World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Caminos Flamencos

GENRE: Flamenco
First Appearance in SF EDF: 1996

San Francisco-based Caminos Flamencos, founded by Emmy Award-winning dancer and choreographer Yaelisa, creates and presents contemporary, traditional, and theatrical dance programs showcasing artists from Spain and the US. Programs reflect the changing face of flamenco and preserve and share Spain's rich artistic heritage. Caminos is a flourishing dance company, with a dance and music school offering a comprehensive program. Performances including those with San Francisco Opera, Pacific Symphony at Segerstrom Concert Hall, and as guest artist at Adelaide Guitar Festival, Australia. With three Isadora Duncan Dance Award nominations, Yaelisa has also received an Emmy for Choreography and NEA Fellowships. She was Artistic Director for New World Flamenco Festival in Southern California for 12 years.


TITLE: Cantiñas del Pinini/Romeras
DANCERS: Claudia Bermudez, Ligia Giese, La Kiki, La Perla, Devon LaRussa, Bianca Rodriguez, Katiana Vilà, Yaelisa
MUSICIANS: Felix de Lola (vocals), Jason McGuire (guitar)

En medio de la Calle Nueva
ay Manuel de Angustias cantaba
ay la cantiñas de Pinini aquel gitano de utrera
la Simoncita la Simoncita la Simoncita ya se casa

Caminos Flamencos presented Cantiñas del Pinini/Romeras, a vibrant performance of flamenco's centuries-old alliance of dance and music. The choreography is joyous and strong in its speed and phrasing, and it transports us to a Spanish seaport town. Europe's oldest city, Cádiz, is a city of fishermen, beaches, life on the water, romantic and beautiful nature; and its light-hearted cantiñas/romeras offers a celebration of love, life, and the beauty of la mar, the ocean—as well as a tribute to the strong feminine beauty of flamencas.

The lyrics tell us: In the middle of the new street / Manuel de Angustias was singing / cantiñas by gitano singer El Pinini from Utrera / about Simocita who is already married; And what they are really saying is: It's a wonderful day! There's joyful music in the streets! The lyrics refer to flamenco singer Manuel de Angustias, a well-known recording artist; and El Pinini—Fernando Peña Soto—a gitano slaughterhouse worker born in 1863, head of one of the biggest, most important flamenco families, an artist mythologized for his astonishing voice and styles of alegrías and cantiñas.

The cantiñas and romeras styles are part of the family of alegrias, musical forms that hail from Cadiz. They are sung in major mode, with upbeat lively lyrics and a 12-count beat like this: 1 2 [3] 4 5 [6] 7 [8] 9 [10] 11 [12]. Related to the Alegrías de Cádiz, the dance follows a structure: salida, the entrance; paseo, the walkaround; a slow-paced silencio; the castellana, an upbeat section; and it finishes with zapateado footwork, and tapped rhythmic phrases called bulerias.

Yaelisa is the choreographer, and she also danced in the ensemble. Flamenco is a musical art form, presented solely by guitarist and/or singer, or in performances where dancer, singer, and guitarist are communicating and unified. Virtuoso guitarist Jason McGuire “El Rubio,” and cantaor from Spain Felix de Lola create and lead the rhythm and flavor of Cantiñas del Pinini/Romeras, showing their considerable skills. Here, the three branches of flamenco compose, construct, and interpret with equal voice.


