Saturday, November 27, 2010


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Flamenco showcase presents ageless passion

PHOTO Flamenco dancers Angelita Vargas and Jairo Barrull with their quintet Friday night at Berklee. (Sebastien Zambon)

By Karen Campbell

Globe Correspondent / November 22, 2010

 At its most elemental, flamenco is an intimate, improvised conversation based on a shared tradition. The excitement is in the interchange, the sense of spontaneity unfolding in the moment. “Gitaneria,’’ which opened the World Music/CRASHarts Fall Flamenco Festival 2010: Gypsy Roots of Flamenco, celebrates the legacy of the “gypsy essence’’ passed down through the generations. It highlights two very different flamenco dance styles, contrasting male vs. female, explosive vs. lyrical, young vs. veteran. The connecting thread is the lively quintet of two guitarists and three singers. Responsive to the dancers’ imaginative episodic turns, playing off the rhythmic energy and mood, the musicians also provide accomplished interludes with an engaging groove. Guitarists Eugenio and Paco Iglesias imbue their tunes with jazzy percussive flair and a swinging, contemporary edge.

Gypsy Roots of Flamenco

Jairo Barrull is the show’s take-no-prisoners young firebrand. He prowls the stage, periodically invoking the spirits with raised arms, then explodes into brief staccato outbursts, light reflecting on his shiny black shoes with every flurry of blistering triplets and high, angled kicks. He jumps and squats, his knees and ankles swiveling side to side with machine-like speed and precision, as if on ball bearings. Occasionally he throws his jacket partly off his right shoulder, a macho fighter threatening to engage.

Angelita Vargas, a star of Broadway’s “Flamenco Puro’’ in the 1980s, is a stocky, sensuous earth mother of a dancer. At 61, she’s more soulfully dramatic than flamboyant, and she dances more introspectively, as if channeling the muse and conveying a story with each tilt of the head and cast of the eyes. Loose hips roll atop solid footwork. Hands both beckon and banish with curling expressive fingers. At her most urgent, she hikes up her skirts, unleashing a furious volley of stomps, the singers gathering around to feed the flame with their palmas (hand-clapping) and throaty keening.

But Vargas also knows how to have fun. By the end of the “Solea,’’ she saucily plays for a moment to the audience and musicians, then sashays offstage with a flourish of red polka dot ruffles.

Karen Campbell can be reached at


Casimire said...

Hi Morgan, I always wondered if Roma had anything to do with origins of Tango, dance and music?

Bryce Phillips Horvath said...

I have always loved Mariachi music. I lived on an army post in San Antonio Texas for much of my childhood and saw Mariachi musicians performing on the streets, and dreamed of being one myself someday. Maybe part of the reason I love Mariachi so much is the influence of Roma music on Mariachi, first of all from Flamenco but also from the accordions and trumpet band music of Germany Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia brought by immigrants from these places to Mexico, which has a heavy Romany influence.

Morgan said...

It's so interesting, Bryce, we have been effectively removed from the histories of the many countries in which we have lived for centuries, and yet our influence in music is everywhere.

We've had symbiotic relationships with musicians all over the world and it is obvious from Klezmer to Flamenco, from Lizt to Django's jazz.

Casimire said...

Yes how true, much of Classical Music was influenced by Roma playing music in the streets Many a composer would hear a good riff on the street and apply it to his music.
Asked a friend about Tango, he told me it was like early Jazz. Only gigs Gypsies could get were playing music in Bordellos. So not much written records of origins of Tango. But I can hear it!!!