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Summer Series: Musical Adventures with Dúo Flamenco and Elena Villa

Prepare to be swept away by the passion and catchy rhythms of Dúo Flamenco, as they breathe life to the stage with a traditional folkloric Southern Spanish music and dance. They have been inspiring audiences since 2007 and they’re coming to the Hult Center on August 3rd for the summer series. The Hult Center is proud to present the Summer Series, a free concert series on the Plaza between the Hult Center and the Graduate. Concerts take place Thursdays at 5:30 PM.

In June, Dúo Flamenco (Grant Ruiz and Terry Longshore) and dancer Elena Villa had a number of wonderful Flamenco-filled adventures and chronicled them in their tour diary. Join them and embark on their musical journey. The following was provided to the Hult Center by Dúo Flamenco. The adventure begins with Grant Ruiz’s recount of the group’s Pacific Northwest tour.

Entry 1: Meeting old friends

On June 2, the day Elena arrived in Ashland from Portland, the trio hit the ground running, rehearsing the pieces they were to perform the following week. We hadn’t performed as a trio in several years, and the rehearsals were full of fun, friendship, hard work, and co-creation.

Entry 2: An amazing time on stage

The next day, June 3, we performed at the Schneider Museum of Art on the Southern Oregon University (SOU) campus. The event was to present the 2023 Oregon Arts Medallion to two distinguished honorees of the community, Richard L. Hay and Judy Hanson Howard.

Our trio took the stage, joined by Mónica Morales, a native of Andalucia in the south of Spain, who now resides in Medford. Elena and Mónica danced the festive Sevillanas (a lively dance from Sevilla), and with Grant and Terry’s accompaniment, we brought the house down.

“I cannot begin to thank you and your ensemble for the amazing performance Dúo Flamenco did Saturday evening at the Museum.  Besides being such an exciting performance, the ensemble had such a huge impact on the evening and honoring our Oregon Arts Medallion honoree.  Elena and Mónica were stunning dancers and you and Terry were fantastic musicians. The timing was perfect and the entire performance filled the room with celebration and flair. Please convey to all members of Dúo Flamenco my sincere appreciation and gratitude for the beautiful performance.” – Dr. David Humphrey, Director of the Oregon Center for the Arts

Entry 3: Success after another, continuing to have amazing performances

We didn’t let the grass grow under our feet! The next day, June 4, the trio rehearsed again and then performed for the Ashland Rotary Club at their Talent and Taste of Spain fundraising event. We presented a show of traditional Flamenco, other Spanish music, and Latin tunes on the beautiful outdoor stage of Grizzly Peak Winery in the Cascade hills above Ashland. We received this praise from Lynn Thompson, who is a Board member of the Ashland Rotary:

“You guys did such a nice job on Sunday. You really contributed to the event in many ways: ambience, artistry, cultural flavor.  I’m really glad that Susan [Hearn, fellow Board member] arranged for you and your group to participate in our fundraiser.”

Entry 4: Taking time to teach

The week after that, Elena stayed in Ashland and taught remotely as part of her teaching responsibilities at Portland Community College. Grant continued with his weekly private students and solo gigs during the week. Terry continued with his responsibilities as the Director of Percussion Studies at SOU. We got together toward the end of the week to rehearse for our biggest event, the outdoor Green Show at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival on Saturday, June 10.

And what a show it was! The evening was warm and beautiful. Between the theatergoers waiting for the evening shows to start and the locals who attend the Green Show for its vast variety, there were hundreds of people in the audience. We were once again joined by Mónica Morales for the Sevillanas as well as a lively rumba. The rest of the program was a mix of instrumentals and dancing by Elena, showcasing traditional Flamenco forms full of fire, grace, and passion. As Ben Cobb, the coordinator of the Green Show said, “The audience ate you up!”

