World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


AguaClara Flamenco

GENRE: Flamenco
First appearance in SF EDF: 2016

AguaClara Flamenco, led by artistic director Clara Rodriguez, was formed in 2011 in Oakland. Featuring local and international flamenco artists, the company has presented full-length works: Somos Tierra and Diálogos at Cowell Theatre, produced by Azahar Dance Foundation; performed at the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, and the San Francisco International Arts Festival, and has been featured in the ongoing performance cycle at The Sound Room in Oakland since 2012. Educational outreach includes year-round dance classes, workshops, and workshops featuring guest flamenco artists from the US and abroad.


TITLE: Aire del Romero
CHOREOGRAPHER: Clara Rodriguez
COSTUME DESIGN: Pamela Martinez
DANCERS: Claudia Barros, Melina Berkov-Rojas, Anna Ciacchella, Sandra Durand, Alice Glasner, Antara Medina, Clara Rodriguez, Paloma Shutes
MUSICIANS: José Cortez (vocals), Felix de Lola (vocals), David McLean (guitar)

As if on a warm Sevilla afternoon, the breeze blowing in from Rio Guadalquivir, AguaClara Flamenco presents Aire del Romero, a performance of joyful romeras and cantiñas. With flying abanico fans and swirling mantón shawls, choreographer Clara Rodriguez turns our focus on the playful rhythm of flamenco’s light, airy styles.

Ay! Maestranza de Sevilla, la del amarillo albero. La que huele a manzanilla y a capote de torero.

Ay! Maestranza de Sevilla (Seville’s Plaza de Toros), the one of yellowed sand, smelling of manzanilla sherry and the cape of the bullfighter.

In flamenco, music and dance are one art, a conversation in time between melody, song, gesture, range, dynamics, harmony, fan, sweep of fabric, and of course, rhythm. The music for Aire del Romero is performed by guitarist David McLean and José Cortés and Felix de Lola, two flamenco singers from Spain. Palmas handclapping keeps a contratiempo beat, and the dancers’ feet turn the stage into an instrument, performing sharp marcajes—marking steps—and percussive llamadas and remates—openings and closings—to embellish the musicians’ phrasing. This piece highlights both ensemble work and solos with flamenco’s flashy, lovely, femininity. Clara says, “I have always loved the cantes of cantiñas and romeras for their light-hearted character and flair. I wanted this piece to exude femininity: it’s highlighted in the sections with fan work.”

The origins of flamenco lie in southern Spain’s multicultural middle ages, in old songs of Spanish Gitano/Roma people; Persian-Arab forms; classical Islamic-Andalusian orchestras; Jewish synagogue chants; Arab forms; and Andalusian folk songs. It was then reformed in the 19th century, among artists and choreographers in Seville’s sophisticated cafe cantantes. A flamenco style is called a palo and a song is a cante: Aire del Romero is a romeras, a flamenco palo in the family of the festive and light cante cantiñas, attributed to 19th century singer Romero el Tito. It is as cheerful as flamenco gets, in major key. The 12-count rhythm, fast paced and playful, ends with a sped-up rhythm called bulerias and a final dramatic cierre or close.

Aire del Romero was created and choreographed by Clara Rodriguez. The dancers’ costumes were designed by Clara in partnership with Pamela Martinez. The asymmetrical design with white accent colors notes each dancer’s individuality and personality.


DANCE ORIGIN: Andalucía, Spain
GENRE: Flamenco
TITLE: Martinete
DANCERS: Sandra Durand, Alice Glasner, Maha Hamdan, Andrea La Canela, Claudia Barros-Morrison, Yuli Norrish, Clara Rodriguez
MUSICIANS: Marlon Aldana (cajón, djembe), Roberto Zamora (vocals)

Photo by Mark Muntean

AguaClara Flamenco presented an eloquent and fierce performance of Spanish flamenco titled Martinete. The martinete is one of the oldest, most intense song forms or palos in flamenco repertoire. It is a cante jondo, or “deep song,” from the family of unaccompanied cantes known as tonás, where haunting vocals are bare and prominent. The performance is demanding, with strong footwork, expressive marking steps, and surprising exchanges of energy and repose.

Flamenco history is shrouded in the dark years of the Spanish Inquisition. Cante jondo is often called an echo of human suffering, born and evolved in Seville’s 16th-century forges, where Sephardic, indigenous Andalusian, Moorish, and Gitano gypsy blacksmiths labored without hope. The martinete is named for the Spanish martillo—hammer—and singing is traditionally
accompanied by palmas (handclapping), stamping, and the ring of a hammer striking an anvil. The coplas—verses—are often only fragments, and many contemporary singers improvise the lyrics, honoring flamenco’s traditional freedom. The lyrics in this presentation sing of Triana, a historically Gitano neighborhood of Seville:

Ay en el barrio de Triana
No hay pluma ni tintero
para escribirle a mi mare
Que hace veinte años que no la veo.

In the neighborhood of Triana
There is no pen or ink
to write to my mother
who I have not seen in twenty years

This is a new choreography within the framework of traditional letras (verses) of martinete, and debla form of martinete, set in 2015 by Artistic Director Clara Rodriguez. The martinete was originally a song, and Antonio El Bailarin adapted it for dance in the 1950s as a masculine form. Many dancers feature it in performance, and it’s increasingly danced by women, for love of its percussive zapateado footwork. Flamenco music and dance are inseparable expressions: Clara’s choreography emphasizes the minimal and lyrical quality of
the cante and the trance-like rhythm—its effect on both dancer and audience. The somber costuming mirrors the dark symbolism and themes of cante jondo, with a feminine design.

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