Lluvia Flamenca, Flamenco Por La Vida’s (FPLV) annual event that brings guest dancers, musicians, and singers from around the world to share the best of flamenco with Phoenix, will return to Crescent Ballroom for its sixth iteration on Saturday, January 5. The name for the event, which translates to “flamenco rain,” sets the same tone as always: a special night for a storm of flamenco dancing and music, produced by same group beloved for their weekly tablao events at Crescent. But this year, things will be a little different.
Lluvia Flamenca has invited world-renowned Los Angeles-based flamenco guitarist Andrés Vadin to present a night of original music alongside a group he’s assembled for the evening: flamenco dancer and singer Manuel Gutierrez; percussionist Diego Álvarez “El Negro”; bassist Yosmel Montejo; and Phoenix-based pianist and accordionist Ioannis Goudelis.
Angelina Ramirez, FPLV’s founder and artistic director, says they reached out to Vadin this year because they wanted to highlight the musical aspect of flamenco in a way that Phoenix hasn’t seen before. “We have a great flamenco community [in Phoenix] in which the dancing is usually the main focus, with music as a support. I think giving our audience the opportunity to experience flamenco music without the visual assistance will help people remember that there’s another important side to flamenco.”
As a dancer herself, Ramirez is highly conscious of the fact that most people think of dancers and visual cues, like typical costumes or castanets, when they think of flamenco, and she wants to broaden her audience’s experience of the art form. “It’s so easy to get carried away with the dancers, but as a dancer I can’t do anything without the people behind me. It’s time to bring the musicians to the front. We want people to experience flamenco music for itself, to absorb the melodies and notes and let your mind and heart get carried away with it, wherever it takes you.”
FPLV invited Vadin, with whom they’ve worked before, to headline this year’s show after seeing the strides he’s made recently, Ramirez says. Not only has Vadin toured, recorded, and collaborated with highly respected artists including Jorge Pardo, Saul Quiros, Pele (Navajita Platea), Antonio Carmona, Concha Buika, and many others, he’s also been creating a lot of original work. “Andrés is so sweet and genuine and thoughtful; he’s just great to work with. He’s also an amazing artist. After seeing how much original music he’s created, we thought it would be awesome to have him to bring his own work to Phoenix.”
Vadin highlights the contemporary aspect of the work he and his ensemble are bringing to Crescent Ballroom. “Ninety percent of the show is original music. I would call it flamenco contemporary. There are some songs that are pure flamenco, some that are fusion. There’s a mix of Arabic sounds, some salsa, even a ballad. But everything comes from the flamenco guitar first.”
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For those who do savor the visual aspect of flamenco, there’s no reason to fret. Gutierrez, the group’s singer, will be dancing during three of the musical numbers. There will also be an opening act featuring Arizona flamenco artists, including Tucson’s Mele Martinez, Jason Martinez, and others.
But Vadin hopes music lovers of many stripes will find something to enjoy in the main show. “Flamenco contemporary guitar has taken so much influence from classical music and jazz. [The genre] has grown up from 40 years ago. I think people who enjoy the guitar will find something they enjoy – there will be some high-energy tunes, some softer ones, a little bit of everything.”
To learn more about Flamenco Por La Vida, their regular tablao events at Crescent Ballroom and the Tempe Center for the Arts, classes, and more, visit flamencoporlavida.com.
Lluvia Flamenca. With Andrés Vadin. 7 p.m. Saturday, January 5, at Crescent Ballroom, 308 North Second Avenue; flamencoporlavida.com. Tickets are $19.50 via crescentphx.com.