After a several month hiatus, there is nothing like getting out and seeing a good show and August 14th was our lucky day. The New Vintage (formerly Uncle Pleasants) hosted a free performance by the renowned Flamenco Louisville from 9 until Midnight and this collection of talented artists brought a refreshing and powerful new energy into what was once a very different venue. Of course, it had been almost two decades since I'd visited this establishment; back then, it catered primarily to the punk and metal music scene.
Upon our arrival, several positive changes were immediately visible. The front door was open and the sounds of rhythmic dance, light percussion and Spanish guitar were gently wafting into the night air. Not loudly, mind you, but just enough to give a pleasant pause to someone walking past. We were greeted by the bartender immediately; service was quick and friendly, including directing us into the room in which Flamenco Louisville was performing.
This was the first time I've watched this talented group of bailaoras, cantaoras and musicians. Now, I am woefully disappointed for having missed previous performances. The verbal storytellers are the cantaoras (singers) and both Suzanne Allen and Shannon Fitgerald portrayed the emotion necessary to project understanding, even for those of us who are 'slightly' rusty on our Spanish.
The bailaoras (dancers) of the evening were Diana Dinicola, Lisa Canter, Grace Mican and Larissa Guy, who all performed fluidly on stage, seemingly at one with the music and surroundings. Diana Dinicola both danced and played the role of an elegant herald, providing brief descriptions and introductions prior to each performance. Group dances were minimal, as the majority of the performances were done solo or in a 'pass the shawl' sort of way. This was particularly enjoyable, as the style seemed far more traditional, allowing each Bailaora to interact and project her individual energy into the audience.
Each Bailaora contributed a special kind of energy to the stage and Diana Dinicola's years of experience, dedication and passion are obvious in her performance as she confidently moves onto the stage. She illuminates strength, poise and grace, transforming with a radiant energy that reaches out to interact with the patrons. If one could give the heart of Flamenco a face, Diana's would be most appropriate. The raw power of her performance will subconsciously have you sitting on the edge of your seat, just anticipating her next climactic change.
With a small stage and a lot of seating congestion, Larissa Guy brought the patrons to their feet for a better view during her solo performance, our party included. From the moment she rose from her chair, there was an explosion of intensely powerful emotion, whipping the energy in the room. Nothing stirred when she paused, but the second her foot hit the floor, the air crackled with life. She was a storm, bursting with emotional electricity on the stage.
It is true that music soothes the soul, but some music also compels the soul to dance. The music that entwined with the bailaoras this evening was performed by Paul Carney on guitar and John Harris, who did an amazing job on percussion. We've had the pleasure of seeing Paul play once before but actually seeing him on stage with Diana and Flamenco Louisville is without comparison. There is a magic that sparkles between them that seems to further ignite the passion of the performance. The timing was impeccable, as if invisible signals passed between them. Perfection.
Another unique aspect of Wednesday's show was the reintroduction of Flamenco traditions. Flamenco Louisville embraced the audience as part of their own community by bringing in authentic tapas to share with patrons. For those unfamiliar, Flamenco Louisville is the longest standing Flamenco group in Louisville and performs and educates others via workshops, classes and educational programs about the ancient Spanish art of storytelling, song, dance and music. Those who have the pleasure of seeing Flamenco Louisville on stage will quickly not only see,but will meld into whatever emotions these passionate performers emanate, be it sadness, anger, joy or love. Flamenco is emotion in motion, but perhaps Diana Dinicola described it best on her site:
"Flamenco gives expression to ALL the emotions, not just the happy ones. I can be sad, angry, joyful. It allows me to turn whatever I'm feeling, even if it is something dark or "ugly" into something beautiful. As a woman, flamenco makes me feel incredibly powerful. And I am not waiting for a man to give me the opportunity to dance; I can dance solo, or with a group but a partner is not required. I also really appreciate that you are expected to get better as you get older. You are expected to have something to say in flamenco – "dime la verdad" – and the life experience to back it up. Nor do you have to be any particular body type. Some of the most respected dancers have substantial bodies. I respect that."
Overall, it was a great show and the metamorphosis of Uncle Pleasants into "The New Vintage" is far more appealing than previous years. I could have done without the red and white stage lights glaring into the audience. However, if they continue to play host to entertainment such as Flamenco Louisville, we'll be frequenting the venue much more often... although perhaps with sunglasses.