Sep 172012

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 17th 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 unique 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.  Once the show started people would clap and instinctively stomp, 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.

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 fluidic 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 tradition based 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. The crowd, including the children that attended the Rudyard left the performance happy and upbeat.

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 31st with the spirit of Flamenco during “Movimiento Flamenco” thanks to Vincent Griego, Brent 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; My photographer, Jonny Shah who edited and arranged the pictures; Mariya, Las Flamencas, Brent Del Bianco, and Vincent Griego for sharing another passionate Flamenco performance.

Apr 162012

It’s not just flowers in bloom this April, but also plenty of talant is bursting out for all to see. Spring is here and it has brought some wonderful entertainment to the area, but also said goodbye to one of Louisville’s most graceful Flamenco performers.

Camino Flamenco reluctantly bid adieu to Christina Smith. They held a wonderful dance party to see her off on April 14th at their studio located at 962 Baxter. I had the honor of witnessing her performance at the Mosaico Andalus show last month, and it was absolutely fabulous. Louisville has lost an incredibly talented Flamenco dancer, and California has just gained one.

On the upside, Flamenco Talk once again brought a renowned Flamenco performer to Louisville from April 6th through the 13th, however this time; it wasn’t just to awe us with amazing dance, but also to teach. Antonio Hidalgo, from Cordoba, Spain did a week long workshop instructing both beginner and intermediate Flamenco dance at the Clifton Center. Maestro Hidalgo has performed in Spain, Europe, Japan, USA and South America and was a part of the Bienal de Flamenco de Sevilla in 2006.
Antonio received the 2007 Premio Andaluz award for artistic achievement and this is obvious when seeing the performance of Cuerpo
Y Alma.  This was a delightful bonus in addition to the classes. Cayito Champion and Vincente Greigo were guest singers during the show. The show focused on the traditional dance that has been practiced for centuries by the Andalusian Gypsies, so seeing it outside of Spain is a true delight for those that love authentic dance.

I’ll be posting about upcoming shows from here on out just to keep dance fan’s updated on whats available. There are a few shows coming later this month that you should definitely try to attend if you are free;

On April 27th, The Bards Town AT 1801 Bardstown Rd will play host to Sassafras Dance’s Tutu Review’s debut performance. April Flowers is known for her wonderful charitable events, choreography, costumes, unique performances and skilled dancers. This is her new burlesque troop, so it is sure to be a good show. The festivities start at 9:30pm and will be part of the Bard’s Town ’12 Days of Derby’ festival.

The Crescent Moon Dance Company is having a show on April 29th at 4801 Progress Blvd. The star performer is Faten, who was born in Egypt and dedicated her life to performing traditional dance. She has studied, taught and performed a variety of Middle Eastern dance across the world.

Faten studied and became at one with Flamenco in Seville and Madrid.  She has worked with Yousry Sharif, Mahmoud Reda and Bobby Ferah. This talented performer has traveled the world and currently both performs and teaches Middle Eastern and Flamenco dance at Garfield
Park Fine Arts Center in Indianapolis, Indiana. This is sure to be an entertaining show that will emphasize the grace, flow and powerful passions behind these authentic dances.


Mar 182012

Thunder roared while lightening crashed Saturday March 17th, but Mother Nature’s wrath didn’t hold a candle to the furious performance going on inside the Bomhard Theater. The props were simple with a back drop screen that alternated colors for each set, a wooden table and 3 wooden chairs, but believe me, they didn’t need anything else. The stage exploded into life during Mosaico Andalus. This emotional performance breathed new life into tradition by combining both ancient and modern versions Flamenco. The end result was a powerful form of Flamenco that surpassed the age old art while capturing its very essence.

The performers kept the audience captivated during the entire show, and even the children were mesmerized. Many times during the performance crowd members cheered and shouted Ole’ as they followed the mood set by the musicians, singers and dancers. There are few
shows that receive standing ovations, but Mosaico Andalus received three, twice during and an extended standing ovation at the end of the performance. FlamencoTalk truly gave Flamenco lovers everywhere something to talk about with Mosaico Andalus.

Antonio Granjero was guest choreographer, co-producer and also performed during Mosaico Andalus. His performance was nothing short of amazing. One of the three standing ovations came immediately following his Solea’’. Antonio’s feet struck the stage quicker than lightning
strikes providing a complimenting tempo to the flow of the guitar. His charismatic persona and dramatic gestures moved the crowd to cheers, awes and laughter. The large stage seemed too small to contain his powerful presence.  Granjero has international renown and has performed in Italy, France, Japan, Israel, and Switzerland.  Queen Elizabeth II has even enjoyed seeing Antonio’s Flamenco shows in England.

There is so much to say about the dancers I could write an article on them alone. During their first set, these ladies wore elegant blue gowns and carried white fans. The company of dancers was Mariya Tarakanova (FlamencoTalk, Louisville), Juliana Bravo (Camino
Flamenco, Louisville
), Kristen Mercker(Camino Flamenco, Louisville), Brenna O’Hara (Camino Flamenco, Louisville) and Christina Smith (Camino Flamenco, Louisville), The perfection of their well-choreographed steps replaced the need for any drum as they spiraled across the stage. The fans would snap open and close with a crisp sound to emphasize a dramatic climax in the music. Alegria’, Fandangos, Malaguenas, Abandolaos and Buler’ias were all performed by the ladies as a group. Each set they would don a different costume, gracing the stage in reds, plums, and one somewhat Victorian style striped Flamenco dress. The ending act brought an array of colorful dresses and styles as each dancer
wore something unique.

For Siguirillas, the theater went dark, and a light streamed across the stage giving the impression of a door opening in a pitch black room. A shadow appeared, and then Mariya Tarakanova flowed across the stage in a black satin dress to the edge of the feigned doorway. The theater might have caught fire at that moment and no one would have noticed because all eyes were on Mariya. When the music slowed, her arms and hands slowly rose and fell, her fingers twirled as if playing with the notes themselves. When the music intensified, her body would whip gracefully, melding into the music.

The Tientos –Tangos was performed by Mariya Tarakanova and Antonio Granjero. These two incredibly talented dancers defined the name duet. Every move was in unison. Each step they took rang out against the floor as if they’d shared the same foot when they took it. Mariya’s soft and feminine gestures were complimented by Antonio’s masculine, but no less graceful movements.

The soul filled sounds of Flamenco guitar were provided by Brent Del Bianco. It would be hard to imagine any other guitarist playing Mosaico Andalus after seeing the mystical connection he made with the dancers and singers on the stage. During almost the entire show Brent’s fingers lovingly caressed the strings of his guitar filling the theater with melodies. Del Bianco’s guitar would softly cry to the audience, then burst
into a melodic array so filled with intensity one would thing his strings might catch fire from the friction.

Roberto Lorente, from Madrid, Spain and Jose’ Cort’es Fernand’ez, from France both sang to tell the stories as the dancers moved to the music. Both of these singers relayed the emotional tales with strong vocals that enveloped the listeners. The raw emotion they portrayed with gestures and vocal fluctuations left no question as to the passion they felt.

This was one of the most amazing performances I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. This collaboration of musicians, dancers and singers not only performed well together, but the passion they shared for their art was visible to all who were there. Each performer was in tune with the music.  Their facial expressions and gestures clearly exhibited the love they share for Flamenco.  I would recommend Flamenco lovers everywhere to watch one of their performances if you ever get an opportunity. Personally, I can’t wait to attend the next FlamencoTalk’s event.