On Sunday, June 26th, the outer area of the Eli and Edythe Broad Stage (now known as BroadStage) in Santa Monica, CA, was filled with smiles, fun, food, and a society of flamenco enthusiasts. Those who purchased VIP tickets enjoyed a menu of Spanish traditional feasts which included tortilla Española, gazpacho, cheeses, and jamón serrano. Savory Roads Catering provided the food and boasted two huge Garcima pans of delicious Paella. There was wine, sangria and other drinks with a buzzing atmosphere as the community poured into their seats and filled the theatre. As the curtain opened, the background on stage was bare and only color lit, however the audience didn’t need an extravagant back drop to be provided a transport into flashes of flamenco fantasy. The spirits of historical mystic gypsies were sensed in the place, while the 11th Cumbre Flamenca Festival proved to be a fun filled night of enchanted timing.

11th Cumbre Flamenca Festival - Photo by Sari Makki courtesy of Vida Flamenca

11th Cumbre Flamenca Festival – Photo by Sari Makki courtesy of Vida Flamenca

The Stage opened to the youth who study flamenco at the Zermeño Dance Academy in Santa Barbara. They had a choreographed section by the schools Artistic Director Daniela Zermeño Sanchez. The choreography incorporated hats, skirts with fringe which gave a lovely pupil portrait of wrist movements, body twists, hip movements, chairs, stomping and the iconic low bun. These beautiful young ladies were Zara Long, Tara Mata, Analyse Melgoza, Sarah Naretto, Mia Talaugon, Georgey Taupim, Paloma Vale Zuela, Montana Wilcox, Aleeeya Zaragoza, with accompanying live music and singing. After the students’ lovely section, powerhouse Sonia Olla enters embodying Spain’s historical gypsy’s from long ago, as you could easily picture this red dressed earthy gitana near a campfire, “Echando fuego.”  A special part in the show was her sequence which entailed her moving backwards on her toes, seeming to feel the musicians through her spine. Her style is unique, in that, she is very grounded. Her use of bending the knees and the lifting of her knees creates a heavier quality. Ms. Olla has an uplifted upper body and fully incorporates the use of her torso directions, all while blending in many gritty hip swirls. Her style is a bit raw, wild, and sultry, much like Spain’s migrant performers of the past.

Sonia Olla - Photo: New York Times

Sonia Olla – Photo: New York Times

In walks Antonio Molina nicknamed ‘El Choro’ (The Thief), in a black vest and pants stealing the audience’s hearts. He is correctly upright but still exudes a friendly demeanor. Mr. Molina does incorporate snaps, claps, and turns, however in a unique displayed form he spends time holding his arms to his vest. He gave the illusion of a gentlemanly suitor of a former era, yet modernistic. ‘El Choro’ Molina then did something incredible; his heel work was so super-fast that it literally created a higher pitched hum with continuous frequency of an underlaying rhythm. He showcased this technique twice exuding such emotion in his rhythmic quest. As the audience yelled out, “Bestia! (beast), Genio! (genius). He broke concentration once, stopped, and smiles toward the voices. A real and beautiful moment connecting with his spectators. His improvisation work has a great sense of timing.

Antonio Molina 'El Choro' - 11th Cumbre Flamenca Festival - Photo courtesy of Vida Flamenca

Antonio Molina ‘El Choro’ – 11th Cumbre Flamenca Festival – Photo courtesy of Vida Flamenca

There were superb instants of just all the men on stage, and in between dance sections, exceptional singers and musicians would take center stage. Cantor (singer) Jesús Corbacho Vázquez with a head full of swirling curls and a smooth voice proves passionate. Cantor Miguel Rosendo declaration is strong and raspy, and echoed through the hall. Cantor Ismael Fernández’s vocals easily hit the high notes and hugged the low ones. Guitarist Juani de la Isla had a lovely quality of providing a light melody incorporated with quick smooth sections and hand beats on his guitar. It was a pleasure to see all these live musical sections bring the theatre to life and continuously created the transcendence of the Spanish culture.

The evening felt casual, festive, and friendly, as though we were all part of an international full-sized party. The audience yelling in Spanish flamenco form. All the performers had the right interaction between each other and towards the audience. This performance was presented by Vida Flamenca a non-profit organization which enables the growth of the Spaniard society. The office of the consulate of Spain representative was in attendance, and local sponsors. Don’t hesitate, If you have a chance to go next year or see their sponsored shows in order to personally experience this fabulous event.

To learn more about Vida Flamenca and the Cumbre Flamenca Festival, please visit their website.

To see what is happening at BroadStage, please visit their website.

Written by Alice Alyse for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: Sonia Olla and Antonio Molina – 11th Cumbre Flamenca Festival – Photo courtesy of Vida Flamenca