Farruca and a few of the Bulerias steps I knew. They seemed surprised.

When I returned to Marin for the continuing classes, he asked me to dance for him. I went through some of this repertoire and when I did the double turn on my knees, Marin shouted “ Bueno!”

Marin had a proposition. He wanted to groom me for the Corral de la Moreria, an important “Tablao”  in the heart of Madrid and he would mount some of his own dances and arrange my Alegrias and Farruca with some of his own work. He said I should come every day for the lessons without cost and all day on Sunday.

It is a fact that Flamenco dances are really put together in fragments and can be shortened or lengthened by the dancer. The guitar players must follow the signals built into the work.

This went on for some weeks and I learned a great deal. The interesting aspect of the study was how he took apart my dance of Alegrias from Estampio and incorporated  some variations of his own by means of the llamada and essentially made a new Farruca consisting of passages of his own design.  I found the work very hard as he wanted to put in some special jumps in the Farruca which he presumed I could do.

With much repetition, I rapidly became very muscle sore and had to have physical therapy.

During this time, Antonio Marin had frequent visitors of singers and various flamenco friends with whom he enjoyed playing cards during the lesson periods.

Finally, the proprietor of the Corral de la Moreria came by and I danced with Andres on the guitar. Andres was always cooperative and sweet. I doubt he was more than 18 years old.

This meeting resulted in a proposal to appear at the Corral de la Moreria. Subsequently, I was invited to go to this establishment by Marin and his wife to see the tablao and have a drink. My husband was not feeling well and did not come with us.  A Spanish Journalist who was interested in my dancing was invited as well, but in the end she declined or had another appointment.  I went alone and was escorted in a taxi with Marin and his wife and perhaps another friend. The show  was a typical flamenco performance with a dancer by the name of Carmen Casarubias who had a wonderful style and expression. Two gypsy male dancers whom I had seen before did a Farruca and strangely enough they seemed to have made some sort of mistake or missed cue in their performance and were very disturbed about it. Being authentic gitanos, this was surprising.  They came over to our table to complain to Marin about the mix-up and Marin assured them that he would help  straighten it out when they came to his studio the following day. Without fail, they showed up in all seriousness to correct the flaw. I was curious to observe this and it was proof of Antonio’s secure knowledge of the rhythms. (compas)

 A few days later, I had a rehearsal with the guitarist from the Corral, Antonio Arenas. He seemed an arrogant sort and I felt self-conscious and a bit intimidated working with him. This was unusual because I had always had a pleasant working relationship with the majority of guitarists I collaborated with. It was not a successful encounter. Bernard was upset by this, although I don’t think Antonio was put off. Too much money was asked and the matter dropped. This was a discouraging loss. It was due in part to an awkward situation and some nervousness on my part.  However, I continued to work with Marin regardless, and he set a beautiful dance; a “palo” known as POLO. It is a variant of Solea, and he mounted this especially for me. He only indicated where the song parts were to enter and I later was able to perform this at Le Catalan in Paris with several guitarists and singer.

inesita-in-farruca-flamenco-alhambra-2014
Inesita dancing the Farruca based on the Antonio Marin style. 2014

The methods Marin used to mount his dances were an education in itself. He was able to visualize the patterns in his mind and convey them to Nieves, the young girl who made it possible for him to construct the dance. It was difficult work and often Nieves could not accomplish the changing rhythms to Marin’s satisfaction and he became frustrated and lashed out at her. She even came to tears once but she was inclined to be cross at times. With all the communication going back and forth between Marin, Nieves, Andres, and me, it is a wonder that the complete dance came to fruition. It was eventually to become a triumph as I used this dance successfully at the Catalan and on one of two television shows in Paris. The guitarists and singers were greatly impressed by my knowledge of such a work. It was known as Cante Grande.

 

The Spanish Dance

Inesita in Boleras Sevillanas 1954
fullsizerender-7
Inesiita in Cachucha 1970
img_3452pose-after-the-boleras-sevillanas-bien-parado
Inesita dancing Panaderos de La Flamenca 2010

The Spanish Dance

 

           In flamenco a dancer and guitarist must integrate according to a mathematical process at every step along the way. A dancer steps out a llamada which is the theme phrase for the dance and thereafter pilots the music into the changes of tempo and accent for the variations. Dancer and guitarist create interplay of syncopated and crossing rhythms while the guitarist pursues a sequence of traditional tunes (falsetas) suited exactly to the rhythmic variations as they unfold.

