Somos Tierra: A Flamenco Landscape November 24

6 Dec


From the lovely California  coastal city of Santa Barbara two contemporary flamenco exponents have emerged within the last decade: Clara Rodriguez and Timo Nunez.  If the dancers are using their family names, they represent  Americans pursuing a Spanish heritage, whether direct or filtered through Latin America or Mexico.  Their pursuit has been clearly vigorous and intense
as evidenced in Somos Tierra, November 25 at Fort Mason’s Cowell Theater.  Rodriguez  produced the evening; Nunez was guesting from Los Angeles and La Tania crossed the Bay to contribute two dances.

The single evening of flamenco brought out not only a raft of local afficionados but the excellent musicians who appear with Theatre Flamenco: Sudhi Rajagopal, Kina Mendez and Jose Cortes. Added were guitarist  Gabriel Lautaro Osuna, hailing from Los Angeles, and David McLean, who composed the majority of the music as well as playing guitar.
Kina Mendez started the program with Nana a la Luna- Lullaby to the Moon.  She seemed in her element, strong with edgy qualities half way between declamation and song, reinforced by empathic ole murmurs from the audience.

Suena el Alba – Sounds of Dawn followed with Clara Rodriguez, a slight and swift woman with medium-brown hair, a nearly oval face and a swift attack to the sounds of David McLean’s guitar.  She seemed tense if accurate, clearly with the rhythm, the beat; tension is, normal when one is in charge of a program.

Luz or Light followed with the three dancers together.. and the first glimpse of Timo Nunez as well as La Tania.  Nunez is tall, slender legged, his head a handsome oblong, wearing white shoes, their  metallic decorations calling attention to the feet, and a metallic hued vest over a brown shirt, interfering with the visual impact of the torso.  La Tania was dressed in a filmy black dress fluttering around her ankles.

How to describe my visual response to the trio in their unison rendition?  La Tania possesses  liquidity, sensual, oddly relaxed  considering the forcefulness  of heel work.  She seems to ease into her timing, where Rodriguez and Nunez hit the rhythm smack on the beat. I found myself thinking  “That’s because Rodriguez and Nunez are American born.”  I could visualize the two Santa Barbara born dancers fitting easily into an American modern dance or ballet company, regardless of their clearly excellent flamenco accomplishments.

Camino del Agua – Path of Water, to a McLean composition increased this impression of Rodriguez.

Her solo was followed by Raices – Roots, providing solos for Jose Cortes and Kina Mendez, deep seated and a fully flowering , slightly raw sounding vocal expositions. Cortes’s hands struggled to pull the melismas from his solar plexis.

For me the evening’s most affecting dance brought Clara Rodriguez to the piano with Isaac Albeniz “El Albancin”  to accompany La Tania in Hojas de mi Infancia – Leaves of my Childhood.  In her fluid black dress La Tania conveyed memories, longing, tender, ably supported by Rodriguez. La Tania’s liquid movement manages to convey the weighted, the  passionate without vulgarity, considered; yet, for all its predetermined pattern, what she dances melds both practice and the momentary emotion making each step seem inevitable.

El Color de Los Sombras – The Color of Shadows, a Seguiriyas, brought Timo Nunez  enthusiastic audience response. His taconeo and audience contact was first rate, but I found myself alienated by the incongruous choice of zabatos and vest.  I  clearly held a minority view.

Following intermission Rodriguez and Nunez collaborated in an AlegriasHuellas en la Arena – Footprints in the Sand. Nunez and Rodriguez chose wearing brilliant green, Nunez changing his vest for a darker hue against a short sleeved green shirt and those white shoes; Rodriguez selected a one shoulder green tunic over a full patterned skirt.  I could not quite determine whether they were antagonists or partners; the interplay between them was minimal until near the end, with little of the flirtatious or the circling ardor one expects in a flamenco pas de deux.  It could well be my memory had solidified over past performances.

La Tania’s second dance was Despertar – Awaken, a Solea, danced with David McLean at the  guitar.  She coaxed, entreated and beckoned while maneuvering a persimmon-hued bota de cola  broken at the waist with a wide black band. She essayed differing methods of rousing the subject of her focus.  It was difficult to see how anyone might want to slumber as she swirled, held her flounces during taconeo or when her arms described the rewards of rising to her entreaties.

David McLean and Gabriel Osuna collaborated on a Bulerias under the title Viento de la Serrania – Wind from the Mountains.

Clara Rodriguez closed the program with a Tarantos, La Tierra AdentroThe Land Within. Her  rusty orange tunic was marked by open sleeves tied at intervals and a contrasting full bluish skirt.  While her competence was unquestioned, I found Rodriguez’ choice of ending the program with a solo, rather than an ensemble,  puzzling.  But it was, after all, her show.


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