Flamenco in east Austin with A’lante’s Desplazados. A night of the common warm sun and sudden cold thunderstorms; this springtime weather is just as spirited as the performance. And Texan through and through. The mingling of immigrants is something entirely common here in Texas–Austin particularly. How wonderful it is to see diversity in the performers, yet at the same time, feel communal and inviting.
I didn’t go into this show thinking that I would write about it, judge it from the safety of my home after committing myself to previewing it for Arts + Culture (as my first published preview, no less). But I feel like I must and I shall.
Flamenco is definitely in my blood. The first hint of this occurred during a vigorous solo performance by Juanito Valderrama on Spanish guitar. A sudden wave of warmth and excitement and, oddly, nostalgia came over me during this and the following guitar solos. And when the dancers and musicians worked together on stage, I felt even more part of this community.
I am a half-breed, native Texan; part Scotch-Welsh, part Guatemalteco-Spaniard with my father from north Louisiana and my mother from Guatemala City, respectively. I have never been to Spain, and, until last year, I had never been to Guatemala. I can’t speak Spanish, but I can understand it and respond in English. I don’t have the typical Spanish body type, but I have some aspects. I don’t dance Flamenco, Salsa, Rumba, Tango, Folklorica, or any other Spanish form of dance, but I’ve dabbled in workshops and seen some live performances (my mother’s aunt is also a professional flamenco dancer in Spain, but I’ve never met her…)
Basically, I’m, excuse the pun, on the border of two cultures that I don’t truly belong to entirely. I’m a poor excuse for a north Louisianan and even less of a Scotch-Welsh child, unfortunately. Since the end of my teenage years, I’ve been more Spanish than anything because it just feels more dominate, but I can’t help by keep it at a distance. I currently read a lot of Marquez and Asturias; but before them came Walter Scott and Dylan Thomas. Confusing, no?
But when I heard that guitar, flicking and fluttering, I felt Spanish with all my heart and soul. I missed a land that I’ve never set foot on, and I missed a community that I had never joined.
That’s the power of a performance like Desplazados. It wasn’t perfect, technically. But it was passionate, honest, and fun! And I’m so glad I brought my boyfriend to experience it. He’s usually my “white-boy” gage of cultural events; he’ll tell me immediately if something seems authentic from an outsider’s perspective.
And this was a bit of authentic and contemporary, just like east Austin. The theatrical playfulness was refreshing. And the popular reference piece to Selena was gutsy and feisty. I wanted more dancing, more music, more of the evening. But alas, we had to battle a thunderstorm to drive back to San Marcos in, so we left a bit early.
I wish more dance audiences could extend and broaden their horizons. Experience the ballet, the modern, the broadway, the hip-hop, it’s what you feel safe with and can depend on, I know. But don’t limit yourself! If you live in Texas, you should most certainly be exposed to cultural events that are alive with contemporary issues and themes. You should be a risk-taking viewer of dance forms from this entire globe.
My prior knowledge of classical Indian dance and Japanese geisha dance linked up to this performance immediately. During performances like this one, I’m constantly reminded of various cultural expressions through movement.
It’s all universal, dynamic related emotions exposed by human bodies in some ancient dance-archetype way. I love it. And I can’t wait to see what A’lante comes up with next.
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