The Santa Ana Sentinel

Reyes Barrios Shines in Santa Ana

Posted in Arts & Culture, Flamenco en Inglés by Omar Ian Ávalos on September 21, 2011

Fiesta Tangata, an event that is part of the New World Flamenco Festival, was held at the Bowers Museum on Tuesday night. In performance were singer Reyes Barrios, guitarist Pedro Cortés, and dancers Fanny Ara and Vanessa Acosta.

The event in Santa Ana, like the others in Costa Mesa and Laguna, was for promoting the larger concerts at UCI’s Barclay Theater, where the New World Flamenco Festival was normally held in years past. The festival returned this year after a two-year hiatus, but without the headlining companies from Spain that audiences became accustomed to. Instead, this year’s festival features many local flamenco performers from throughout California and other parts of the United States.

The quartet performed three roughly twenty minute sets on a small tablado, or dance floor, which allowed for a more authentic performance in comparison to those set on large theatrical stages. The performance began with a set of Sevillanas, which are a group of four strophic short songs, each one typically has two verses and a chorus.

Vanessa Acosta then did a solo over a Soleá por bulerías to end the first set.

The second set began with Reyes Barrios singing the song Válgame Dios by famed flamenco singer Niña Pastori.

Fanny Ara then did a solo over an Alegrías rhythm to end the second set.

The final set ended with Fanny and Vanessa dancing over a Tango flamenco and bulerías. Flamenco performances commonly end with a fin de fiesta in a bulerías rhythm and all the performers do a short, fun and improvised pataíta (from the Spanish word patadita). This is where Reyes came out to do her pataíta much to the surprise and delight of the audience.

The guitarist Pedro Cortés was a solid accompanist and adorned the dances with falsetas, which are short compositions, some of these were not his original ideas and others were new to me.

The most important component of a flamenco performance is the cante, the singing, and this is where Reyes Barrios stood out and excelled. This is an area where flamenco in the Los Angeles area is weak, being that there are very few good flamenco singers in the area and not enough diffusion and instruction of the artform, and Reyes lives and is most active performing in the San Diego area.

Overall, Reyes Barrios took the cake.

Below: An excerpt of a Sevillanas set.

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“Semana Flamenka” in Santa Ana is Sold Out

Posted in Arts & Culture, Flamenco en Inglés by Omar Ian Ávalos on September 14, 2011

Fiesta Tangata, an event that is part of this year’s New World Flamenco Festival, is sold out according to the festival director and flamenco dancer Yaelisa of San Francisco, CA.

The festival comes to Santa Ana for the first time this year, after being confined to the Barclay Theater at UC Irvine and Tapas restaurant in Newport Beach in years past.

This year the festival spreads out of UCI and into Santa Ana, Costa Mesa and Laguna. All of the “fiesta” events, outside of the Barclay, are sold out.

In performance at Fiesta Tangata at the Bowers on Tuesday September 20th are dancers Fanny Ara from the bay area and Vanessa Albalos (who teaches at the Images dance studio across the Bowers), singer Reyes Barrios of San Diego, CA and guitarist Pedro Cortés of Spain.

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The New World Flamenco Festival Comes to Santa Ana

Posted in Arts & Culture, Flamenco en Inglés by Omar Ian Ávalos on August 19, 2011

The New World Flamenco Festival Comes to Santa Ana, and other parts of Orange County including Irvine, Laguna and Costa Mesa.

This will be the first time that the festival officially comes to Santa Ana. There was an attempt made to bring a workshop here during Juan Talavera’s time as a flamenco dance instructor at Santa Ana College, about five to seven years ago. There is no mention yet of any guitar or dance workshops, which were a common component of the festival in years past. This festival ran annually at the Barclay Theater at UC Irvine but had some funding issues in the last year or two.

The theme for this year’s festival is Semana Flamenka, which means flamenco week. The festival runs from September 19th to the 25th and will come to the Bowers Museum on Tuesday, September 20th for an event called Flamenco Tangata, in reference to the restaurant on site at the museum.

More info is available at the Barclay’s website.

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The Story of a Santa Ana Flamenco Guitarist

Posted in Arts & Culture, Downtown, Flamenco en Inglés by Omar Ian Ávalos on August 1, 2011

This is the first piece to be included in a new column dedicated to Flamenco in Santa Ana.

Yes, Santa Ana merits its own column on the Flamenco arts because it turns out that there are a number of performers and entities operating in and out of Santa Ana. The word is, according to a recent visitor from out of town, that Santa Ana has a Flamenco scene. Well, it certainly does, and a bit of a history.

You see, I’ve been active as a Flamenco performer around the LA area (Santa Ana included) since 1997 or 98. I got started with a local teacher, Ted McKown, in Orange who referred me to the Blanca Luz dance studio in Buena Park. Fast forward a bit and I came to meet and work with Juan Talavera at Santa Ana College. From there on I cut my teeth as an accompanist wherever I could, performing with him and others.

I discovered that there was a Flamenco dance teacher at a house on 15th & Ross in Santa Ana. The lady that used to live there taught dance to Lucille Ball believe it or not. I helped out at that studio for a short while. This was back in 2001 or 02. I remember seeing pictures of the woman’s husband, who performed as a pantomime or a clown that went by the name “Pepito.” He was friends with Desi Arnaz. Incidentally, it is known that Lucille Ball used to hang out at Daninger’s Tea Room at the Santora in Downtown Santa Ana in those days. She and George Burns, Milton Berle and more.

