by Renée Rothman
“We are attempting to encourage Food as Art and Art as Nourishment,” said co-producer Ana Elizabeth in her introduction to “Raices Flamencas: a Gustatory, Dance, and Musical Journey.” This was the first official collaboration between dance studio The 418 Project, and newly reopened India Joze, a fusion restaurant. India Joze and The 418 Project share a space at 418 Front Street in Santa Cruz. The small restaurant space is in the front, the dance studio in the back, and a foyer is shared by both. The 418 calls itself a “community center” where performing artists can teach, collaborate, and perform: they arranged for the musicians and dancers. Chef Jozseph Schultz of India Joze specializes in “explorations in culinary anthropology” and provided tapas and drinks. They are perfectly suited to showcase the artistry of cooking and the spiritual nourishment of the performing arts.
“Raices” was a benefit for The 418 Project, a non-profit group raising money for a permanent space. (No word yet on how much they raised.) The Saturday evening event featured a more formal dinner, atmosphere, and entry fee. I attended the less-formal event on Sunday night.
“Raices Flamencas” was conceived of by David RD Bolam who became fascinated by the multiple musical and dance influences that became flamenco. Flamenco emerged in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia, an historically volatile area both politically and culturally. In both the musicality and kinesthetics of Flamenco we can still hear and see influences from the arts of Islamic Moors from North Africa, the contradanzas of Spain, North Indian dance, and songs of the Sephardic Jews.
Bolam brought together local artists to express the lineage of Flamenco. The first half of the show—“Primero Course”—demonstrated the roots of Flamenco cante (song), toque (guitar), and baile (dance) in Sephardic and North African music, and Indian dance.
Kat Parra, a Ladino singer, opened the show. Ladino—aka Judaeo-Spanish—is a hybrid language with both Spanish and Hebrew roots. It is the vernacular language of the Sephardic Jews of Spain, Portugal, and North Africa (as Yiddish is the vernacular of Ashkenazi Jews). Kat performed songs both sacred and secular and the emotionally lavish tones in her voice foretell the duende of Flamenco cante or song.
Fattah Abbou and Mohamed Aoualou are Moroccan-born Berber artists who moved to Santa Cruz about nine years ago. Since then, their fusion of North African and Western musical traditions have entertained and educated local dancers and musicians alike. Though both performed on Saturday, only Fattah performed on Sunday (with an unknown accompanist on drum). Fattah’s fast and precise finger work on his banjo (originally an African instrument) perhaps prefigures the Flamenco toque (guitar) style.
Revital Carroll performed Odissi, one of the classical dances of India. Although the Gypsy migrants—aka Gitano in Spain and Romany in their own language—who came to Andalusia probably came from the Punjabi region, there is evidence that Flamenco baile has roots in Kathak, Kathakali, Manipuri, and Bharata Natyam. In addition, Indian dance and music in Spain predates the arrival of the Gitana. Revital’s performances of Odissi reflect these ancient influences on Andalusian arts perhaps especially in the florid use of the hands.
The second half of the show—“Segundo Course”—was all Flamenco. It featured Rubina Valenzuela as leading singer and dancer. She was accompanied by Ricardo Diaz on guitar and Diana Alejandre on vocals and palmas (rhythmic clapping), each of whom also performed solos. Rubina’s dance group, Flamenco Sin Fronteras, performed several group numbers including the always charming Sevilliana’s. The passions expressed through the Flamenco arts—cante, baile, and toque—are infectious and made me wish we had a regular Flamenco showcase in Santa Cruz again (hint, hint anyone?).
But what made this event so special was the café-style arrangement of tables inside the dance studio. Instead of rows of chairs, we sat at large round tables seating 8-10, or rectangular ones along the rear. We were invited to bring our tapas and wine from India Joze into the studio before and during the performances. Chef Jozseph created wildly delicious tapas inspired by Moroccan, Spanish, and Indian cuisines. I’d love to know how he made such a perfect vegetarian chopped liver! Tasted just like my Aunt Rose’s, and I’ve really missed it. Altogether, it made for a lively and inviting atmosphere; just the sort of place the Santa Cruz community likes to gather.
This is a modern community acting as communities have traditionally done: eating, drinking, and greeting friends while enjoying music and dance in a communal atmosphere. I cannot wait for another gustatory, dance, and music adventure between these two, much-loved Santa Cruz institutions. Maybe an evening of Brazilian samba, capoeria, and candomble? Or, how about a night at the Casbah? Someone? Anyone?…
The 418 Project has several concerts coming up, including Artist in Residence Leslie Johnson’s new work, Tabula Rasa, for two weekends in October.
Chef Jozseph is teaching a tapas cooking class at the Westside New Leaf Community Market on Tuesday, September 28, 5pm – 8pm.