Review: “Forever Flamenco: Voces,” a Fusion of Voice and Flamenco at the Fountain Theatre

“Forever Flamenco: Voces” featured the stunning dancing of Cihtli Ocampo.

“Forever Flamenco: Voces” featured the stunning dancing of Cihtli Ocampo.

The intimate Fountain Theatre located in the Little Armenia section of Hollywood has been showcasing theater productions since the 1990s, thanks to the vision and efforts by founders and co-Artistic Directors at the time, Deborah Lawlor and Stephen Sachs. They have also included in their productions hundreds of flamenco programs throughout the years that are now under the umbrella name “Forever Flamenco,” which is celebrating its ninth year.

On Friday, Nov. 10, I had the pleasure of attending their latest production titled “Forever Flamenco: Voces” under artistic director Ethan Margolis, produced by Lawlor and featuring the hugely talented flamenco dancer Cihtli Ocampo. It was billed as a performance “featuring edgy choreography, risk-taking improvisation and live musical accompaniment” as one takes a “journey through the vocal styles of Latino boleros, Gypsy flamenco and African-American jazz and blues.”

For most of the audience, the evening began at the intimate and fantastic second-level café that has indoor and outdoor seating areas arranged much like a funky apartment, which must have been its original use judging from the architecture. Walking down the stairs from that level onto the sidewalk, you are greeted by the small entrance and lobby of the theater, which leads to a quaint space that seats about 80 patrons.

A simple bare stage with a small raised “tablao” (wood floor) front and center was the set up for the performance with a bass and guitar just to the right, and two “cajones” (box drums) to the left, for the four musicians that would accompany most of the artists. 

First on the program was “Espiritu Ornette,” a jazz/flamenco fusion played masterfully on the guitar by Ethan Margolis with help from the talented Ian Martin on bass. This was followed by the “Historia de un Amor,” a well-known Latin-American bolero (a music genre native to Cuba), featuring vocals by the beautiful and soulful Stephanie Amaro and making her first appearance, flamenco master dancer Cihtli Ocampo. Joined by percussionist Diego Alvarez on the cajon with Luis de la Tota on hand clapping, this piece transformed itself from slow moving, sensual rhythms into an outstanding, fast moving, percussion-driven, improvisational dialogue between Ocampo and the musicians. 

“La Llorona,” a Mexican folk song was performed nicely by Amaro, with a non-traditional percussion and flamenco accompaniment by the band, followed by “Ritmos Humanos” featuring a sung “buleria” by de la Tota, which is a type of Spanish “rap,” if you will.

To close the first part of the program came the jazz classic “Round Midnight” and the African-American spiritual “Lord Don’t Move the Mountain,” both via the powerful and soulful voice of the young African-American singer Emi Secrest who opened and closed the number. Ocampo, sporting a traditional, black, ruffled Spanish dress, filled the ends with a Flamenco-inspired choreography, featuring some fancy and fast footwork that incorporated the long trail of her dress as it fanned around her body in circular motions. 

After intermission, Secrest returned with an out-of-this-world rendition of “Rosie (a prison Work Song)” that seemed like it was going to bring the house down, literally, due to the power of her voice and interpretation. The beautiful piece “Sonata” was performed with virtuosity by Margolis on guitar and Alvarez with lighting-speed hands on the cajon.

To close the evening, a wonderful version of the bolero “Luz de Luna” began with the voice and guitar playing of Amaro with Ocampo subsequently entering the stage in a black Cordobés-style flamenco dress with marching hat, to be later joined by the rest of the musicians. Of all the numbers performed, this one seemed to have the most cohesion and represented best the spirit of the evening with its fluidly from start to finish.

After an enthusiastic standing ovation, the entire company took the stage in what was titled a “Fin de Fiesta (end of the party),” a number which seemed to encapsulate the spirit of the evening.

Humberto Capiro is a Contributing Writer for Living Out Loud - LA, covering lifestyle and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter: @HumbertoCapiro

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