Review: ‘Revolution/Evolution’ When Flamenco Rocks and Rolls
On Saturday, Sept. 28, Art Works for Us reunited both Aire Dance Company and the Gypsy Cat Band for a new presentation of flamenco and music fusion. Last year their directors, Ana Miranda and Carl Ferrari, joined creative forces at the Miami-Dade Auditorium On Stage venue to present Soule — a lush and sensual night of flamenco, jazz, and rhythm and blues. For this most recent performance, staged at the 7th Circuit Studios north of Midtown, they carved another boundary breaking metamorphosis by pairing flamenco and rock. Whereas last year’s performance had a cast of about 15 artists with a longer program and traditionally set choreographic pieces, “Revolution/Evolution,” which ran about an hour and a half, felt more like an intimate jam session between friends than a scripted concert. The smaller cast allowed for repeat performances and a sense of familiarity and continuity while the venue with rock concert light effects, a small raised stage, and a bar which remained open throughout the show made the evening more like a night out at your local watering hole to hear great live music. But the show existed also on a profound level as the mixed media event with video, spoken word, dance, and music made it clear these were dedicated artists with distinctive voices. In addition to Miranda and Ferrari, the presentation brought together singer Jaime Moreno whose tonal palette ranges from gospel to Middle Eastern to canto flamenco; and dancer/choreographer/performer Pioneer Winter, whose contemporary and tap sensibility morphed with Miranda’s taconeo. Other featured artists were Joanna Ursal, exploring flamenco’s Asian influence from India; and poet/writer/performer Marie Whitman, whose work Consumer last April at Sobers and Godley’s Dance Soirée was recognized for her engaging marriage of words and movement. The other three artists were Gypsy Cat Band’s drummer Andres Felipe Roa and bassist Richard Henry Ripe — who both also sung arrangements of songs by Neil Young, Black Sabbath and Tom Waits — and eclectic saxophonist Ronald Rodriguez. At the heart of this program, and a continued theme from last year, is Miranda’s ongoing exploration of flamenco and the many forms it can infuse. While Winter and Roa perform a drum/dance call-and-response, a brief video montage played in the background, literally asking in English and Spanish “flamenco is?” or “is not?” leaving the answer blank for the audience to fill in while challenging them at the same time to just go with it. The theme particular to “Revolution/Evolution” lies not so subtly in its name and is defined clearly in the program as a “place where tradition and experimentation coexist” and steps out of “authoritative restrictions.” Rock is the anthem of freedom and change, the voice of rebellion and challenge. This idea was counter pointed with Carlos Ochoa’s video montage of speeches by the dictator Francisco Franco and repeated images of slicing of ham — a possible allusion to a piece later in the program titled “War Pigs.” The program note asks, “In the dance of politics and commerce, what of art is lost?” How does art survive in the face of severe dogmas like nationalism or religion? Possibly it fights as expressed symbolically in Roa’s drum solo titled “Freedom;” or it dispels spoon-fed ideology as in Whitman’s poem “Grace Says,” which refutes religion for making god small, “confusing him for a ‘him’ or a ‘hymn’ sung only within walls where stained glass is hung…preserving heaven for only later for the devout,” when in truth the state of grace is abundant. Throughout the vignettes of dance and music, Ferrari constructed a thematically tight arrangement of covers and instrumentation creating a platform for Miranda to explore the joy and freedom to rock out. She accompanied as an instrumentalist with her castanets and danced matching footwork to drum beats and guitar strums, while dressed in contemporary garb with her hair flowing freely. Sometimes literally and figuratively, a revolution and evolution demands you let your hair down and leave your rules and preconceptions at the door.