Cumbre Flamenca 2016 ~ Gracias Los Angeles!

Vida Flamenca presented
CUMBRE FLAMENCA
Barnsdall Gallery Theatre,
Hollywood, CA

Saturday, February 13, 2016, 8:00 pm

Starring Direct from Spain
Domingo Ortega, Dancer/Choreographer/Artistic Director and,
Inmaculada Ortega, Dancer/Choreographer

With featured dancer: Daniela Zermeño

Along with Singer/Musicians:
Sonia Berbel, Singer/Dancer
Ramón Trujillo, Guitar
José Manuel Soto Sordera, Percussion
José Tanaka, Guitar
Joey Heredia, Percussion

Additional dancer for the 2.6.16 Grand Annex, San Pedro Show, the incredible Sarah Parra

 

LOS ANGELES: Flamenco aficionados were treated to another top-notch performance by the formidable siblings, Domingo and Inmaculada Ortega. Together, they represent an enormous talent in this art form, having studied, performed, and taught in the heartland of flamenco, Jerez de la Frontera.

As part of the Vida Flamenca Flagship Series, *Cumbre Flamenca, this show was the second iteration, honed from the San Pedro show the previous week, and Santa Barbara in 2015. The Series also included workshops conducted by the Ortegas throughout the California including Los Angeles and as far north as Santa Barbara and Portland, Oregon.

The opening Tangos featured Domingo and Inmaculada and were joined by Santa Barbara dancer, Daniela Zermeño, of the well-known Zermeño Family (and mentored/instructed over several years by Domingo). There’s no doubt that under his tutelage this fine dancer has developed immensely, as her performance indicated. She’s beautiful, talented, and sharing a stage with the Ortegas…wow. As an American, she becomes another great flamenco asset, equal to the challenge of appearing in any “Direct from Spain” production.

This Tangos built steadily, and slowly revealed a portent of things to come. Apart from the requisite virtuosity of dance, Ortega is unpredictable in his choreography. The effect being blissful surprise at movements. Sometimes, a performer of this stature, comes on stage and  brings an arsenal of footwork and tricky moves with them, and unfortunately many just keep shooting the same missile over and over. Not Domingo; each movement tells a story, the narrative nuanced with subtlety and punctuated when needed with intense emotion.

Inmaculada brought her distinctive dance style (powerful grace) to this number. (Years ago, I saw her perform at Jerez’ Sala Compañía, which was absolutely unexpected and cutting edge). Here, at this moment, it was the more traditional persona of the grand Spanish ‘mujer’ juxtaposed against Ms. Zermeño’s ingénue – two sides of woman at different times of their lives. The trio sparked great energy, playing off each other. Domingo showed incredible footwork but also, some very different leg moves and of course that wonderful way he envelopes the women with a smoldering masculinity.

Next, a solo from singer Sonia Berbel born in Madrid and now living in Marbella, a complete package of throaty Gitana cante and dance. She’s a knockout! Her dance skill is far beyond the few well-placed steps most do. In fact, it’s apparent she’s an accomplished dancer from how she moved while at the same time singing. That’s an accomplishment in itself, but the result was astounding. Berbel knows exactly how it’s done, giving the audience a 2-for-1 deal to say the least. She’s cut her teeth studying with guitar masters such as Antonio Sanchez, Fernando de la Rua, and Antón Jimenez as well as touring with the likes of José Porcel, Maria Carrasco, and Domingo Ortega, just to name a few. She also recorded a pop-rock-flamenco-fusion recording with Trasgho, staying current.

During the number, percussionist José Manuel Soto Sordera on cajón, a Jerezano musician, made his U.S. premier, bringing mad vocal skills to the mix and astonishing percussion technique. His style is raw and emotional – which played nicely against Ms. Berbel.

Mention the name of the guitarist Ramón Trujillo outside of his native Jerez and you’d be likely to get blank stares. Ironic, since he won the prestigious Young Guitarist Award (1990) at the Sevilla Bienal, as well as the annual Jerez Peña Los Cernicalos guitar competition. To describe his playing style? It’s as effortless as Fred Astaire’s dancing.

