Culture Vulture, July 17

- July 17, 2011

Flamenco on a Sunday afternoon & cultural bytes

Flamenco on a Sunday afternoon

The other day I talked about visiting Maria Benitez at the former Larragoite Elementary School home of her Institute for Spanish Arts on Agua Fria. Upcoming at that time was the performance this afternoon at the Maria Benitez Cabaret at the Lodge of her Flamenco’s Next generation group with special guest artists Antonio Granjero and Estefania Ramirez.  What I saw and heard today was not just these wonderful artists but also several guest artists: dancer Domino Martinez, guitarist Ricardo Anglada and singer Vicente Griego. The soul and real basis of flamenco is the “deep song” and as expressed by Vicente Griego it was a deep experience in and of itself. But, as “accompaniment” to Antonio and Stefanie, it was incomparable. Not since my years with Maria’s company and singer Jesus Montoya in the 90s or Luis Vargas, the first singer I heard with the company in the 70s, have I experienced the true depth of flamenco’s Cante Jondo. Also a great delight was hearing young Alejandro Valle on cajon – the son of Chuscales, legendary guitarist from Maria’s company.

I was very pleased that Maria has continued her quest of teaching young people and presenting to audiences traditional classical Spanish dance as well as flamenco. To see a traditional jota and a farruca danced to Manuel de Falla’s Miller's Dance from the Diaghilev/Picasso ballet Three Cornered Haton in the same program with traditional flamenco is both a thrill and an honor. That Maria keeps these exciting traditions alive is to be witness to the larger legacy of her life’s work. Whether it is the strong performance of a very young guitarist like Institute student Nick Cordova or the brilliant castanet work by the ensemble members of Flamenco’s Next generation, it is pleasing to know this heritage is in such artful, loving hands. Don’t miss any chance you have to see this wonderful expression of the Spanish arts, a la Maria Benitez.

Cultural bytes

Only in Los Angeles could an art writer turn the fear of LA’s “Carmageddon”  (the shutting down of the 405 for 52 hours this weekend for repairs) into a discussion of cinematic art. In the LA Times, arts writer Scott Sandell compares various uses of the traffic jam device in film. The best is his inclusion of the famous eight-minute tracking shot in Jean-Luc Godard's 1967 film Week End, in which a couple navigate a French highway jam that serves as a commentary on the human condition. This is a must see – for the first time or as a re-run in your mind.