Flamenco fundraiser shows the dark and lusty side of the dance

Flamenco dancer Yaelisa is the main hightlight of the evening’s show (Shannon Patrick)

Kseny Boklan

Angels for the Arts from Saddleback College held a flamenco dance fundraiser, featuring Yaelisa and Caminos, dancers accompanied by El Rubio, that left the audience wanting to dance and shout.

“Flamenco came out of a necessity and its music and dance are an essence of many countries,” said Yaelisa, one of the dancers and the artistic director of the group.

The Angels organization held the flamenco event at Saddleback’s McKinney Theater on March 14, to raise money for performing and visual arts programs at Saddleback. They raised $5,000, which will go towards scholarships for students in the arts programs.

The audience experienced the passionate music, dance and song of the flamenco. “[The] energy is lively and entertaining,” said Ashley Plomaritis, 20, dance. “The audience is participating in it by yelling and clapping. It is a very homey feeling.” 

The guests enjoyed Spanish tapas, sangria and a raffle contest. Winners took home prizes such as wine, ceramic souvenirs and even a vacation package. Everybody in the audience was rewarded with spontaneous dancing and fervent music.

“You can tell they are improvising,” said Devon Barns, 20, dance. “The music comes, building up attitude, passion, pride, [and] expression, and we experience strong voices.”

Flamenco has a long and powerful history. It doesn’t belong to just one group, even though the gypsies are widely accredited for popularizing it. As an art form, it represents the “hardships and the nomadic existence,” said Jason McGuire, “El Rubio” guitar player for the group. “It was brought into the night club environment as an art form of the streets.”

The nomadic people who carried the flamenco style “got some stylization from Arabic and Muslim music,” said Yaelisa. “The Hindu and Buddhist hand movements, called mudra, were also incorporated into the style. Jews, Moors, and Middle Eastern and Eastern European people” all share in the experience of flamenco.

At the core of the music is a fight against oppression. “The music embodies the oppressed gypsy people, who migrated through centuries from India to Spain, and through the Middle East,” said McGuire. Thanks to this experience, “they managed to create an art form most identifiable with the country, and at the same time they made it beautiful.”

The performances moved some more than others. “I’ve never seen flamenco before,” said David Bodek, 20, English and anthropology. “I want to get up and dance.”

Without knowing the history or the background of this art form, the audience still understood the strength and pride of the people who performed the flamenco style that night, and those who have performed it for centuries.

Artist paints a beautiful portrait of a flamenco dancer. (Shannon Patrick)