Granada Symphony

The morning is loud and busy as children rush into the playground eager to see their friends, high up on the hill in the Albaicin, the old moorish neighborhood. An owl´s hooting keeps a constant pulse amidst the children´s exuberant laughter and high pitched chatter. An occasional patter of feet running and the sweet whistle of another bird provide some counterpoint.  Dropping off children, moms and other passerbys speak in low hushed tones, as they begin their day.

After the siesta, later in the day, I walk around the Albaicin, on the way to the Corte Inglés department store, located in the more modern part of Granada. Gingerly descending the ¨Cuesta de María de la miel¨(Honey Mary) I hear the sounds of a guitar in the distance. There are many ¨cuestas¨, steep hill paths in the Albaicin. At the next landing I encountered a man playing the guitar. I think the piece was Spanish Romance. I dropped a one euro coin in his cup and listened discretely from across the street as he plucked expertly.

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I kept walking down the hill finally reaching the Gran Via. Now there would be easy walking, no more cuestas! While on Calle de la Virgen, behind the Corte Ingles, I caught the Pachabel Canon by a string quartet: 2 violins, a guitar and a cello:

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The short street has a pedestrian walkway between two roads for cars. Each end opens up to a plaza with its own fountain. With gushing water bookending this tree lined avenue at sunset, listening to the music, the effect was just simply sublime. Little children strolling by with their mothers spontaneously broke into dance–whether making ´flores´ with their hands flamenco style, or swinging each other around by the arms. The look of delight on their faces as they approached the group and heard the music was unmistakenly touching and heartwarming.

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On the way out after shopping, the group was still there playing something else, surrounded by a small crowd. I rushed past this time as I had decided to walk up to the Mirador San Nicolás and it was getting dark. I figured I could save a couple of euro, burn some calories and save some time by walking back, instead of waiting for the little red bus at Plaza Nueva, which was bound to be crowded at the end of the workday–no seats available!

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Starting my ascent at the base of the Albaicín, I passed by store after store. Unfortunately,  I was moving slowly since I was behind a couple carrying some type of fence up the hill. This was an amazing feat in itself considering the path was about 5 feet wide and teeming with people. The tiny stores overflowed with Moroccan items: lamps, prayer rugs, slippers and scarves, teas and other souvenirs. Teterías (tea houses) awaited tourists who were brave enough to taste strange food with their hands and smoke a hookah. The new stands, or sits, of women in traditional dress offering henna tatoos clogged the path too. They had replaced the ubiquitous male vendors who would sell a sign or card with your name written in Arabic.

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Beyond this marketplace, a trio sat on the steps on a plaza and played some upbeat folk music. They had their CDs out for sale too. There was quite a large crowd listening and offering support. And 20 metres up the hill another guitarist sat on a  ledge tuning…

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Darkness set in as I trudged up La cuesta de María de la miel, my breaths heavy yet rhythmic. I had left my bedroom window open–perfect to hear the soothing flow of water from the fountain in the patio next door.

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“Azul”, a new play by Tanaquil Márquez: Getting Under Picasso’s Skin!

Two women, Inez Korff and Liliana Ruiz, in traditional black dresses dance the fiery flamenco. No music is even necessary because their feet beat the rhythm in a precise yet complex zapateo. Later, the guitar and drums, played by Blane and Donna Bostock, join in—their soulful and passionate sounds make a grand match with the dance, to bring out the duende, first theorized by Federico Garcia Lorca, Andalucía’s native son. The flamenco comes from Spain, specifically Andalucía, from the “Roma” people, los gitanos, or more universally known as “the gypsies.” In her new play, Azul, Tanaquil Márquez weaves flamenco dance, movement, Spanish music and multilingual spoken dialogue into a collage of Pablo Picasso’s life before he became famous. Azul, presented by La Fábrica at The Drake Theatre in Philadelphia, is also directed by Márquez, and the score is composed by Blane Bostock.

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Márquez dives into the reason or motivation for Picasso’s “Blue Period,” hence the title, which means blue in Spanish. Azul is a play packed with the love affairs, friendships, and eccentricities of Picasso’s early life. His painting “La Vie” (the life), is the point of departure and also the cohesive element connecting the music, dance and the scenes. Two of the characters, Carles, Picasso’s best friend, and Germaine, a woman they were both involved with and who both tried to kill, are seen as subjects of the painting La Vie” in Azul. Picasso’s blue period is characterized by an emotional despondency, triggered by the death of his best friend. In this phase of his life, his art was seen at the time by collectors as “depressing” and not “sellable” due to the subjects and the limited palette.

