FOREVER FLAMENCO: Dance Review
This summer the Fountain Theatre has been presenting – as it has annually done since 2003 – Forever Flamenco on its Outdoor Stage. In July, August and ending Sept. 24-26, the three-night weekend events have offered lucky Angelenos a rare taste of this unique Andalusian art form. The dance, music and singing are derived from its 18th century “originators, the gypsies… [who] sang songs of oppression, lament, and bitter romance, a kind of blues that by the 19th century began to catch on among all the other downtrodden inhabitants of Andalucia,” according to Cadogan Guides’ Southern Spain, Andalucia & Gibraltar by Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls. (NOTE: The term “gypsy” is now regarded as pejorative and the word “Roma” is considered to be culturally sensitive.)
The guidebook authors add that “the half-tonal notes and lyrics of futility of the cante jondo, or deep song, the purest flamenco seem to go straight back to the Arab troubadours [not to be confused with those other Troubies currently rocking that other open-air theater at Malibu in Lizastrata at the Getty Villa href="https://hollywoodprogressive.com/lizastrata/" target="_blank"] of al-Andalus.”
This distinctive mélange of the Andalusian and Arab was on full display August 28 when I caught the second of Forever Flamenco’s Fountain performances, presided over by artistic director Reyes Barrios. A trio of dancers trod under the stars on the boards of the Fountain’s new open air, socially distanced 99-seater. Sometimes Lakshmi Basile, Timo Nuñez and Reyes Barrios performed together as couples or a threesome, other times their rhythmic foot-stomping was executed, shall we say, “’O sole-o mio,” giving each dancer his/her place in the sun (or, more properly, the moon, as it was a nocturnal show). The elegant hoofers wore different costumes that alternated between the colorful and traditional high-waisted black pants black vests and white long-sleeved shirts.
In addition to their own melodic, mesmerizing finger snapping (I don’t, alas, recall any castanets), the dancers were generally accompanied by guitarists John Moore and Kambiz Pakan and singer Antonio de Jerez, whose plaintive wails harkened back to ancient Iberia, origin point for this enthralling mode of expression. In point of fact, the award-winning Lakshmi Basile – nicknamed “La Chimi” – actually hails not from Southern Spain, but from Southern California. However, according to her bio, the beautiful San Diego-raised Ms. Basile did actually study the art of Flamenco in its homeland (Flamenco Dancers | San Diego | Lakshmi Basile | (619) 560-1969).
Appearing onstage to be long, lean and leggy, “La Chimi” (a way of pronouncing “Lakshmi) cuts quite an impressive figure, dancing as if she is nearing ecstasy, glowing in a patina of sweat, transported to a transcendental realm of exultant sensuality expressed by pure movement and music.
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The svelte beauty meets her impassioned match in Timo Nuñez, who has worked with Jennifer Lopez and Debbie Allen, according to his bio (TIMO NUNEZ | MSA AGENCY). Tall, with a commanding presence, Mr. Nuñez seemed like a cross between a toreador and a whirling dervish. Sometimes the dancers’ hands were in the air, other times, behind their backs, while their well-heeled feet were always a blur, like blazing comets.
Sparks seemed to fly, electrifying the audience, during this sizzling two-act show of traditional and presumably improvisational choreography, with occasional bravura guitar solos. To be honest, this reviewer knows little about dance and less about Flamenco – but he does know what he likes. And I loved this show!
During the last weekend of September, L.A. theatergoers have one last opportunity to experience Forever Flamenco at the Fountain. The final three sole-stirring shows are being helmed by artistic directors Fanny Ara (Sept. 24); Alexandra Rozo (Sept. 25); and Antonio Triana (Sept. 26), with specific line-ups to be announced. Forever Flamenco is produced by the Fountain’s James Bennett. Warning: This Flamenco is highly flammable. Olé L.A.!
The Sept. 24-26 performances of Forever Flamenco start at 8:00 p.m. at: The Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles CA 90029 (Fountain at Normandie). For info: (323)663-1525 or www.fountaintheatre.com.