 

In one of his works the English poet and artist William Blake (1757-1827) wrote: “Art and science cannot exist but in minutely organized particulars”. Traditional flamenco is a working demonstration of this principle.

 

A dancer who has acquired the skills and the knowledge to perform according to this tradition in dances such as Alegrias, Bulerias, Soleares, Seguiriyas, Zapateado, et al, would be regarded as “enterao” (very knowledgeable) in the lexicon of the Andalusian environment where flamenco had its birth.

 

I had the good fortune to study in Spain with the legendary Juan Sanchez (Estampio) 1882-1957. Caballero Bonald in his book, “Andalusian Dances”, writes in part about Estampio: “He was in his own time the most accomplished, the most lasting guardian of all the traditional purity of Spanish Jondo.” The Andalusian term for flamenco is Cante Jondo (Deep Song).

 

Again, Regino Sainz de la Maza wrote about Estampio in 1956 as follows: “Estampio is today the repository of the great tradition. Master of the noble style, his advice and teachings are still articles of faith and constitute a treasure of incalculable worth for those who aspire to represent Spanish dancing in its purest form”.

 

           The other area of Spanish dance I studied in Spain is the Bolero School (Escuela Bolera). The Pericet family whose association with this form of Andalusian dance reaches back many generations have preserved and codified its vocabulary of steps and figures. This traditional baile de las zapatillas (slipper dancing)–de palillos (with castanets) had its origin in Andalusian songs accompanied by guitar.

 

           The Pericets divided the technique into three courses. Having acquired proficiency in the Escuela a dancer may go on to study a repertoire of dances such as Sevillanas Boleras, Seguidillas Manchegas, Panaderos de la Flamenca, Malaguenas, Bolero Robado o Liso, Cachucha and Ole de la Curra.

 

           I studied with the Pericets in Spain and I am happy that I had decided to take on the challenge that this work offers. Few people away from Spain have a proper knowledge of this material.

 

           The National Company from Spain that performed in the Los Angeles area in 1979 included two younger members of the Pericet family who danced Sevillanas Boleras. A student of mine who witnessed a performance was elated to discover the Pericets performed the dance precisely as I had taught it to her.

 

           The same Pericet pair danced a Cachucha in the Margot Fonteyn filmed series on dance, which we saw in 1982.

 

           May I be permitted a final historical footnote. The French illustrator and painter Paul Gustave Dore, 1833-1883, traveled to Spain with Baron Jean-Charles D’Avillier to do the illustrations for the Baron’s book, “Spain”, c. 1876. The writer described an Ole de la Curra danced by “La Nena”. Among the illustrations there is a pen and ink drawing of a dancer performing a Bolero. A guitarist accompanies her and the marvelous black and white sketch shows her in the act of doing a vuelta de pecho straight out of the Primer Curso of the Pericet school.

 

Clip from Footlight Varieties with Inesita dancing the Farruca on her table 1950

Leaving Spain in 1953

some-press-in-madrid-spain-in-two-publications-1953-998x1280
An article in the Madrid press about Inesita 1953

Leaving Spain in the fall of 1953

As summer faded, I grew weary and eager to return to the States and join my husband again. I had learned and absorbed a great deal. Over months of study and practice I had to retain all kinds of material in memory. Now it was time to try my fortunes on the East Coast. One is never ready. It is an ongoing effort but at this juncture some exposure had to be opened and in the end it was a good idea. There had been two opportunities in Madrid to introduce my work; once at the Circo Price Theater where I performed in a program along with other dance artists as a soloist in my Intermezzo from Goyescas where I was able to display my prowess with castanets and classical movement based on Escuela Bolera. I danced with orchestra. The other was the appearance at the opening of the Castellana Hilton in Madrid, an important event. I danced an Alegrias in male costume with the excellent flamenco guitarist Eugenio Gonzalez as accompanist. I was also in the dual role of honored dinner guest as the featured dancer in “Here come the Girls” The connection of Hilton with Hollywood had quite some clout and carried weight. I have written about this episode in another post.

