Ballet Hispanico At the Annenberg in Philadelphia

Ballet Hispanico, a professional dance company from New York City, presented three pieces in their dance concert at the Annenberg Center at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia on February 5, 2016. Very different in theme, each dance contained hispanic inspired music (Bury Me Standing uses traditional gypsy melodies, which are recognizable today by many in Spanish flamenco)  and also showcased the versatility, artistry and innovation of the company: Sombrerísimo, (choreographed by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa in 2013), Bury Me Standing (1998 by Ramón Oller) and Flabbergast (2001 by Gustavo Ramírez Sansano).

The first dance, Sombrerísimo, featured male dancers with hats, hence the name, which translated from Spanish, would be something like “extremely hats.” According to the program it was based on the artistic works by Belgian René Magritte, which were of men wearing bowler hats. The style was mostly “modern” with a little bit of latin (as opposed to classical ballet), in which the feet and the rest of the body are able to take on movements outside the ballet vocabulary. The hats were tossed around and became characters as well.

The longest and most serious piece of the evening was Bury Me Standing.  I love the title. It comes from a Romani proverb, referenced in the book by Isabel Fonseca: “Bury me standing, I’ve been on my knees all my life.” This refers to the oppression that the Roma (aka the gypsies or gitanos) have experienced for centuries. Ms. Fonseca’s book, Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey, was published in 1995, based on her own observations drawn from four years of living with the Roma. The choreographer is from Spain, and Spain has a huge Roma, or gitano population in Andalusia. Having spent part of last summer in Granada, I visited Sacromonte (the Roma part of town) and flamenco was all over Granada so  their culture was still fresh in my mind.

Bury Me Standing is a tribute to the Romani, but never replicates the footwork or the intricate handiwork of the flamenco, although there are glimpses of it. The choreographer goes beyond what we usually see as gitano or flamenco dance to invoke a mood and tell the story. Only the men do the hand movements at one point. Everyone is barefoot in the dance so even in a lined up formation, no noise could be made or heard from the stylized footwork that recalls zapateo. The style is contemporary or modern dance, with some flamenco/gypsy inspired movements. The choreographer makes excellent use of the stage–there is no part of it that is not used at some point in the piece. Levels are also varied, with some steps taking place with the dances on the floor, on their knees, or jumping. There is a table too, and two women relate on the table. All of this results in a very multidimensional and multilayered performance.

Through the intense choreography and imaginative staging, they communicated the somewhat foreign context of the Roma. The emphasis on the collective, the group consciousness and unity was evident, as well as a charismatic male leader, who had a few solos. We see some of the conflict that occurs in this group, as the women walk on their knees, gossip and cross themselves repeatedly. Some men also walk on their knees, but the group of women doing it is singled out and very striking. The Roma are more traditional and patriarchal than mainstream Spanish culture today, and this was well depicted through the dance. At the same time, the crawling and walking on the knees, refers back to the Roma proverb, and is a reference to the oppression that the Roma have experienced for so long, no matter what country they live in. The dance ends with all of them running in place, which could have various interpretations–perhaps a more positive one is that they are standing up and empowered. Bury Me Standing is a  moving tribute to the Roma, these “nomadic” people who have spread throughout Europe and even to the United States.

The last dance, Flabbergast, was light and funny, and a good ending to the evening. They broke the fourth wall, sung while they danced: “voy a bailar, ” and talked to each other. In this dance, which the program says ” exposes with humor our stereotypes and preconceived ideas about new and foreign places… telling the story of a newcomer coming to a place for the first time”. somebody is always doing their own thing on stage! Ballet Hispanico ended the concert with a pose and a smile–after a varied and polished program that entertained and encouraged the audience to think, laugh and feel.


Ballet Hispanico was founded in 1970 by Tina Ramírez. The company specializes in Spanish and Latin American inspired dance. In addition to their professional touring company, they also maintain a thriving school to train young and aspiring dancers in Spanish dance, Classical Ballet and Contemporary Dance. The current Artistic Director is Eduardo Vilaro.




BRAZILIAN SAMBA DANCE WORKSHOP In Philadelphia February 14th at 11:30 am. Where? at The Performance Garage 1515 Brandywine Street, Philadelphia PA

It’s Carnaval season, so take advantage of this one day samba dance workshop with professional dancer and choreographer Angelica Cassimiro.

*The class starts with a 25-minute warm up that exercises basic isolation of the body, following by stretching and strengthening exercises. After the warm up, Angelica introduces the students to samba no pé (basic samba step) and passo marcado (simple choreographies), typical of the Rio Carnaval. The whole class is accompanied by the sound of upbeat and irresistible Brazilian music. Be ready to sweat!!

