Dance

South Florida Symphony Joins Siudy Flamenco To Cast Spell Of Spanish Gypsy Story

Written By Guillermo Perez
June 11, 2024 at 11:37 AM

Siudy Garrido and Argentina Lopez in “Amor Brujo,” a concert-dance piece featuring the Siudy Garrido Flamenco Company and South Florida Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, Jan. 15 at the Adrienne Arsht Center, Miami. (Photo courtesy of Omar Cruz)

Sorcery of all sorts captures our imaginations. There’s witchcraft, with its errant rites for reward and retribution; love— at times seeming just as supernatural—casting its own spells; and art, relying on the wiles of truth and beauty to enchant the senses and possess the mind. Pick your potion or imbibe all, which are contained in “Amor Brujo.” This concert-dance piece embraces a classic of haunted passions among Spanish gypsies that Siudy Garrido Flamenco Company (SGFC) and South Florida Symphony Orchestra (SFSO) are restaging at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, June 15.

An exorcism’s fiery dance. Siudy Garrido in “Amor Brujo.” (Photo courtesy of Eugene Yankevich)

The collaboration presents Manuel de Falla’s early 20th-century composition similarly titled “El amor brujo” (known as “Love, the Magician,” though variously translated), expanding the musical offering and embodying it in movement shaped both by Iberian tradition and a contemporary sensibility. It brings, among other recognizable and some revelatory passages, the famous “Danza ritual del fuego,” the Spanish composer’s ritual fire dance flaring up in Garrido’s flamenco.

With Garrido in the lead and as choreographer, co-designer, and director, the show carries a notable performance history. It was commissioned, in somewhat different form, at the bequest of renowned Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel, the headliner’s countryman, who led its premiere with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2015.

“The toast afterwards was a beautifully shared moment since previous to this project Gustavo and I didn’t have a personal relationship—though we both had long dreamed of working together,” Garrido says in Spanish.

Sold-out houses and touring followed, culminating in a 2018 debut at the Arsht—where Garrido is a well-established arts partner (her “Bailaora” had them sharing a 2022 Latin Grammy nomination for best long-form music video) —with SFSO’s founding director Sebrina Alfonso at the baton. Paolo Bortolameolli conducted an L.A. Philharmonic revival a year later at the Hollywood Bowl.

Maestra Sebrina Alfonso keeps an eye on the dance and her baton on the beat. (Photo courtesy of South Florida Symphony Orchestra)

By now, Garrido’s intimacy with these complex productions lets her meet their demands with aplomb, but in the beginning the task could prove daunting.  “I’m grateful Gustavo trusted me since I’d never mounted a work based on another artist’s creation before—a responsibility I approached with a lot of respect,” she emphasizes. It turned into a high point for her company, founded in Caracas in 2000 and relocating fifteen years later to Miami, where their swanky shows have become audience favorites.

“It’s been a great adventure to come into Falla’s world and not lose my identity, finding my way into a story of gypsy life,” says Garrido.

Colored by Andalusian folklore, the worldly and the otherworldly intertwine throughout the narrative—in flesh and spirit—fomenting ardor and affliction. Here the widow Candela long endures fevered dance-driven visitations from the ghost of her unfaithful husband—murdered by a man he cuckolded.  But she yearns to exorcise him having found new love in the dashing Carmelo.  That devilish triangle is squared off by Lucía, the lover who sparked the ghost’s last-lived infidelity—and who might be a means to Candela’s emancipation.

Singing with earthy and haunted passion is Argentina Lopez in “Amor Brujo.” (Photo courtesy of Jorge Lozada)

Originally conceived as a chamber piece in 1915, with dancers, actors, and a female flamenco singer, Falla’s score went through different versions, moving to full orchestra and a mezzo-soprano voice by the time of its 1927 American premiere in Philadelphia. Piano suites have helped popularize movements from the score, including that turbulent fire dance which in the tale turns up the heat for the exorcism.

Alfonso comments, “In my career I started out with Falla’s music by presenting a couple of dances from ‘El amor brujo.’  Originally written for chamber ensemble, those pieces were easier for me to put together. But I became more deeply involved with the whole score when Siudy wanted us to do this project.”

