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Getting into a true holiday spirit can be tough in South Florida, where palm trees, expansive beaches and balmy skies signal perpetual summer. Ever-earlier store décor and the incessant push to buy presents – more about commercialism than celebration – can make many of us feel more anxious than festive. Not to worry. Just squeeze in a trip to Miami’s Arsht Center, where City Theatre h..

One of the centerpieces of this year’s Art Week is not a static art work, and it is also one of the most sensuous and disorienting. Lebanese performance artist Tania El Khoury is producing her “Gardens Speak” for the week, courtesy of MDC Live Arts, a piece that has been applauded in cultural capitals throughout Europe and the United States. “It is a work,” she says, “that can only co..

Since its founding in 1996, City Theatre has been an important part of South Florida’s theatrical landscape, though the company’s visibility has always been highest in the month of June. That’s when its popular Summer Shorts festival takes place; for more than a decade, its high-profile venue has been the Carnival Studio Theater at Miami’s Arsht Center. Though the company founded by S..

If you were to predict who might become a nationally famous – OK, world-famous – multiplatform sex therapist, Dr. Ruth Westheimer would probably not be your first choice. Born in Germany in 1928 as Karola Ruth Siegel, the 4’7” Dr. Ruth seems more like the doting Jewish grandmother she is than a woman who used her nationally syndicated radio show, TV shows and 40-some books to help hun..

Actors’ Playhouse has been a musical powerhouse for much of its history. Launching its 30th anniversary season at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables, the company is revisiting some of that history with a new production of a made-for-South Florida favorite: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s “Evita.” As it did in 2000 when recent Tony Award winner Rachel Bay Jones starred as Eva Duart..

Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks won the Pulitzer Prize for “Topdog/Underdog” in 2002. But as Zoetic Stage’s superb new production of the play at Miami’s Arsht Center demonstrates, her funny, shocking tale of two brothers struggling to survive is as potent today as it was 15 years ago. Maybe more so, given the country’s deepening divide. Parks’ harrowing drama examines the complex relation..

We are born. We live, have families, grow old. We die, leaving those who loved us to mourn. Playwright Thornton Wilder brilliantly captured the eternal verities of our journey through life in “Our Town,” his 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning play about life, love and death in a small New Hampshire town at the turn of the 20th century. If you’re at all drawn to theater, you’ve probably ..

“Miami Motel Stories: Little Havana” written by Juan C. Sanchez, directed by Tamilla Woodard, and produced by Juggerknot Theatre Company, is a site-specific, immersive theater experience that interweaves narrative, performance, history and architecture. Nine short plays take place in nine hotel rooms on the second floor of the Tower Hotel, right off Calle Ocho on Seventh Street. Sanchez, ..

Artistic director and founder of Juggerknot Theatre Company, Tanya Bravo, had her first brush with immersive theater in New York City when she met director Tamilla Woodard. Working on the play “Broken City,” Bravo and other actors led audience members on a theatrical journey through the streets of the Lower East Side. “I was so blown away by the concept and the lines that were crossed between ..

We humans do love our rituals. When an extended family gathers for the holidays, familiar traditions promise a comforting respite from an increasingly complex, chaotic world. Still, realistically, troubles and fears refuse to be left behind. They surface like unwelcome guests. So do resentments and stinging remarks born of deep knowledge. With Thanksgiving on the horizon, you wonder: ..

Siempre Flamenco: Duende Remembered and Rediscovered


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Written by: Mia Leonin
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I first saw the flamenco dancer Celia Fonta perform with her husband, Spanish guitarist and singer, Paco, some 20 years ago at Café Miro, a small Spanish tapas bar on Espanola Way in South Beach. My friend Elizabeth Cerejido, a curator, who took a stunning series of portraits of Celia, and I were devotees of the duo. Celia, in particular, mesmerized us. Just as a flamenco song can crescendo into a lament, at its most heightened moments, Celia’s dancing evoked a sense of struggle, as if she were struggling against the dance itself. I sensed that this illusive quality reached beyond technique, beyond talent even, although Celia clearly possessed both. Originally from Chicago, she had lived in Spain for many years where she learned the language, culture, and dance.

Fonta and her company Siempre Flamenco will bring their version of flamenco in “Duende,” this weekend at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center.

Celia explained in a recent interview with Artburst the essence of duende: “Duende is a word used often in flamenco to explain that moment when one is singing, dancing or playing the guitar, and the power, magic, spirit, essence -- all the words we use to explain the unexplainable -- overtake you and you become ‘entranced,’ completely absorbed in that moment, not thinking, just letting the duende take over and flamenco magic happens. You will know when you see or hear it because you will feel goose bumps.”

Celia and Paco Fonta’s company, Siempre Flamenco, will perform the aptly titled show Duende this weekend. They are joined by Niurka Marquez and José Luis de la Paz, internationally acclaimed dancer and guitarist respectively. José Junco, a Miami resident from Madrid, will perform a farruca, a flamenco form traditionally danced by men.

De la Paz makes a case for dismantling the dichotomy of fusion – a fusion with theater, with other rhythms, with other instruments, with other voices or with other styles of music and dance -- versus “traditional” flamenco: “This concept of ‘fusion’ is more of a commercial brand than a concept,” he points out. “Flamenco has been a result of fusion with other cultures from the beginning, it's part of its nature; so, coming from Spain, I don't understand this worry about fusion. Being ‘fusionado’ is part of being flamenco.... And, at the end of the day, only a few of those encounters will be integrated into flamenco. But it's part of being flamenco, feeling the necessity of making contact with other sounds, movements or styles of arts.”

Performer Niurka Marquez defines duende as a capacity to connect: “My perception of it over time has expanded to include other understandings, like our connection to the earth under our feet and our reaction to a really beautiful musical phrase or a deeply felt song. It is always present because it is precisely about being present and to me, that is what lies at the core of my art.”

In literary and dance circles, the word duende has often been romanticized. In the end, it may be important to demystify the word because it has become associated, at times, with convoluted ideas and exoticism. As de La Paz asserts: “Duende is nothing, and it could be everything, but it's not the property of flamenco: It's part of life. Duende could be present in a gaze, or in a gesture or in a child's smile. You only have to be able to recognize it.”

Siempre Flamenco’s ‘Duende,’ Saturday, Nov.. 12 at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., and Sunday at 3:30 p.m., South Miami Dade Cultural Art Center’s Black Box Theater in a café style setting with tapas and wine available, 10950 S.W. 211 St., Cutler Bay; tickets $30 in advance, $35 day of show; www.smdcac.org ; or 786-573-5300.

 

 




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About The writer

Dance writer and theater critic, senior lecturer in English Composition, University of Miami

Mia Leonin is the author of two books of poetry, Braid and Unraveling the Bed (Anhinga Press), and the memoir, Havana and Other Missing Fathers (U..

About the Writer

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