I arranged my travel plans which included a date for a ship leaving Spain. It was necessary to go to Gibraltar to board the US Independence. My fare had already been paid for in a return trip. I had felt more comfortable having the ticket to go back at any time. I was alone and there was always a feeling of vulnerability in this adventure.

The first route was a trip by rail to Sevilla from Madrid.  An overnight booking. My funds were low and I had to economize as much as possible. I sat up in the compartment and found myself accompanied by an all male group of Spaniards. One was an officer in full uniform probably en route to some assignment. The others were a Cuadrilla of bullfighters (the men who backed up the matador in the preliminary maneuvers before the main event.) As I remember, four of them all seemingly of middle age were pleasant and very polite to me. I became overcome with weariness and fell asleep leaning against the officer.  “Tienes sueno, Senorita? One of them asked.

The officer knew I was a married woman and corrected one of the men when I was addressed as “Senorita”… It was “Senora”, No?  Complete respect.

We arrived in Sevilla and I found a pension. I decided to stay a week and absorb my surroundings and become familiar with the town. The pension was located on the famous Calle de las Sierpes, a narrow passage hardly more than an alley. I wandered everywhere and walked incessantly to explore famous sites such as the Guadalquivir River. I noted it was occupied by the US Navy.  Of course I gazed at the famous Giralda tower, the Barrio Santa Maria and other well known areas, but kept to myself.  I did not attend any performances or study as I dared not spend a single peseta for fear of running out of money. I thought wildly of cabling home for extra cash but decided against it as I did not want to put more pressure on my husband.

In the course of staying at the lodgings, where I also took my meals, I would occasionally speak with people. One day I snapped my fingers and a group of young Sevillanos marveled at my ability to do such “pitos” This prompted them to invite me to a juerga –a flamenco party. I asked the cost and it could not have been much but I declined as a sliver of fear gripped me to go off with strangers despite their obvious friendliness.

Looking back over the experience, I should have taken a chance.

After the week was over, I had two more journeys ahead of me to reach the port of Algeciras which faced Gibraltar to board the ship. I arranged to take a bus “gran lujo” a luxury vehicle. It was a few hours away from my destination in Algeciras. The bus broke down in Jerez de la Frontera. During repairs on the bus, I recognized some performers that I had met at the Circo Price Theater where I performed while in Madrid. They were extremely friendly and warm during the time at the theater. I supposed the initial attraction was that I was American and they did seem to admire my work. Later they said that they would have wanted to invite me after the performance. Somehow I missed that connection. Now stuck in Jerez while the vehicle was being serviced, we stopped in a café to have a drink and talk. My Spanish by now had improved to an extent so I could carry on a conversation more easily and they commented on that. One of the girls asked for my address in the states and I gave it to her. Sometime later in Los Angeles I did receive a letter from her in Spanish, of course, and her handwriting was difficult to read and understand. But it pleased me as I treasured any contact with Spaniards.  I remember the bus driver or the man in charge gave me an odd look when he saw me go off with them. Probably he regarded them as low lifes and he may have wondered about my association with them.

That stay of several hours in Jerez was memorable for the odd experience, but there was more. We finally landed in Algeciras, a port on southern coast of Spain. I embarked with my entire luggage which was considerable and managed to find a place to stay in a simple pension for the night and several hours to again pick up and arrive at Gibraltar.  I had to find someone to help with my things and a young man offered to carry all those heavy suitcases and a footlocker by means of a belt slung from his shoulders. I marveled to myself about his strength and gave him as much as I could afford as a tip.

I obtained transport by boat to Gibraltar and settled in for the night at a hotel to await the boarding of the ship docked in the harbor. Therein lays another tale. Meanwhile I went around the town a bit to see the terrain and I was reminded that this was not Spain. At a shop I visited I was asked if I had dollars and I made an exchange for some reason. The man behind the counter was East Indian by his appearance.

