Monday, September 29, 2014

If mathematics is the universal language that binds all of humanity; than music is its conduit…its fusion.

Maritel Centurion, Carmen Romero, and José Luis Pérez understand the natural laws extending a traditional form of musical expression: as being the next chapter in fusing the story that is Flamenco to the world. A small company of performers gathered at the Prairie Exchange Theatre, in Winnipeg, Manitoba on September 21-22, 2014.

Maritel Centurion
 Lazos 2014 showcased what it is about incorporating other elements alongside flamenco that makes its fusion so unique, "The workshop that we had, I would like to say was very unique, and one of a kind. I don’t think that there is anything like that being done in Canada before creating this event," shared Maritel. "Including the aesthetics…its communication, its dialogue, and how tightly interwoven they can become alongside with the musicians. It demonstrates that many rules of flamenco; are universal as well."

Centurion hails from Argentina. Her career as a flamenco performer is exhaustive. Her career teaching and relating what is flamenco continues. Employed with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School since 2001; in the RWB School Satellite program, Recreational Division, the Professional Division and the Aspirant program, is but a microcosm of her collaborative work: in relation to flamenco.
The viewing of “Kumpania” a film by Katina Dunn and the following performances given by Romero and company were meant to give the audience a succinct overview of the genre, “It was a very special occasion for me,” shared Romero. “I was able to showcase the work that I have been doing with Scott Metcalfe. Working into two different genre, we were still able to communicate.”

(right from left) Carmen Romero, José Luis Pérez, Philippe Meunier, and Scott Metcalfe

As a Jazz piano/keyboard accompanist and performer; Metcalfe himself understands that the natural “marriage” of two distinctive genres is a gradual process. This particular venue however, had a personal touch, explained Romero,“…to know that Scott’s parents were in the audience…and knowing how pleased they were after the performance…it made me feel really good.”

Flamenco personifies what it is to feel. Steeped in Gypsy lore and tradition, it is foremost… a requiem for a people who understood the meaning of perseverance. It is what traditional flamenco performers refer to a “los puristas”.

Lazos 2014, as other flamenco venues across Canada were not created to supplant or re-invent what began in Spain long ago. Skepticism endures from within as to what exactly the purpose of intermingling flamenco with other musical genres will do.

José Luis Pérez
José Luis Pérez empathizes with those who wish to keep flamenco in its purest form. Born in Spain, he and his family immigrated to Canada. Pérez returned to Spain; as a student, as a lifelong learner, as a family member returning to the country of his birth. Much is given in the art of music. According to Pérez, those who wish to keep flamenco distinctive, unvarnished: outside of world influence…impossible.
“There will be always those who are adamant that flamenco remain within its boundaries. This ‘push-back’ if you will, is decreasing. Flamenco artists in Spain have garnered great international renown. It is thanks to them that the genre is so widely recognized today. Like it or not, it introduced flamenco to other forms of music. You can’t stop the evolution of an art form.”

Smiling, Pérez is of the opinion that the question of ‘authenticity’ resides with the artist himself.
“…structure, form, the basics (voice, dance, and sound) of flamenco is immutable. It will always be the quorum…the essence of the genre. No one who identifies themselves as a "bailaor" ever would deviate from this truth. However, its expression is left to interpretation. Will others judge you? Certainly. It is imperative that we allow those who have devoted their lives work…who have taken the time to learn what flamenco is…and made it unique, an equal opportunity to explore and take their talent onto the world stage.”

 Lazos 2014  gave Romero, and Pérez a chance meeting…reuniting on the stage after a twelve year absence, “These types of venues are infrequent. Not everyone has the ability or the means to be ‘spontaneous’. Maritel is based out of Winnipeg, Carmen is based out of Toronto, and I’m based out of Montreal. When circumstances allow, performing with Carmen and Maritel is for me, a wonderful surprise.”

The impromptu meet and greet discussion after the performances with the audience; reiterated some of the opinions given by Centurion, Pérez, and Romero. Accompanists Metcalfe (piano) and Philippe Meunier (guitar) also shared their thoughts as to what their contributive efforts amplifies in terms of flamenco. Metcalfe explained that the collaborative works between Romero and himself at the beginning, resembled the teacher-student relationship.  
“The first time…I felt like a student in the class. It was scary (member of the audience laughing) we were enjoying it. I don’t know how much I was at the time, but I got used to it…I got better. Now it’s great and I love it. It’s a lot of fun.” 
Carmen Romero
Metcalfe’s introduction to flamenco were based on Romero’s instincts. Her intuition predicated that a partnership with this jazz virtuoso would give an additional dimension to her craft.
 “Scott doesn’t know a lot about flamenco, but he knows a lot about music. He has a very keen awareness; a sensibility, a sensitivity to emotion musically, visually. He plays like he feels it," explained Romero.

"What he and I create is what I describe as structural improvisation. The steps are not identical, the rhythm transforms as the interactive relationship evolves during a sequence. For instance, Scott follows my movements. Depending on what I do, Scott provides the right amount of tone. When I go high, he follows. If it’s rolling…he rolls on the keyboard. And if it’s quick, Scott is sharp on the piano.”

As the lead guitarist, Philippe Meunier shares a unique position as the constant which gives everyone else; the means to stay in the moment. Romero described it in this fashion, “Flamenco can be very complicated, but in its primitive form when all else has failed... you have to go back to hear that heartbeat. The thing that keeps it alive.”

 “Sometimes I’ll be singing and if I should forget a word that is supposed to come after this one...the dynamics stays the same,” added Pérez. “As long as you don’t lose your composure; it doesn’t really matter. The dancer that is listening to me keeps on dancing. They’re not going to say, ‘whaaaat?’

Lazos 2014   was Centurion’s gift to the rest of us. A chance to share and experience what flamenco can express in other forms of music.

(left from right) José-Luis Pérez, Carmen Romero, Scott Metcalfe, and Philippe Meunier.

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