Culture News

Dance Flamenco While Chomping Churros at the MIM's "Experience Spain"

Flamenco dancer Julia Chacón will be performing at the MIM this weekend.
Flamenco dancer Julia Chacón will be performing at the MIM this weekend. Mary Nelle Brown
What does a consul general, a bagpiper, and an executive chef have in common? All three will be at the Musical Instrument Museum’s latest cultural festivity, Experience Spain. For one weekend, everything Spanish will take over the Musical Instrument Museum in north Phoenix during their latest cultural festival, Experience Spain. Don't assume the event will be limited just to musical instruments, however: As musicians will perform throughout the day, the museum’s café will cook up some delicious Spanish dishes for guests to try.

Randi Ringnes, the public programs manager for the MIM, first began as an intern when this cultural series started up almost five years ago and has worked with the program ever since. She says this is the first time the series will be highlighting Spain and hopes that guests will see that the country is multifaceted and rich in cultural diversity.

“It’s not a huge country, but it has so much to dive into,” Ringnes says.

Visitors wanting to take the dive can spin their way into a Spanish dance workshop, where they can learn different dance styles such as sevillana and rumba flamenca. After the workshop, they can show off their newly acquired moves on the dance floor with live music accompaniment. Those looking to just dip their toe in the water can sit back and watch the pros strut their stuff.

Throughout the weekend, curators will be offering mini-tours of museum exhibits that have a high concentration of Spanish instruments. Visitors can also hear music from every corner of the Mediterranean country throughout the event.

“We’re making a specific point with our partners to highlight the many diverse regions of Spain and showcase music from all those areas,” Ringnes says.

One such region is Galicia, a lush area nestled above Portugal with a surprising musical influence. The northern community is at a unique crossroads between Spanish and Celtic culture, so it only makes sense that one of the instruments derived from the area is the Galician bagpipe.

Rómulo Conde, a Galician bagpipe player for more than 20 years, says the region looks more like Ireland than Spain. The Galician bagpipe, on the other hand, looks and sounds different from the more-traditional Scottish bagpipe. He admits people watching them perform get confused because they’ve never seen a Galician bagpipe.

“To be honest with you, I think the fact that there will be a bagpipe on stage will be very surprising,” Conde says.

Compared to other Spanish music, Conde believes the Galician bagpipe sounds more medieval and archaic. He will be performing at the MIM as part of a local group called Muiños for the Spanish event and is excited to share his music.

“Music brings people together,” Conde says. “That’s what I love about it.”

Food is another universal language that brings people together, and thanks to Chris Lenza, there will be no shortage of it. Lenza is the executive chef at Café Allegro, the museum’s farm-to-table restaurant. Drawing inspiration from a trip to Spain he took almost 10 years ago, Lenza crafted up a Spanish menu exclusive to the event. Guests can dine on a broad range of Spanish dishes, from a hearty seafood paella to savory jamón tapas.

Café Allegro will also be offering Spanish churros, one of the world’s most recognizable desserts, along with a dark chocolate sauce. But don’t think that they’ll be serving up the greasy, sugar-soaked pieces of dough commonly found at amusement parks. Instead, they’ll be making theirs from scratch using local ingredients like flour from Hayden’s Flour Mills.

“With using that flour, we’re going to develop a more rustic flavor, something that you might find in the smaller country towns in Spain,” Lenza says.

Whether you’re mingling with VIPs or munching on a churro, the Experience Spain event at the MIM will be a delightful way to spend a Phoenix weekend – and you might even learn a thing or two.

“We always hope that our guests can learn something new and make a connection because that’s really what it’s all about,” Ringnes says.

Experience Spain. 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, January 19 and 20, at the Musical Instrument Museum, 4725 East Mayo Boulevard; 480-478-6000; Admission included with museum ticket, which is $20 for one day, $30 for two.
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Megan Marples