Azul is an ambitious and epic work, more than two hours long. It requires much attention from the viewer, since the characters speak Spanish, French and English. There is a poem recited in Catalan by Carles too. Picasso at least translates it into Spanish in the scene.Márquez (in her writing) and the cast handle the languages expertly—they flow naturally and effortlessly. As a fluent speaker of Spanish and English, and a former student of French, following the language shifts was not a problem for me, but I imagine for monolingual English speakers, especially those without much knowledge of Picasso’s life or work, it could be challenging. In that case, Azul would offer a completely different experience.

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Nevertheless there is enough going on with the music, dance and movement to captivate even the monolingual audience member. Particularly strong are the scenes in the second act which incorporate dance, choreographed by Liliana Ruiz: when Picasso visits the woman’s prison and the bullfight/dance with Germaine. Both captured the respective moods and communicated the message without words.

Márquez also directs the extremely talented ensemble of performers. As Picasso, Zach Aguilar, is a very likeable protagonist, perhaps much more than Picasso himself and he delivers well in both Spanish and English. He has a commanding stage presence that reflects the charisma that Picasso probably had in real life. Paloma Irizarry as Odette, was a sweet and sympathetic lover, and she also displayed versatility as the other “positive” women in Pablo’s life, Nina, Conchita and Fernande.   I was impressed by her natural quality in both French and Spanish.

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As Germaine, Sol Madariaga was cruel and brazen. Madariaga excels as the villian, displaying a calm unfeeling exterior at times, and then bursting into a rage. She was the one who rejected Carles, and later engages in a dysfunctional and obsessive relationship with Picasso. Germaine was appropriately over the top, aggressive and irritating. She was the perfect contrast to Odette, and she was the menace loved and hated by Carles and Picasso. Germaine is depicted as a negative influence on both men, yet she appears as a subject of “La Vie.” As Carles Casagemas and Max Jacob, friends of Picasso, Cameron Del Grosso, shows tremendous acting range. Carles comes across as a fragile yet romantic and sincere artist, while Max is confident and much more in control. Inez Korff, Yajaira Paredes, Veronica Ponce de Leon Placencia and Liliana Ruiz round out the cast and deserve extra praise for dancing and playing both male and female characters convincingly. Dramatic and effective lighting was designed by Alyssandra Dochtery and costumes by David Reese Hutchison.

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Azul is definitely a “must-see” for artists and lovers of Picasso’s art, if only to commiserate in the representation of his struggles. It provides background information about his life and his creative inspiration. It shows onstage the dilemma of “how do I sell my art and still be true to my own self/voice” that all artists face at one point or another. Flamenco aficionados will enjoy the dancing, and Spanish speakers will appreciate the opportunity to attend theatre in the language in Philadelphia.

Hopefully we will be seeing more of La Fábrica and of works by up and coming playwright, Tanaquil Marquéz. Azul plays through Sunday August 29 at the Drake Theatre in Philadelphia. For tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/azul-tickets-35309378301

For more information about La Fábrica: https://www.facebook.com/LaFabricaTheater

To read a review about Azul in DCMetro Theater Arts: DC Metro Theater Arts

Drapetomania: Grupo Antillano and the Art of Afro-Cuba

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La Habana Vieja, by gildemax, wikipedia commons

The African American Museum in Philadelphia hosted the exhibition “Drapetomania” in February and March of 2016, on two floors, in its Galleries No. 3 and 4. The museum’s vertical space and multiple floors, lends itself to smaller and less traditional exhibitions.

Grupo Antillano’s mission was to highlight Afro-Cuban influences in the participating artists’ work. There are works by more or less twenty Cuban artists featured in the exhibition, although not all of them were active members of Grupo Antillano. However, their works are in the spirit of the group since they focus on Afro-Cuban culture and images. The most well known artist included is Manuel Mendive, whose work is internationally famous.

There are different types of media represented, such as sculpture, video, oil/acrylic on canvas, and mixed media. The most striking piece, in my opinion, is Resurrección , by Rafael Quenedit Morales, the founder of Grupo Antillano. It is a sculpture, and one of the first pieces one sees on entering Gallery 3. At first it appears to be a very typical  sculpture of the Latin American colonial period: an angel in front of a wood cross. However, on further examination one notices that this angel has a bi-colored face–white and red, and that its wings are red, white and blue. In addition, it carries a scepter that appears to be topped with a symbol from an Afro-Cuban religion.