TITLE: Caminando a Zaafra
SOLOISTS: Fanny Ara, Melissa Cruz, Marina Elana
Damien Alvarez, Paloma Aspe, Alexis Davis, Kymm Haggar, Laura Hanks, Kelly Kovanis, Devon LaRussa, Larraine Leitz, Leslie MacArthur, Ruby Moyoli, Veronica Rodriguez, Holly Shaw, Lauren Smiley, Patricia Wilson
  Jason McGuire “El Rubio” (cajón), Kina Mendez (vocals)

Caminando a Zaafra—Walking to Zaafra, begins with a contemporary flamenco number, choreographed for the stage. Then the dancers begin to sing in unison, as they walk down a Spanish road—

Camino la feria Zaafra
caminanan dos Extremeñas
van vendiendo sus canastas

Traveling to the Zaafra fair
are walking two women from Extremeña
to sell their baskets

—and they sing themselves into the past, into the small town of Zaafra, where the feeling is decidedly different. In friendship and close community, the dancers transition to the traditional flamenco form. Graceful dance, zapateado footwork, clapping of palmas, and cante song are all improvised on the spot. The result is an intimate conversation between melody and movement, dancer, singer, musician, and audience. The spontaneity and passion of this performance speaks to flamenco’s origins. The dance developed as a form of soulful protest among Spain’s fifteenth century marginalized communities of Romani, Sephardic, Byzantine, Spanish, and Moors.

Caminando a Zaafra is performed in the style of jaleo extremeños from Extremadura in western Spain. Poor and sparsely populated, Extremadura is known for its flamenco and tango and for a relatively large population of Roma people. Jaleos Extremeños is an archaic song style that is not usually danced. Its songs have resurfaced among the region’s Romani singers, and have been popularized by Porrina de Badajoz, Ramon Porrina “El Portugese”, and Guadiana. The songs are party songs usually accompanied by palm-clapping and cries of encouragement and admiration— with lyrics about love, working, traveling, and being together in family. The style is related to the palo bulería, with a monotone cadence and a relaxed 12-beat scheme with 6-beat and 3-beat sections. In this piece, the dancers sing together, unusual in flamenco performance.

Yaelisa choreographed the piece, with soloists creating their parts. Jason McGuire “El Rubio,” accompanies on cajón, a traditional box instrument. Special guest singer Kina Mendez is from the Mendez dynasty of flamencos in Jerez, Spain: she carries a long tradition.


TITLE: Contratiempo…A La Luz De La Luna
Artistic Directors: Jason “El Rubio” McGuire, Yaelisa
Choreographer/Dancer: Yaelisa
Melissa Cruz (palmas), Jason “El Rubio” McGuire (guitar) 

The evocative rondeña is danced in a libre (free) style with a rhythmical structure, and its lyrical interpretation suggests a feeling of melancholy and brooding. The style was first created by guitarist and composer Ramón Montoya in the 1930s from a spiritual inspiration: he was moved by the pealing of church bells in Ronda, and wanted to mimic the mystical sound.  

An eloquent trio of dancer, guitarist, and palmista performs a rondeña in the style of Ramón Montoya, set to music by Jason “El Rubio” McGuire. Yaelisa's original choreography features percussive footwork and a poetic story of inspiration. The performance begins with a lyrical duet between dancer and guitarist; then the performance quickens, and percussive palmas lead to a dynamic rhythmic conclusion. 


TITLE OF PIECE: Sol y Viento
Fanny Ara, Melissa Cruz, Lea Kobeli, Sara Moncada, Marina Elena Scannell, Holly Shaw
Jason McGuire
"Sol Viento"
J. Blanco, J. Gilham, G. Lanzas, J. McGuire

Andalucia in particular is experiencing a renaissance. This in part is due to the booming business that flamenco has become. Foreign students flock to flamenco studios and international festivals, vendors of flamenco music, costumes and shoes sell their wares the world over. New forms of flamenco are emerging with the Spanish youth wishing to extend the boundaries of flamenco and mixing it with jazz, Latin and African music. The latest form to hit the music industry is chambao, which combines relaxed flamenco with electronic "chill out" music, exploring the passionate qualities of ambient sound.

Yaelisa's Sol y Viento draws on traditional flamenco movement vocabulary but transforms it by placing it in a modern choreographic setting and by using chambao music. The piece explores the sensuality and playfulness of women, while connecting to the qualities of chambao music — smooth fluidity and images of nature, the sun and the wind.

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