Daniela Zermeño returned in the third number, a Tientos, demonstrating that hard work and study under mentor Domingo Ortega has paid off. She will ascend, there is no doubt and it’s not a question of “if”, it’s “when”.

Next up, Inmaculada Ortega performed a ‘Zorongo’ with an incredibly elegant bata de cola. I haven’t seen another dancer’s braceo as elegant as hers, with the exception of María Pagés. Her shimmering red gown was perfection, with a train unlike any other. Some bata gowns are so long, and full to the top of ruffles, which the dancer believes will create a big effect. She didn’t need such a prop. Her bata was exquisite in proportion and the color stunning, all supporting the intricate, sinewy, and fluid choreography.

About Inmaculada Ortega: She began her incredible dance career at the age of seven in Jerez de la Frontera. In 1988, she along with brother, Domingo Ortega were presented in the competition of flamenco dance in Cádiz, where they won 1st and 2nd place. She has performed with the likes of Chano Lobato and Antonio Canales as well as taken the stage at prestigious tablaos such as Madrid’s Corral de la Morería, Café Chinitas, Casa Patas and Sevilla’s Tablao Las Carboneras. When not performing, she conducts flamenco workshops worldwide (and at home through her series “Miraflores’).

The second act commenced with the requisite Bulerías (for how could any flamenco show not include this traditional dark and dangerous compás?) Domingo, Inmaculada, and Daniela returned to live out the classic love-triangle, he, the Bad-Boy, Daniela the sweet innocent, and Inma, the fiery betrayed woman. The tone of this cat, unlike the first number in the first act, collided the thrill of forbidden love with the vengeance of a woman wronged. Each dancer, superbly acting their roles with their bodies, and faces, as Domingo’s command of the stage (and his female partners) was truly inspiring.

It was then the musicians turn to shine as was each, at the top of their game. Sonia was a delight, Ramón’s guitar – again effortless, José Tanaka, second guitar, wonderful, José Manuel and Joey Heredia’s perfect percussion completed the cuadro.

The night’s much anticipated Soléa by Domingo Ortega was the focal point of the show and a favorite number.

His arms are more like eagle’s wings, making any move seem metaphysical. With unique body proportions, a low center of gravity, broad shoulders, and amazing footwork. No other male dancer fills the stage with a presence such as his. The legwork is exciting and spellbinding, yet surpassed by precise, rapid footwork choreographed to transform virtually any number into something superb! In fact, his choreography (employing elements of ballet, modern and even Irish céilí) welcomes physical challenges to reward the viewer with unforgettable moves. Moves that are new, fresh, and powerful.

His choice of conservative attire also helps to keep the focus on the dancer and his moves, which is most appreciated. The only “flash” about this performer is the way he pushes his long mane back from his face while dancing.

About Domingo: He was born in 1969 in Jerez de la Frontera, he began dancing at the age of eight, studying under Cristobal Fernandez, Paco Del Rio, and Manolo Marín. He has danced in the companies of Carmen Cortez and Manuel Soler, collaborated with Antonio Vargas, el Guito, and in 1998, Christina Hoyos presented him at the el Teatro Central de Sevilla. When not performing, he is one of the most sought-after teachers worldwide.

The finale incorporated the entire Compañía in an energetic Bulerías giving each member a moment to say farewell to the adoring audience. By the end, that audience was on its feet with deafening applause. After the curtain call, the Compañía returned with a fin de fiesta. After that, another standing ovation. The production of Cumbre Flamenca had come to its close, the night ended too soon, but the memory will last forever.

!OLÉ Vida Flamenca!

Mari Katsigianis is Editor/Webmaster of www.flamencobuzz.com and resides in Boston.
* The Cumbre Flamenca Flagship Series is dedicated to creating new teaching, shows, and mentorship experience for Youth &
Adults in the Flamenco Community.

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