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

Newspaper on April 21, 1999. All rights reserved.

The Route of the Gypsies

For the Alborada Spanish Dance Theater, art and education

go hand in hand. In its new show, "The Caravan Route of the Gypsies"

at Middlesex County College on Sunday April 25, the company joins

with artists from India and Egypt to chronicle the evolution of Spanish

flamenco dance across the ages and across continents.

"History has shown that the gypsies took a couple of routes from

India to Southern Spain, including one through Egypt, where they settled

for several hundred years — hence the possibility of the word

`gypsy’ being derived from the name," explains dancer and artistic

director Eva Lucena. "The gypsies’ other route was through the

Slavic countries of the Austro-Hungarian empire, especially Romania

and Hungary. When the gypsies migrated into the next country, they

took along both the movements and the sounds of their former home.

It’s a whole flow of evolution."

Dancers of the Shri Bharatha Kamalalaya academy of Somerset open the

program with a ceremony of light choreographed by Padma Bhusan Kamala

Narayanam. "Padma is acclaimed in both India and in the United

States, and when on talks of her, one lowers one’s voice in awe,"

says Lucena. Bani Ray, a renowned Odissi dancer from Delhi, continues

with a pure form Indian dance that is also a form a worship.

When Bani Ray finishes her solo, the Arabic dancer, Rayhana, comes

on stage and the pair dances an original piece they have choreographed

together. "It’s not quite fusion, it’s evolutionary," says

Lucena. "It demonstrates which movements are shared. The tabla

drummer who accompanies the dances can also play for flamenco. He

can pick up the flamenco rhythms because of the ways they are related

to Odissi rhythms."

With choreography by Alborada’s Chavela and by Rayhana and other artists,

Lucena says the collaboration has been a rewarding learning experience.

"We’re so different but we’re so similar," she says. Guest

artists from Spain are Jesus Cano and Paco Alonso, with Alborada’s

Maria La Constancia, Natalia Brilliante, Lisa Lochner, Ruselito Kordas,

Carlos Revollar, and David Castellano.

The second half of the program shows the gypsies arriving in Spain

and migrating to Andalucia. The first dance is the Zambra, a flamenco

with an Arabic heritage. The finale features three camps of gypsies

on the road to Rocios, a sacred festival in Andalucia, and each camp

visiting with the other, spontaneously dancing, culminating in the

ever-popular "Bulerias," a free-style gypsy dance.

A 400-year history illustrated in an evening is a challenge for these

artists of three world cultures. "This is pretty ambitious, yes,"

says Lucena laughing heartily. "I like to create things. Over

the years, I’ve recognized the similarities in movements and musical

forms. Flamenco footwork has a lot of percussive sounds that shares

a lot with Indian Kathak dance, and they even had a form of castanets

in India. It’s such a beautiful history, and it’s also art."

— Nicole Plett

The Caravan Route of the Gypsies, Alborada Spanish

Dance Theater , Middlesex College Performing Arts Center, 2600 Woodbridge

Road, Edison, 732-613-4519. $18. Sunday, April 25, 3 p.m.

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