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This article by Nicole Plett was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on

September 30, 1998. All rights reserved.

Four-Day Hispanic Feast

The marvels and mysteries of Spanish arts and culture

suffuse Princeton during the "Festival de Arte y Cultura

Hispana,"

a four-day celebration of the art, literature, and culture of Spain

and Latin America, Thursday, October 1, though Sunday, October 4.

"This is our first Hispanic festival and the first four-day

festival

we’ve ever tackled," says Anne Reeves, executive director of the

Arts Council. "It is a big undertaking and a real challenge."

Proceeds from the festival that encompasses a literary reading by

some of the nation’s best-known authors, a bilingual children’s

storytelling

event, and a Patron’s Gala Dinner and Auction benefit the council’s

community programs.

"Our purpose is to acquaint the Princeton community with the rich

cultural heritage of the new members of our community, particularly

our Mexican and Guatemalan neighbors," says Reeves. "It was

a natural to bring people together to enjoy the arts of Spain and

Latin America."

One of the undisputed highlights of the festival is the performance

of the Carlota Santana Spanish Dance Company that brings an evening

of traditional flamenco to Richardson Auditorium, Friday, October

2, at 7:30 p.m. The company will present a traditional festival

sequence

of flamenco dances, performed by Santana and an ensemble of five that

features singer Manolo Segura and guitarist Roberto Castellon.

Speaking from her New York home, Santana says that a fluid give and

take between audience and performers is at the heart of the flamenco

experience.

"Flamenco is choreographed with stops, and in these stops one

is allowed to applaud — it makes the dancer feel that much better.

You can scream out `Ole’ during a number, you’re allowed to do that

also," she says. "It’s the very opposite of classical

music."

American jazz is a closer match, where soloists receive applause and

encouragement from their listeners.

The program includes Santana’s favorite solo, "Tangos de

Malaga,"

which she describes as a slow, teasing dance that stretches like

taffy,

accompanied by the voice of Malaga native, Segura.

"The solo is a combination of things I’ve pulled together over

the years," says Santana. "Flamenco is always evolving. You

take from people, it goes through you, and it becomes your own. Most

of us have a dance which — for whatever reason — means

something

special. I danced Soleares for a number of years, then I came into

these tangos. It’s a serious dance — and playful at times. It

depends on one’s feeling that evening. The singing is what drives

you. The moods overtake you."

Flamenco emerged from southern Spain at the end of the

15th century, a time when Gypsies, Arabs, and Jews mingled in the

region. These displaced and persecuted peoples poured their emotions

into a music and dance that became flamenco. The form is distinguished

by a regal carriage of head, torso, and arms, and a fierce projection

of pride and sensuality. The traditional costumes, in all their

ruffled

splendor, are cut to accentuate key areas of the dancer’s anatomy

and heighten the sensuality of the dance.

The dance boom of the 1970s helped flamenco grow by leaps and bounds.

No longer solely the province of its hereditary practitioners, new

dancers came to the art with extensive professional training in

ballet,

modern, and jazz dance. Thus it was only natural that new movement

and choreographic ideas were injected into the flamenco lexicon.

Spanish dancer Antonio Gades is credited with taking flamenco into

the realm of contemporary performing arts when he teamed up with film

director Carlos Saura for acclaimed screen adaptations of Lorca’s

"Blood Wedding" and Bizet’s "Carmen."

"There seems to be a great big yearning today to see more and

more flamenco," says Santana. "I have no idea, to be honest,

what it is about. Perhaps people are looking for art that is more

earthy. Flamenco is pure emotion — something people can relate

to."

The second half of the concert is staged as a traditional Tablao

Flamenco.

"All the artists sit in a semi-circle, and one after another they

rise to do their solo in a competitive atmosphere — it’s a

friendly

competition," says Santana. The program closes with the

traditional

Bulerias (the names comes from the verb "burlar," to make

fun of), fun steps that the whole company does together.

Born in New York, Santana studied a variety of dance forms but Spanish

dance was the first that hooked her. "Flamenco is a disease; once

it bites you, that’s it," she says. "I had to leave New York

and go to Spain to train." She studied and worked in Madrid and

Seville during the late ’70s and early ’80s, and still returns at

least once each year. "You have to go back to the fountain of

the art. You have to return to the culture to get reunited with its

spirit," she says.

Santana established her troupe and school in New York, in 1983, with

the mission of making flamenco more accessible, breaking boundaries

between cultures using flamenco’s universal spirit. Since then, her

company has become one of the most respected flamenco groups in the

United States.

Santana believes that flamenco is one of the most difficult dance

forms to master. "You learn steps, arm movements, and foot

movements,

and then you have the rhythms — like jazz rhythms — to which

you must move the body at the same time. My first teacher told me

she thought it took seven years to learn flamenco. It certainly takes

four or five before you can even get on the stage as a member of the

corps. And nobody ever stops acquiring technique.

"This is a dance form where you don’t have to stop when you’re

30 — we go on forever," she says. "It’s so much an art

of expression. The more life experience, the better you can express

yourself."

— Nicole Plett

Carlota Santana Dance Company, Arts Council of

Princeton ,

Richardson Auditorium, Princeton University, 609-924-8777. $12 to

$25. Friday, October 2, 7:30 p.m.

Festival de Arte y Cultura Hispana, Arts Council of

Princeton , WPA Gallery, 102 Witherspoon Street, 609-924-8777.

Weaving and Painting, WPA Gallery. Reception for a show

of Guatemalen weavings by Armando Sosa and oil paintings by Tomas

Clusellas. Free. Thursday, October 1, 6:30 p.m.

Readings from Spanish and Latin American Literature, Loft

Theater. An anthology reading by Robert Bly, Richard Ford, Francisco

Goldman, Daniel Halpern, Rose Styron and Eliot Weinberger. Free.

Thursday,

October 1, 8 p.m.

Gala Patrons Dinner, Mediterra Restaurant. Tapas and

Spanish

wines, with auction, in Mediterra’s tented courtyard. $200 and up.

Friday, October 2, 7:30 p.m.

Art Talks, 102 Witherspoon Street. Pre-Columbian art

specialist

Gillet Griffin gives an illustrated talk at 11 a.m. Jonathan Brown

of New York University gives a lecture on "Spanish Art of the

Golden Age" at 1 p.m. Free. Saturday, October 3, 11 a.m. &1

p.m.

Spirits and Cigars, Nassau Inn. Tasting of Spanish wines

and brandies by Wines From Spain, with cigar tasting by George

Brightman

of Cigar Aficionado magazine. $65. Saturday, October 3, 8 p.m.

Children’s Storytelling, Dance Studio. "The Story

of Ferdinand" by Munro Leaf is read in Spanish and English. Free.

Sunday, October 4, 12:30 p.m.

Guantanamera, Garden Theater, Nassau Street. The romantic

comedy by Cuba’s Tomas Gutierrez Alea, with reception and lecture

by Silvia Hirsch and Peter Johnson. $15. Sunday, October 4, 3:30

p.m.


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