*Come with comfortable clothes and be prepared to be barefoot -PRE-PAY RATE -$16 per workshop class Payment accepted via PayPal following the link below:

DROP IN RATE day of class- $18 per workshop class CASH only day of the event Please email, text or call Angelica with any questions or concerns at: 973-220-7784

****Classes don’t happen weekly at this time because this young but experienced dance artist is constantly on tour. Be sure to spread the word and experience these classes while you can*****






A Grand Night for Singing: The Hispanic Society Presents Works by Enrique Granados

It was dark outside. By 5:00 pm in December the sun has set in New York City. Walking out of the subway at 155th Street, I was worried that I would get lost. The map on the wall in the station was of no help since the Hispanic Society wasn’t even listed. The one and only time I had been in this neighborhood was back in the late 1990s, visiting the Hispanic Society to look up zarzuela scores and libretti.

As soon as I reached the corner, my heart leapt as I spotted an image of the Goya’s Duchess of Alba on a sign. To my right, ahead, across the big avenue, I recognized the looming campus.  There is something about the design of this Beaux Arts building, along the Audobon Terrace–the walkway, the iron bars, that is so reminiscent of Europe, so Madrid.


By Asaavedra32 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (, via Wikimedia Commons

I was very excited to attend this concert  of Granados’ music–From Barcelona with Passion: Enrique Granados in New York, on December 10, 2015.  Two friends were singing, Anna Tonna and Gustavo Ahualli, along with soprano Anna Belén Gómez, Anna de la Paz (dancer), Diane Lesser (English horn) and Borja Mariño (piano). The concert had been advertised on Facebook since September, and “everybody” involved in Spanish music was going.


This was indeed a grand night of music, a unique retrospective of Granados’ pieces. Many of them were performed in their original versions for the first time in New York City at this concert. Aside from the passionate performances, what made this event different and special, was its venue. The exterior of the building is majestic. Inside it houses some of the most cherished Spanish artwork outside of Spain, as well as an archive of literature and music.


The performance took place in the interior courtyard. “Orchestra” seats were on the ground level and filled up fast. I arrived 20 minutes early and was seated near the back. The guest list was five or more pages of typed names and I wondered where they would put everyone if many of them showed up.  Once the first floor was full, guests were directed to the second floor, the “balcony,” where they had a view of the entire floor below of both performers and audience.


On both floors we were surrounded by priceless works of art and entranced by the Spanish atmosphere. The art, the architecture, and the music, combined to make this a fascinating and singular event. Even the reception included Spanish wines, a Rioja and a white. Our senses were stimulated and satisfied a la española. Did I mention all this was FREE?

For more details about the concert please visit Anna Tonna’s blog, Spanish Song Slinger:

Poeta en Nueva York — Rafael Amargo

En el teatro del Generalife en la Alhambra de Granada (España) se presenta el espectáculo de flamenco de Rafael Amargo, que es una mezcla de danza, música, cante, poesía e imágenes. El ritmo y el espíritu gitano predominan en la obra pero también hay una fuerza creativa intrínsica. Esto paralela e imita el desarrollo de la obra poética de Federico García Lorca y su elevación del flamenco, ya que lo puso al nivel de otras artes españolas.

Lorca (1914).jpg
Lorca (1914)” by Unknown Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Este teatro no es puro flamenco. Hay escenas que representan aspectos más tradicionales de lo gitano como la boda y la improvisación, pero otras en que parte de esta tradición y la combina con otros estilos de baile e interpretaciones. De cualquier forma es un espectáculo vivo, dinámico y reverente a Lorca y el flamenco. El ambiente al aire libre de Generalife de la Alhambra contribuye al encanto de la experiencia. ¡Este es un show que no se debe perder!

Photo by Celeste Mann

Photo by Celeste Mann

Poeta en Nueva York sigue hasta el 29 de agosto (de 2015), en el teatro de Generalife en Granada. ¡Aprovechen y compren sus entradas ya!

¡Flamenco por todos lados!