Adelaida Herrera Valdés uses old shutters in her piece, Vecinos. Discolored receipts and letters are stuck in the slats.  http://www.queloides-exhibit.com/grupo-antillano/grupo-antillano_artistas_adelaida.html There is a connection with the neighbor, but at the same time these worn down shutters may remind the viewer of the weariness and difficulty of life in Cuba.

Some of the artists, such as Leandro Soto and Juan Roberto Diago, reference Afro-Cuban religion in their titles: Los juguetes de Elegguá and Yo soy monte. In Los juguetes de Elegguá (2012), Leandro Soto (b. 1956 Cienfuegos), uses 2 large canvasses in red and black. There are many items recognizable in this compendium of toys for Elegguá, one of the orishas, or divinities in regla de ocha, an Afro-Cuban religion. These toys in the painting include: elephants, bells, clovers, keys, cups, boats, machetes, candles, cars, hearts, chalice, shells, spades, buildings, clubs, paths and roads. Elegguá is considered a messenger and has many roads. One reason he is important is because he connects the other orishas with humans.

http://www.leandrosoto.com/leandro-soto-artist-bio.html

In Yo soy monte, Juan Roberto Diago evokes the idea of el monte.  Although the English translation in the museum is “I am mountain”, el monte in Afro-Cuban culture has referred to wilderness or the clearing in the forest, specifically the place where religious rites can occur, or historically, a refuge. For more about Mr. Diago, visit http://havana-cultura.com/en/visual-arts/juan-roberto-diago

Perhaps the most politically charged piece in the exhibition is La suerte del mayoral (The Overseer’s Luck) by Santiago Rodriguez Olazabal (2012). This painting has only three colors, white, black and red. A man is tied to a tree, rendered in black charcoal, and red paint splurts from his chest. View the painting on this site:  http://www.afrocubaweb.com/grupo-antillano/pages/N.%20Olazabal-%20La%20suerte%20del%20mayoral.html

The African American Museum in Philadelphia is to be commended for bringing this exhibition to Philadelphia. There are very few opportunities to see so much Cuban art at once in the United States. In light of the recent attempts to reestablish trade and travel with Cuba, hopefully this will not be the last exhibition of Cuban art in the area, and is a sign of more interaction between the U.S. and Cuban artistic communities.

The African Museum in Philadelphia is located in Old City, and open from Thursday through Sunday. http://www.aampmuseum.org/

 

 

 

 

 

Concert for piano, guitar and voice for Musica de Camara of NYC (Anna Tonna)

What follows is a blog post that appeared on Spanish Song Slinger by Anna Tonna:

The tireless Eva de la O, soprano, producer, arts promoter and artistic director of Musica de Camara of NYC has been a supporter of my activities for many years now.  She first programmed me in a s…

Source: Concert for piano, guitar and voice for Musica de Camara of NYC

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.

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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.

 

 

SAMBADELFIA! BRAZILIAN SAMBA DANCE CLASSES IN PHILADELPHIA

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: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=UEQAV9WGQG5TA

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: Cassimiroa@gmail.com 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*****

 

 

 

 

 

Love Songs from Spain

“Burn, Heart, Burn” is the translation of the title of the CD “Arded, Corazón, Arded” by Ana María Díaz (Ruimonte). The CD was released in 2014 and is a collection of baroque love songs from Spain. Ms. Díaz Ruimonte painstakenly researched these songs which are not in the libraries of most instrumentalists or singers, in the Spanish National Library, Catedral de Valladolid and the Monasterio de Coimba, according to the CD notes. There are fourteen songs on the disc and they include lyrics by important writers such as Lope de Vega and Calderón de la Barca, pillars of the Spanish Golden Age. In addition, there is a cantata written by G.F. Handel.

Ms. Diaz Ruimonte’s vocalism for the period is quite fitting–a light soprano which swells and fades in messa di voce on some notes. Her Spanish, as a native speaker, is clear and well prononunced. Unlike some other non-native singers, there is no displacement between language and meaning. She sings naturally in her native language and communicates directly. For baroque specialists and lovers of Spanish art music, this is definitely an interesting and innovative CD to add to your collection. For more information and to purchase the CD, visit her website: anamariadiaz.com

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Upcoming engagements include El carro de amor and Soprano Meets Contrabass (with her husband Alan Lewine) on September 12, 2015 in Philadelphia. For tickets: href=”http://anamariadiaz.com/events”