Originally posted in the Austin Classical Guitar Society blog
The show is an interpretation of the deliciously dark fable by Hans Christian Andersen—paired with Dark Sounds (Sonidos Negros). The evening of new dance will feature choreography by A’lante artistic director Olivia Chacón and a mixture of original compositions and traditional flamenco interpreted and led by music director Isaí Chacón.
I asked Olivia Chacón to share with us a bit of insight into her work and this exciting project!
Matthew Hinsley: Tell me about A’lante Flamenco Dance Ensemble?
Olivia Chacón: I formed A’lante with Musical Director Isaí Chacón in 2011 with the goal of presenting flamenco to a wider audience. Although many people have seen flamenco in small-format “tablao” shows in clubs and restaurants, most Texans haven’t experienced flamenco in a theatrical setting. We get to design the total experience for the viewer. A’lante is an 11-member company, including 5 dancers and 6 musicians. This format gives us the flexibility to explore a lot of different approaches to flamenco. We are lucky to have a musical ensemble featuring two guitarists, two singers, a violinist and a percussionist, all of them excellent in their own right, so we really get to take the music to another level. In terms of dance, I have a lot of fun with the group choreography and the capability to do narrative or theatrical works. Plus, in larger venues we get space to play with things like the traditional bata de cola, or dress with a long train, that simply don’t fit on smaller stages.
MH: Tell me more about the “Red Shoes” project in particular?
OC: Our show “The Red Shoes: A Flamenco Fairytale,” opens at the Rollins Theater of the Long Center October 26 and 27. It’s the culmination of work Isai and I have been doing for the past two or three years, since we returned from a four-year stay in Madrid. We had to put some of our creative impulses on hold while in Madrid, since we were busy studying with local masters, working with other flamenco companies and doing tablao performances. Nonetheless, we had a lot of ideas that we saved for later. I used to keep a notebook full of ideas for productions, choreography, even stage sets and costumes for our future company. “The Red Shoes” idea came from that time.
The storyline is adapted from a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, but the inspiration really came from my personal life: for years I juggled flamenco dance with a regular 9 to 5 job. When I finally ditched the day job to go live in Spain to study my art, everyone thought it was such a frivolous thing. They said, “Wow, you’re living the dream!” What they didn’t know was what hard work it was—literally blood, sweat and tears. And yet I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The “Red Shoes” production is based on this idea of a passion, which slowly becomes a dangerous obsession, capable of consuming your whole life. We had had fun with the storytelling aspect, adding video elements and some surprising musical choices.
We are presenting “The Red Shoes” with “Sonidos Negros” (“Dark Sounds”), a suite of dances inspired by a wide variety of different musical ideas present in flamenco. We have everything from a martinete, the song of gypsy iron forgers, to a farruca based on two pieces by Francisco Tárrega, to a granaína and rondeña, in addition to some modern compositions by our outstanding group of musicians. We are really excited to be able to broaden our audience’s understanding of flamenco with this production.
MH: I’d love to know a bit about your background?
OC: I’m originally from San Antonio, Texas, which is where I was first exposed to flamenco. I started playing classical guitar in high school, and slowly became attracted to flamenco music and dance. However, I didn’t get more involved in the art form until I was in college in New York, when I abandoned guitar, but became obsessed with flamenco artists like singer Camarón and Lole y Manuel. I started taking flamenco dance classes, and the obsession really took root! I went on to get a Master’s in Architectural History from UT, and was able to spend time researching in Seville. Ironically, that year spent in Seville really cemented my commitment to dancing flamenco, since I was lucky enough to study with some of the greatest figures in the art, like Farruquito and Juana Amaya, who really inspired me to continue. Once I got back to Austin I began performing and teaching, and realized that el baile flamenco was my true calling. So eventually I returned to Spain, this time to Madrid, to deepen my understanding and experience by studying at the famous Amor de Dios school, performing internationally in the Cristóbal Reyes Compañía de Flamenco, and dancing at various tablaos and events in Madrid, as well as Germany. When I returned to Austin in 2010, I opened Flamencura Music & Dance Studio, Austin’s first studio devoted to flamenco. I’ve been committed to spreading the word about flamenco in Austin, and I think interest is slowly growing.
MH: What else should we know about flamenco in Austin, Olivia?
OC: I’d like to let people know about some great opportunities available for flamenco music and dance students and aficionados in November.
This is the first year Flamencura Music & Dance is presenting “El Flamencazo,” November 7-12, a full week of flamenco dance workshops with guest artists including Miguel Vargas from Sevilla, Spain and Ileana Gomez of New Mexico. We’ll also have guitar workshops with a recent arrival from Havana, Cuba, and A’lante guitarist Jose Manuel Tejeda, more workshops in flamenco percussion and cante, flamenco singing, with Isaí Chacón, and a show featuring Ileana Gomez at Copa on Friday, November 9. There will be something for everyone, even a free dance workshop for absolute beginners! We hope that Austin flamenco fans will get involved and really enjoy “El Flamencazo!”
More information will be available soon at www.flamencura.org.
(special thanks to ACGS’ Jessica Jin for her work on this interview)