Getting back on track, I then got word that a dance studio was opening up in Downtown Santa Ana on Broadway and that Flamenco dancer Gabriela Garza and her husband, Flamenco guitarist Rafael Aragón, were going to teach there. I offered my services and was there for a short while also, because she and Rafael moved to Madrid. Before she left she referred me to Dr. Nancy Ruyter at UC Irvine, she needed a Flamenco guitarist for her dance class. So that’s how I got that job. That was in 2001. Before I forget, it was at this studio on Broadway that I helped Juan Talavera and Sara Parra out while they taught there.

I had two rather lengthy, or somewhat lengthy stints with two Flamenco entities in Santa Ana, those of Claudia de la Cruz who used to be at 410 W. Fourth, and Ricardo “Richard” Chávez over at Sonia’s studio, the “International Academy of Dance” on Broadway. When I was helping Ricardo, Sonia’s studio was on Fourth street directly across the Yost Theater. It was with some of the students from Sonia’s studio, that were studying with Ricardo, that I put on some shows at the Gypsy Den. I did two shows there with the Sonia studio people, and for the last one that I did there I pulled from my network, namely Nancy Gallardo and Gabriela Estrada who was teaching Flamenco at UCI at that time.

After disappointment and disillusionment with these two entities, I established my brand, my self. And so I became the third Flamenco entity, just in the Downtown alone. I conceived of a series that I called Flamenco de la Santora.

Just recently, a fourth entity sprouted here, near the Bowers Museum. Vanessa Acosta (de Albalos), who last I knew was living in Riverside or somewhere else besides Santa Ana, is teaching at the Images dance studio across the Bowers on Main street. I used to perform with her mother, a singer. Maybe she got word that Santa Ana was happening? Well, all parties involved are making it happen now.

And so it turns out that there are a number of Flamenco entities that are contributing to this Santa Ana Flamenco scene. It has been my mission to make Flamenco an integral part of this city, to make Santa Ana synonymous with Flamenco and I’m just getting started.

– Omar Ávalos Gallegos, “Flamencali”

Profile: Paz Angélica Vásquez

Posted in Arts & Culture, Flamenco en Inglés by Omar Ian Ávalos on June 30, 2010

Paz Angélica Gutiérrez de Vázquez was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico and began her studies in classical Spanish and Flamenco dance there at Las Cabales dance academy at the age of ten. She earned her title, Ejecutante de Danza Española, from Las Cabales and has been a professional Spanish and Flamenco dancer since the age of sixteen. She furthered her studies in Madrid at the Centro de Arte Flamenco y Danza Española “Amor de Dios” where she studied Classical Spanish dance with María Magdalena, Paco Romero, and Azorín, and Flamenco dance with Domingo Ortega, Joselillo Romero, Belén Fernández, Antonio Reyes, Ciro, Belén Maya, Alejandro Granados, Lola Greco, Manuel Reyes, Juana Amaya, “La china,” Yolanda Heredia, and “La Tati.”

Angélica performed with the Compañía Nacional de Danza Las Cabales throughout Guadalajara and Mexico, and formed part of the group “Almoraima,” that was active in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico from 1994 to 1999. The group “Almoraima” performed throughout Mexico (Guadalajara, Celaya, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, La Paz) and briefly in Costa Rica.

Additional performance experience outside of her native country includes a season at the
Canary Islands in Spain with Juan Príncipe and Basilio Díaz dance companies and Los Angeles, where she now resides. She has performed alongside some of LA’s most notable performers including Juan Talavera, Yvette García, Vanessa Acosta, Briseida Zárate, Ricardo Chávez, Rafael Aragón, José Tanaka, Antonio Triana, Omar Ávalos, Gabriel Osuna, Jesús Montoya, and Antonio de Jerez at LA Flamenco venues including La Luna Negra, Café Sevilla, Alegría, and Tapas.

She currently choreographs for the Paso de Oro Dance Company, and teaches Classical Spanish and Flamenco dance at Studio Danza in Uptown Whittier, and the Academy of International Dance in Santa Ana.

– Omar Ávalos Gallegos

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Review: Flamenco at the Gypsy Den in Santa Ana

Posted in Arts & Culture, Downtown, Flamenco en Inglés by Omar Ian Ávalos on April 21, 2009

Flamencali presented an evening of flamenco music, song, and dance.

By Omar Ávalos Gallegos
Published on LatinoLA: April 21, 2009

Hello LA. Friday April 17th, 2009 was the return of the LA – based flamenco group Flamencali to the Gypsy Den in Santa Ana’s Historic Downtown. The group played to a standing room only audience that filled up seating before the 8:30 pm start time. The show, produced by yours truly flamenco guitarist and singer Omar Ávalos, featured the flamenco dancing of Nancy Gallardo, Jennifer Barrios and Gabriela Estrada. Each dancer performed two solo dances, one for each set of the evening, in addition to the group dances of Sevillanas, Bulerías, and Rumbas.

That evening I had the privilege to perform on a custom flamenco guitar made by Monica Esparza in San Clemente, CA. I performed two original solo bulerías and opened things up a bit towards evening’s end with true Latin American flair by singing two all-time favorites, Moliendo Café and Ojitos traidores, two recognizable tunes sung by Javier Solís with multiple versions existing to date. The evening ended with the now most common practice of audience dance participation. It seems as if a flamenco show just can’t do without that. Either that or the gals just can’t get enough of taking people up to dance.

About Omar Ávalos Gallegos:

Omar Ávalos is a native of Santa Ana, CA and longtime active flamenco guitarist in LA. He is an associate music instructor at Santa Ana College and a principal musician for the Department of Dance at UC Irvine.

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