Granada es una ciudad que toma en serio el arte de flamenco–cante y baile. Se puede ir al barrio de los gitanos mismos, el Sacromonte, y comer platos típicos y asistir a un show de flamenco. Durante julio y agosto de 2015 hay un espectáculo de flamenco muy profesional y entretenido en el Teatro de Generalife, “Rafael Amargo–un poeta en Nueva York,” sobre Federico García Lorca. Además, por dondequiera en Granada hay anuncios sobre más espectáculos, restaurantes de flamencos y clases de música, cante y baile flamenco. Pero el flamenco en Granada no solo aparece en forma “oficial,” en un tablao o escenario con público que paga, sino también en la calle, a veces improvisado y a veces preparado.

photo by Celeste Mann

photo by Celeste Mann

En la plaza cerca de la Catedral baila y canta “Cristo de Anda.” No cobran nada por su show, pero el público suele darles unos euros al final. Hoy vi a este grupo por eso de las 7:30 de la tarde. Perdí al bailaor, pero sí, asistí a los bailes de las dos mujeres y pude escuchar el cante y la música que las acompañaban. Los bailarines y músicos estaban completamente metidos en su estilo y en la ejecución del flamenco. Como de costumbre, las danzas eran serias y las bailarinas exihibían buena técnica y sobretodo mucha emoción y pasión.

Photo by Celeste Mann

Photo by Celeste Mann

Se puede tomar clases con Cristo de Anda en su escuela en el Albaicyn, y aprender más sobre la historia de flamenco. ¡Anímense! Allí se hablan francés, español, inglés e italiano. Para más información:

Aquele Abraço: Brazilian Dance in Philadelphia

“O Rio de Janeiro continua lindo…” And so does Philly!

Bahian Gilberto Gil’s “Aquele Abraço” (That embrace) makes me think of the dance happening in Philadelphia these days. Gil is originally from Salvador, yet wrote this song in 1969 to the people of Rio de Janeiro, where he had been living and making music. The sounds of Afro-Brazil and Bahia are in Gil’s music, but he was quintessentially brasileiro. His music went beyond Salvador, and appealed to cariocas and people all over the world. Philadelphia is a long time home for ballet, flamenco and Middle Eastern (belly) dance, and new comers include Indian and Asian dance companies, Argentine tango, and Brazilian dance and martial arts. It hugs all of these cultures and this is even evident as you fly into the city, with its depiction of the airport mural How Philly Moves.

Brazilian music has been around in Philly for a while. Minas, which specializes in MPB (including bossa nova) and originally composed music, is one of the longest running ensembles, started by carioca Orlando Haddad and his wife Patricia King. Aló Brasil developed out of earlier Brazilian bands in the area. Michael Steven’s led “Unidos da Filadelfia” (samba school/band) and the Philly Bloco professional band are younger groups that include many local Americans. In terms of movement, Brazilian styles are starting to gain more of a foothold in the city, thanks to local and Brazilian dancers who are teaching Americans how to move. ASCAB Capoeira School has been teaching capoeira (Brazilian martial art) to adults and children.

Angelica Cassimiro started teaching Samba dance classes in 2009, with Alex Shaw, leader of Alo Brasil. Afterwards she independently organized and taught the classes, which included renting space in Philadelphia. Angelica was born and raised in Brazil and trained at the Palacio das Artes in Belo Horizonte, in Minas Gerais, In the U.S. she received scholarships to train with Garden State Ballet, Alvin Ailey, American Ballet Theater and Philadelphia’s University of the Arts.

I was fortunate enough to attend some of the classes in the past and they were a lot of fun, a superior workout and quite authentic. When we had classes at ASCAB Capoeira’s old space in Bella Vista, the Pelourinho scene from Salvador, painted on the walls, and the capoeiristas who joined us, set the scene for the best you can get outside of Brazil. The mood was exciting, electric and intense. Angelica always ended the classes with an inclusive “roda” or circle dance, which created a sense of community and group sharing of talents.

Angelica now performs with the aerialist troupe, Australia’s “Strange Fruit” and is currently offering “SambaDelphia” a six week samba dance workshop culminating in an informal public performance on June 14, 2015 in Philadelphia’s Performance Garage.

For more information about Angelica:

The newest addition to the Philadelphia Brazilian arts scene is Cleonice Fonseca, who is originally from Salvador, Bahia. Salvador is the Afro-Brazilian center of Brazil, and her classes focus on African dances from Brazil:


image (1)

Cleonice Fonseca is an experienced dancer who began her training in Bahia at Dança do Colégio Central da Bahia, where she learned and performed African dance, folkloric dances, religious dances (candomblé orixás), and contemporary dance with important dance masters. For 10 years she was part of the Grupo de Dança do SESC, and also performed with other companies in the area. She arrived in Philadelphia in June 2014 and has been involved with various projects through ASCAB Capoeira, Mamadêlê Produções and Sunrise of Philadelphia. She has been teaching music and dance in South Philly public schools and for adults, and the Wissahicken Dance Studio and Philadelphia Capoeira Arts Center (ASCAB Capoeira).


Her classes are ongoing! Check them out. Aquele abraço…