Entry 5: The show goes on

After the show, we headed out for drinks and dinner at a local restaurant and recounted highlights of our time together. We also celebrated Elena’s birthday, which was the next day, June 11! (A couple of weeks later, she would travel to Spain to visit the cradle of Flamenco and to continue her dance studies with masters in Granada.) Elena had to drive back to Portland on her birthday, so we couldn’t celebrate the actual day with her, but we were filled with gratitude at the opportunity to create and perform together for over a week.

The story continues with Elena now sharing experiences on her musical journey in Spain!

Entry 6: New adventures abroad

On June 21, 2023, I flew from Portland, OR to Málaga on the southern Mediterranean coast of Spain to embark on a three-week cultural immersion journey in the art of flamenco and the history and culture of Andalucía. I have not been back to this region since 2004 so it was an important trip to reacquaint myself with the culture and reconnect with what it feels like to study and experience flamenco in its place of origin. After a couple days in Málaga, where I visited the Picasso Museum and the beautiful botanical gardens, I took the train to Granada to meet up with a study group organized by my friends Laura Onizuka and Julie Pacheco-Toye. I decided to join their group because they prearranged all the classes, as well as visits to flamenco tablaos (clubs), concerts in larger venues, and community peñas flamencas. They had arranged really nice apartments for our group in the Albaicín, a UNESCO World Heritage site of white buildings and steep, twisting streets that dates back to the Nasrid period of medieval Spain when Al-Andalus (Andalusia)  was co-inhabited by Muslims, Jews, and Christians.

We began our classes with the amazing Ivan Vargas in his family’s cueva (cave) in the Sacromonte located in the hills above Granada. El Sacromonte is the historic Gitano (Gypsy) neighborhood. Also located in the Sacromonte is the wonderful concert hall, La Chumbera, where I got to see the popular flamenco singer Antonio Reyes of Cádiz and Jorge Pardo, the flamenco flute player who is known for his collaborations with flamenco icons Camarón de la Isla amd Paco de Lucía. I also thoroughly enjoyed attending two concerts at the Teatro Generalife in the Alhambra and Generalife complex.

After touring the Alhambra and Generalife with our multilingual guide, who translated the Arabic inscriptions on the palace walls for us, it was memorable to return at night for these wonderful theater experiences to see the Ballet Nacional de España, featuring guest flamenco star Patricia Guerrero, and Companía Antonio Najarro (former director of the Ballet Nacional de España).

Entry 7: A change of pace

After our initial workshops in the Sacromonte with Ivan Vargas, we changed venues to the well-known flamenco and Spanish language school, Carmen de las Cuevas, located between the Albaicín. We studied flamenco dance and compás (rhythms) for four hours a day for five days, enjoying the locals tablaos and tapas bars every evening, and mostly running on adrenaline and caffeine until our dance intensive was over! It was so fun to study in the old caves, and not surprisingly, much cooler than the hot summer temperatures outdoors.

Entry 8: Valuable and unforgettable experiences

After parting ways with the group, I continued on to one of my favorite cities just northwest of Granada, Córdoba. Here, I visited La Mezquita, the Puente Romano, the medieval Sinagoga, and several other museums, including the Centro Flamenco Fosforito, a flamenco educational center in the heart of old Córdoba that also hosts workshops and shows. Fosforito is a very famous flamenco singer from Córoba. I was also fortunate to attend the annual Festival of Sephardic Music as well as a beautiful flamenco tablao in a historic building right around the corner from where I was staying in the old Jewish quarter.

From Córdoba, I returned to Granada for more flamenco shows and historical research into the Muslim past of Granada. I ended my stay back in Málaga with some much needed beach time, more museums, and a final tablao in the old port neighborhood, la Malagueta. Overall, this trip left me with so many impressions and so much inspiration that it will be many months before I can process it all. I’m currently enjoying the flamenco and Arab Andalusí music CDs I bought at a great record store in downtown Granada and making plans to review all the choreography I learned during my dance intensive.

After some well deserved rest, Duo Flamenco is now well rested and ready to bring the fire to the Hult Center on August 3. ¡Olé!

 


Our FREE Summer Series concerts takes place outside in the Hult Plaza near the 7th Street entrance. Come on down!

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