Renowned dancers and musicians perform at flamenco festival

Photo by Mikey Maulding.
Photo by Mikey Maulding.

The VCU Flamenco Festival VII brought the culture of southern Spain to Richmond this weekend.  

The festival consisted of three performances and one “master class,” in which a flamenco expert taught attendees the art of playing the guitar. Featuring renowned international flamenco artists — including Francisco Mesa, Ana Ines King and Torcuato Zamora — about 100 people frequented each performance.

“[Flamenco is] something that people usually don’t see, and it tends to surprise people,” said Leah Kruszewski, a flamenco guitarist who helped organize the festival.

Kruszewski studied classical guitar at VCU and studied flamenco in Spain, where she now lives. In addition to organizing, she performed at the festival Friday night.

Friday’s performance featured award-winning dancers, Francisco Mesa and Ana Ines King, performing alongside the Latin Ballet of Virginia. Kruszewski played the guitar.

“(Flamenco) has quite a different energy than most kinds of music,” Kruszewski said. “It’s really powerful and often improvised.”

Saturday night featured a concert-style show, in which flamenco guitarist Ricardo Marlow immersed the audience with ornate rhythm and song. Marlow was joined onstage for two performances by his wife, flamenco dancer Sara Jerez and vocalist Hector Jose Marquez.

Attendees enjoyed Marlow’s renditions of traditional flamenco.

Halfway through his performance, he reflected on where his love for flamenco stems from.

“Flamenco is definitely a different type of music,” Marlow said. “It really resonated with me.”

The three performers ended the night with an improvised encore piece, as the audience cheered on. Marlow also taught the “master class” earlier on Saturday, showing attendees the technique behind his guitar artistry.

Composed of intricate cante (song), baile (dance) and toque (guitar), flamenco dates back to 18th century Spain. Originating in the Andalusia region of Southern Spain, flamenco is centered around passion and intensity.

Flamenco dancers wear flowy, bright-colored clothing — typically red, sometimes with big floral prints — and block heels to make taps in a rhythmic pattern while dancing.

The singing and guitar-playing are characterized by power and emotion — the cantaores (singers) completely immerse themselves in the lyrics of the song.

Sunday afternoon, the Flamenco Festival VII hosted Torcuato Zamora, a renowned Spanish guitarist who began learning the art of classical and flamenco guitar at age 5. Zamora has played for the king and queen of Spain.

Zamora performed with dancers Estela Vélez de Paredez and Daniel Paradez to a full auditorium at the W.E. Singleton Center for Performing Arts, showcasing classical Spanish flamenco. His concert-style show wrapped up VCU’s Flamenco Festival VII.

“I love that people get to see (flamenco) here in Richmond,” Kruszewski said. “Usually you have to travel to see something like that.”

Saffeya Ahmed Staff Writer 

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