I also brokered a ride in a taxi to take me to the pier, but the last minute I arranged with a man with a wagon and horse who agreed to take me there for one dollar. As I was so short in money I opted to take a chance and go in this way and it was an adventure. I suppose I cheated a bit by leaving the other man without his fare, but one lives by one’s wits occasionally.

At last I boarded the US Independence for the states. It was a shorter voyage back of six days. There I saw Juanele Maya and his wife Salome on their way to New York and a contract with Jose Greco. I identified myself and stated my admiration for them. Salome seemed sad to leave Spain and was saying her tearful goodbye as she gazed over the railings of the ship. It was during this occasion that I had the fateful collaboration with Juanele. He played guitar for me for the little performance I did for the passengers.

Salome was not feeling well and did not participate. I was able to dance an Alegrias in male costume and I surmise Juanele was impressed. I arrived in New York City after the six days crossing, and settled in to begin a new chapter.IMG_0195

The Guitarists

img_0526-1
Inesita and Manolo Bonet practicing in Madrid, 1958
inesita-in-alegrias-with-gil-diaz-and-leo-heredia-in-london-concert-1961-998x1280-393x593
Inesita with G. Diaz, guitarist and Leo Heredia, Jaleadora in London 1961

inesita-and-manolo-bonet-in-1958-madrid-1007x1280

inesita-in-discussion-with-3-guitarists
Rehearsal discussion for program of Flamenco Alhambra 2013 Inesita and four guitarists, Stamen Wetzel, Benjamin, Ricardo Davila and El Miguelito.

The Guitarists

Around 1947, Edward Perkins, (Pan- American Concerts) arranged a number of concerts to tour Los Angeles and the West coast. He contracted a fine Spanish pianist, Pablo Miguel, a dance duo from Spain, Muguet and Albaicin, Carlos Montoya, the well known guitarist, and the Inky Taky Trio, featuring Imma Sumak, the phenomenal vocalist from Peru. It was an illustrious cast and I was thrilled to be part of it. Here was my first opportunity to work with an authentic Spanish guitarist who was associated with the finest artists in flamenco.

The format of the program consisted of  six dances which included my Farruca  accompanied by Montoya. This was my initial time with guitar, but I was very familiar with the rhythms of this form since it is usually the one learned in the beginning  study of flamenco. The first review of my dance was successful enough to draw praise from Miguel and Montoya and I was greatly encouraged. They expressed pleasure and approval which lifted my spirit immeasurably.

Montoya actually became an admirer and subsequently wrote some letters to me which I still have.

As before, there was publicity, favorable reviews and an enthusiastic response from the public.

By the end of the 1940’s I had established a reputation as a Spanish dancer. There was an occasion which presented itself to me to dance at a benefit and I had the pleasure of meeting Jeronimo Villarino, guitarist to Carmen Amaya,  La Argentina ( Antonia Mercé), Escudero, Argentinita and Jose Greco and many prominent artists in the world of Flamenco and Spanish Dance. Villarino was highly versed in the forms of the dance and song. He played for me in this appearance and he too became a fan and gave me much praise and encouragement for my ability and potential.

A concert which was given in 1949 featured my solo work with Villarino and a pianist. The program was varied and was well received by the public and decently commented on by the critics. It was not financially rewarding, but an engagement at the Orpheum Theater (with Villarino) in Los Angeles followed and some money was recouped.

During the years later on, I met numerous guitar players; some the students of Villarino himself and others I met in New York, Spain, Mexico and England. Outstanding among these were Fernando Sirvent, a Spaniard whom I knew in my first concert debut in New York and Emilo Bonet, who was the step-son of Estampio’s guitarist, Manolo Bonet,  in Madrid.  Others were Andalusian players with whom I worked in Paris. The list is very long and the experience invaluable. Almost to a man, they all wanted to play for me and I can easily count their numbers in the dozens.

It always was refreshing to work with different guitarists as they were influenced by their teachers and by working with other dancers and singers. Apart from the variety, it is good practice to be able to dance with other guitar players in the same way orchestras benefit from the conductors who lead them.

In these later years, the guitarist with whom I worked over the longest period has been Stamen Wetzel, who was a devoted student  of Villarino for seven years until Villarino’s death  in 1972.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