When talking with people new to the City of the Angeles, I try to stress that in many ways L.A. is the anti-city. Anything generally true about other cities is not true about L.A. In L.A. downtown is not the center of the civic grid either literally or figuratively. In L.A., where any other city capitalizes and exploits its historical sites, L.A. builds mini-malls on top of theirs.
In any other city – New York, London, Paris, Chicago – you walk out your front door and there’s the city smacking you in the face, no escaping it. In L.A. you walk out your door and you’re faced by a vista stretching from mountains to ocean to desert stitched together by a thread of freeways.
The city of L.A. is out “there” somewhere. Go find it.
It is due to this unique feature of L.A. that in many ways the city is a “secret handshake club”. If you’re aware of some great event or place in L.A., mostly it’s not because you’ve walked by it (“walk?” in L.A.?) It’s because someone has let you in on the secret. (Insert wildly elaborate handshake here)
The Museum of Jurassic Technology, The Brass Monkey, Dr. Hogly Wogly’s Texas Tyler Ribs, the Grand Performances concerts at the California Plaza, the Pasadena Bunny Museum, Forever Hollywood Cemetery’s screenings, Sky’s Taco, the Wende Museum, The Los Angeles Conservancy walking tours, The Bounty, the Watts Towers, and the whole L.A. theatre scene.
Well, you do now (Insert wildly elaborate secret handshake here)
Welcome to the club.
And high on the list of events only known to the membership are the performances of “Forever Flamenco!” at the Fountain Theatre. One Sunday a month, the intimate 78-seat setting of the Fountain gives one the golden opportunity of breathing in the most the dynamic of all arts – Flamenco!
If you have never experienced Flamenco, I pity you. When, after a very, very long absence, I rediscovered it, thanks to Deborah Lawlor and Stephen Sachs of the Fountain theatre, it was like remembering how to breathe again. Flamenco is tragedy in song, pain is its tempo, but what it sings of is defiance, endurance, life.
As is sung –
I would like to renounce everything in this whole world,
And return to live again,
To see whether in a new world
I could find more truth.
We do not win against life. As the saying goes, “Nobody gets out alive.” But in the music and dance of Flamenco we are shown the beauty of living is in the battle.
The performances at the Fountain are in the nature of a “juerga” comparable to a classic Jazz “jam” session, they have the feel of a spontaneous gathering of artists. While every Sunday show is different, what you will see are some of the top dancers and singers in the country if not the world.
At “Por Pintar A Una Mujer” the all male staging came as a surprise, as typical you have a mixture of male and female. But the evening served to remind one that no other form of dance captures the essence of masculinity as Flamenco.
Framed within the concept of an artist attempting to capture his love’s likeness on canvas (with artist Roderick Smith putting oil to canvas throughout the performance) Antonio de Jerez sang of the “crazy man” who was “given the notion to paint a woman” with a voice that rumbled one’s heart. The voice of Flamenco is one that out thunders the storm, and de Jerez’s mastery of the Spanish Palos more than proves that. The artistry of Ethan Margoli, Luis do la Tota and John Leftwich served the musical needs of both de Jerez and the bailaores (dancers) to perfection.
Dancers Manuel Gutierrez and Oscar Valero display both the amazing power and exquisite grace. In their performances that is the hallmark of Flamenco. You can go, knowing nothing of the forms and styles of Flamenco, entirely ignorant of the history of the Hindu and Arabic influences on the music, or of its ancient Andalusia roots, but watching Gutierrez and Valero you are nevertheless aware of being in the presence of world class artists.
One can, in L.A., view on stage the most remarkable talents the world has to offer. But nowhere can they be viewed with such intoxicating intimacy as the Fountain offers.
Forget going to the movies. You can always go to the movies. Go to the Fountain theatre, and treat yourself to one of the world’s most distinctive art forms and experience the “flame-colored” soul of Spain right here in L.A. Then give yourself a wildly elaborate secret handshake.
Welcome to the club.