Fiesta Jerez – Review

Flamenco is an art form that has changed much throughout the years. While many of us have seen the highly stylized shows of recent decades, we haven’t had the opportunity to experience flamenco in its true essence. This is the flamenco passed down from generations of people living in the heart of southern Spain. This is the flamenco that tells the story of persecution and pain. This is the flamenco that is still sung and danced at weddings, on street corners, and in the local taverns. This is the flamenco of Jerez.

¡Fiesta Jerez! – Flamenco Gypsy All-Stars NYU Skirball Center, New York City Saturday, October 6, 2012 – 8pm

On Saturday night, concertgoers were able to witness flamenco puro firsthand during the performance of ¡Fiesta Jerez! at New York University’s Skirball Center. ¡Fiesta Jerez! is just one the many acts performing in New York during the month-long Flamenco Fiesta Gitano. ¡Fiesta Jerez! is an extraordinary twelve-piece ensemble that consists of a family clan of singers hailing from the town of Jerez de la Frontera, Spain. Often referred to as the “gypsy all-stars”, this ensemble embodies the soul of traditional flamenco that is still alive in the Andalusian province.

The show kicked off with its first number, a lively bulerias featuring the entire cast. The upbeat and communal spirit of the group resembled a family gathering more than a contrived production. This was then followed by a solid guitar performance by Diego el Morao, arguably one of the most renowned flamenco guitarists of recent times. Diego’s playing is fresh and modern, while still deeply rooted in the old toque of Jerez.

Diego’s guitar was the perfect accompaniment for cantaor Luis el Zambo, who performed a series of traditional cante styles including siguiyiras and maritnente. The emotional and veracity of the songs were clearly transmitted throughout the theatre, not an easy feat in a packed auditorium.

The conclusion of the first half was a powerful solea from up and coming dance star Gema Moneo. While her precise and swift zapateado proved to be the wow factor for the audience, the beauty of her dance emanated from her powerful stage presence. This was evident in the dynamic arch of her back when performing a turn, or the interesting angles and shapes she created when executing a paseo. It was those little nuances that truly connected with the crowd.

Following intermission, the show resumed with the matriarch of the clan, Juana la del Pipa, who launched the second half with a series of time-honored song styles such as fandangos de Huelva and tangos . Her raw, deep voice is complex. At one moment, she is aggressive, ready to pounce. The next, she was playful, and whimsical, changing the whole dynamic of her presentation with a capricious smile and sway of the hips.

The night concluded in true gypsy fashion with a fin de fiesta, where everyone had a chance to participate. All of the artists got in on the action through a series of rotating solos. One standout star was Kina Mendez, niece of La Paquera de Jerez, who was equal parts bravado and beauty. The fun kept going when Tia Yoya and Tia Curra, the revered elders of the group, took part in a spontaneous dance.

I found the Fiesta Jerez show to be especially refreshing. While many of the flamenco shows that come to the United States almost always focuses on dance, this show highlighted the true essence of flamenco, which is cante, or song. Cante is what dictates everything- the mood of the singer, the temperament of the dancer, the pace of the guitar. This show really exposes it audiences to the diversity and depths of cante flamenco, for what it is and what is always was. !Viva Jerez!

Very special thanks to the World Music Institute, NYU’s Skirball Center, and the Consulate of Spain for their efforts to bring these incredible artists to New York City.

Contributed by Kelli Moore

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