Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Seduction from Seville

Savannah Fuentes is a white-hot flamenco artist

Express Staff Writer

Savannah Fuentes at work, presenting the dance style of Flamenco. Courtesy photo by Stephen Rusk

    It is often said that when one reflects on how they got from there to here they wouldn’t change a thing because it’s ended up right where they intended. Still, that doesn’t mean that they didn’t wish it another way at the time.
   Flamenco master Savannah Fuentes was born in Seattle to parents of Irish and Puerto Rican ancestry. Born into a community of musicians and street artists, her childhood was filled with art and music, but also some misery.
    “My childhood was not conventional, although I really wanted to be,” Fuentes said in an interview in advance of a show in Hailey on Tuesday, April 16. “My parents were poor and in the beginning they were street musicians, they were in a band that grew to be successful and stopped performing on the street.”
    Fuentes’ parents separated when she was young, but continued to work together in the band.
    “I grew up around rehearsals and all kinds of characters,” she recalled. “I did want a normal family but it just wasn’t the way things were, and now looking back, I guess it was the best thing for me and my ability to  connect to the music I dance to.”
    It was in her late teens that Fuentes discovered flamenco and commenced her studies with dancer Ana Montes in Seattle. Making brief trips to Spain, she continued to expand and grow as a student, studying with artists such as La Tati, Belen Maya and Cristobal Reyes.  
    Upon her return to Seattle, she took her first class with Maestra Sara de Luis. Maestra Sara de Luis continues to be her mentor and inspiration.  
    She currently tours throughout the Northwest with esteemed flamenco artists such as Jesus Montoya, Pedro Cortes and Saray Muñoz Barrull. Fuentes has independently produced more than 125 performances, workshops and educational programs in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, featuring internationally recognized flamenco artists.
    Ciudades (Cities) Northwest Flamenco Tour is celebrating this art form with 24 presentations of flamenco music and dance in four states. Ciudades will come to the Wood River High School Performing Arts Theater for a one-night-only presentation of Spanish flamenco on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. Fuentes will be joined by renowned Gypsy singer Montoya of Seville as well as master guitarist Cortes.
    She answered a few questions about Flamenco’s influence on her life and spirit in advance of the show.

IME: Tell me a little about your childhood. Was it loud? Colorful? Spartan?
    As a child I wanted to be an Egyptologist, but by my early  teens I knew I wanted to be a performer, I just didn’t know what kind, then I discovered flamenco at 17 and I knew that it would be my life.”

Did you start out as a street performer?
    I never performed on the street. I was a baby when my parents were street performers, so I was there but not part of the act.

What happens to your heart and head when the music begins and you are off stage?
    It’s a meditative state, I’m just connecting to the music with my mind and my body and trying to warm up. In my heart I feel strength and I feel gratitude for being able to dance with world-class musicians and share flamenco with new people and places. In my head I’m preparing and reminding myself of ways to dance my best, such as staying grounded and centered and good breathing techniques.

Same question, but apply it to when you are on stage.
    When I’m on stage I’m in another place, a definite meditative zone, just the music and the energy that comes from the live guitar and singing, and doing my best to manipulate and control the energy with my body, then to release it when the time is right or when I choose to.

How important are the dresses for the dance? Is this a dance that’s tough to do justice naked? Or, at least in a leotard?
    The dresses are very important—they create a visual presence and a powerful image. I really like the fact that we flamenco dancers are covered with long dresses, the dresses are part of the rich cultural identity of flamenco. Some great modern flamenco dancers take liberties with modern costumes inspired by contemporary dance. I like sleek modern takes on the traditional flamenco dress, but no leotards for me.

Is this a style best performed by mature dancers? I have seen folklorico dancing of all ages, but the flamenco, not so much.
    Yes! Flamenco dancer have long, long careers—they become stronger and better with time. They are respected and revered and working well into their 60s.

Is there a hierarchy in dance to reach where you are?
    Flamenco is tough! It’s extremely complex and difficult. Many people fall in love with it but eventually leave it because it takes up so much time and they realize they won’t be able to reach their desired level. I feel like an eternal student of this art form. I have had to work really hard to get to where I am. I’m the most prominent and active flamenco dancer in the Northwest region and I still have a long way to go.

Explain what the Kickstarter avenue you are utilizing for your tour is about.
    Kickstarter is way for independent artists such as myself to raise funds effectively and quickly for our projects. I do my tours all on my own without guarantees or support, so I chose to do a Kickstarter campaign to help raise funds for this tour. I don’t know of any artists that work in this way, but it allows me to perform on my own terms, which I love.

What’s the latest on your tour and how has the response been?
    The tour is getting a great response. I’m getting enthusiastic emails from people in the different cities. It’s so great to connect with people who really appreciate that you’re bringing a very special art form (and great artists) to their hometowns. It’s the true reward that comes from this grueling hard work.

See Savannah smile
Where: Wood River High School Performing Arts Center, Community Campus, Hailey.
When: Tuesday, April 16, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $10 student/low-income, $22
general, $35 VIP.
For complete tour information


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