The excitement of working with a flamenco dancer-choreographer broadened her appreciation of Falla’s aim to bring Spain’s national sounds into the classical world. She points out, “His honing into folk melodies produces interesting orchestral effects—as in the back-and-forth bowing of the violins and violas and pizzicato which imitates the strumming of guitars.”

Siudy Flamenco Dance Company rehearses “Amor Brujo.” (Photo courtesy of Migdalia Salazar)

Undoubtedly, Alfonso’s previous experience branching into other art forms beyond straight-out conducting of classical masterworks, eased her into the job of accommodating the nuances and exclamations of dancing. SFSO has mounted movie and pop band tributes, and in 2009 marked its 20th-anniversary playing for Martha Graham Dance Company.

But this was uncharted territory as no exclusive choreography comes with Falla’s music, though “El amor brujo” has had various interpretations, prominently in a same-titled 1986 Carlos Saura film with flamenco giants Cristina Hoyos (Candela) and Antonio Gades (Carmelo) doing dance honors to the choreographic wizardry of María Pagés.

Having found rich open ground for her own concepts, Garrido says, “How was I as a contemporary artist going to delve into this? Doing research, I saw very few artists had staged it completely as a dramatic work.  So that was a bigger challenge. I realized the importance of bringing in the rich colors of flamenco, given the immense love the composer had for this kind of music. Fortunately, that’s something my company has mastery over, and the result is full of marvels.”

George Akram and Siudy Garrido in “Amor Brujo.” (Photo courtesy of Omar Cruz)

Garrido underscores the interplay of legacy material and up-to-date invention in this. The operatic voice goes back to a flamenco cantaora, namely Argentina López, a rousing recording and festival phenom, who gusts through representing Candela’s soul. Yet Falla’s score finds complement in an orchestral prologue with original compositions by José Luis de la Paz, a highly-regarded guitarist in South Florida and beyond. “He’s composed for almost all my works,” the choreographer says.

While filling in back story and introducing the characters, the opening section also strengthens the defining flamenco flavor of Garrido’s creation. And as the artist takes possession of Candela’s character, her steps are set to draw a portrait more reliant on the inner strength of a woman than on the crutch of sorcery.

“I started off with a seguiriya, a very deep flamenco palo [a rhythmic modality] that lets us portray a procession during a funeral wake,” explains Garrido. “Here the widow is watching over her dead husband and does an energetic solo of frenzied footwork. This can carry a lot of pain and proves perfect for this dramatic setting.”

South Florida Symphony Orchestra’s Sebrina Alfonso comments, “In my career I started out with (Manuel de) Falla’s music,” preparing her for the upcoming concert-dance with Siudy Flamenco Company. (Photo courtesy of Steven T. Shires/South Florida Symphony Orchestra)

Keen on their roles as impassioned opposites pulling on Candela, two high-achievers from separate yet here allied artistic worlds add their own power. José Manuel Alvarez, a bailaor whose hard-hitting, heart-heating footwork have won him recognition, will breathe masculine vim into Carmelo. And Broadway standout George Akram —his Sharks-leader Bernardo in the 2009 revival of  “West Side Story” lauded all-around—takes impudence and dark desires for a spin as the ghost. SGFC’s five-women troupe puts accents, grave and acute, on the action.

Garrido’s husband Pablo Croce—who directed the 2020 documentary “Siudy Between Worlds,” about the challenges of bringing her troupe to a New York stage—took charge of lighting and shared scene design with his wife.  But for this flamenco multitasker the pleasure of her family support doesn’t end there.  As the daughter of an admired teacher and dancer, she’s happy to report her mother, along with the parents of many of her collaborators who are also second-generation artists, will be in the audience cheering the cast on.

“I’m so full of gratitude,” she confesses, “for all the wonderful people, on and off stage, who’ve helped me bring this show to fruition.”

WHAT:  Siudy Garrido Flamenco Company and South Florida Symphony Orchestra in “Amor Brujo”

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, June 15

WHERE: Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami

COST: $50, $75, $95, $115, $135, $150, $170

INFORMATION: 305-949-6722 or www.arshtcenter.org

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music and more. Don’t miss a story at www.artburstmiami.com

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