August is one of my favorite months, but this year I couldn't wait for it to end. Why? I was waiting for the August 31st Las Flamencas show at the Rudyard Kipling. When I know something is going to be good, I lack patience.
We first had the pleasure of seeing this amazing Flamenco group back on March 17 at the Kentucky Center's Bombard Theater during their performance of "Mosaico Andalus." At that time, they were known as Flamenco Talk and Camino Flamenco, but have since combined companies and created Las Flamencas. Mariya Tarakanova and Kristen Mercker are founding mothers of the previously separate entities, and their skill and grace are testimony to their experience in the Flamenco world.
Our view for Las Flamencas' performance of "Movimiento Flamenco," provided a very unusual perspective, thanks to Lisa of the Rudyard. She sat us right in front of the stage. This allowed us to literally 'feel' the vibration from the dancer's movements. The energy on the dance floor caused the wine in our glasses to actually swirl, as if trying to dance to Brent Del Bianco's guitar.
Unlike the Bombard, The Rudyard stage is snuggled within the confines of the crowd and provided an almost natural feel. It was as if a 'very' large family had gathered at a nice villa to watch their favorite performers. All around us, people would clapped and stomped, though not as skillfully as the ladies on the stage.
The stage itself was not very large, and initially we thought the dancers might stick to duets or solo. However, the limited space did not hinder Las Flamencas. There were several astounding solos and duets, but the crowd was also wowed as groups of four and five took the stage.
Mariya Tarakanova provided an introduction to the performance and a brief history on the dance company with the occasional accompaniment of guest singer, Vincente Griego. Afterwards, the first group of dancers exploded on the stage. The Flamenco students Haydee Canovas, Karina Kempter, Holly Jett, Sarah Houston and Renee Murphy started the show with an energetic dance that set the mood for the remainder of the evening.
When Las Flamencas took the stage, the mood elevated even more. The group performances by Mariya Tarakanova, Juliana Brava, Kristen Mercker and Brenna O'Hara were fluid and soothing at moments and popping with energy the next. Their facial expressions, gestures and rhythmic dance all portrayed the passion they feel for Flamenco.
Kristen Mercker did a solo performance that definitely deserves mention. She stepped forward in a beautiful red and black ensemble and the stage came to life with her passion-filled, high-energy performance. Her charismatic stage presence kept the crowd's energy spiraling with the pace of her dance. Kristen filled the room with what one could call authentic Flamenco spirit.
Speaking of spirit, one of the most intense and passionate dances of the evening was a duet with Brenna O'Hara and Juliana Bravo. Brenna O'Hara's posture is reminiscent of her rich history in ballet and adds an eloquent element to her Flamenco performances. She maintains a natural poise while Juliana adds a traditional feel, for a very complimentary combination. Brenna and Juliana utilized shawls and the effect was magical. The vivid pink and blue shawls danced around the ladies like angelic butterfly wings as they performed. The delicate material seemed almost an extension of the dancers themselves. If you can envision Flamenco dancing fairies, that would get you close to a good visual. It was breathtaking.
The guest singer, Vincent Griego was jovial throughout the night. He greeted guests as they arrived and interacted with the crowd between performances. His voice would croon the audience and then explode with such raw power that the energy in the room seemed to tremble at the force.
Brent Del Bianco was the solo musician at "Movimiento Flamenco," but no others were necessary. Brent and his guitar seem to communicate almost telepathically. His fingers delicately graze the strings and a flurry of intricate notes and chords emanate from the instrument, complimented by the dancer's steps.
Vincente Griego announced they'd be ending the night with a festive dance of joy. Mariya, Kristen, Juliana and Brenna made their final number an outpouring of positive energy. Actually, the entire group of performers seemed to cast a piece of their own personal joy into the audience.
Mariya Tarakanova is not only one of the most talented Flamenco dancers in Louisville, but she is also a wealth of information about the art of Flamenco, and willing to share her knowledge. They welcome new students, or anyone interested in learning about traditional dance.
The Rudyard came alive on August 31 with the spirit of Flamenco during "Movimiento Flamenco" thanks to Griego, Del Bianco and Las Flamencas. Their passion for the traditional Flamenco art ignites a fire on every stage they perform on. This is one group I look forward to seeing again soon, and if you like Flamenco, you should too.
In closing, a few special thanks; Lisa at the Rudyard for the wonderful seating arrangements and the tasty Flam; Jonny Shah, the photographer who pulled image frames, edited and arranged the pictures collages from the show; Mariya, Las Flamencas, Brent Del Bianco, and Vincent Griego for sharing another passionate Flamenco performance.