Emotional expression in dance and music is as old as mankind. Some forms are so beautiful and flamboyant they transcend time and place. The most authentic of these recreated spectacles will always find great success on tours throughout cities worldwide.
Such is the power of the Paco Pena Flamenco Dance Company's North American "Flamenco Vivo" tour to entertain and move audiences wherever they hang their guitars, their colorful costumes and tap shoes for the night. Their stop at the George Mason University Center for the Arts in Fairfax on Friday evening will undoubtedly be no exception.
Those unfamiliar with authentic flamenco, who think of it exclusively as a formal and stylized dance, would be one-third correct. The other two components, singing and guitar playing, form the trinity of flamenco's true nature.
"Traditionally, that's all there was in flamenco, and hand-clapping was the only percussion," Pena, a world-renowned and award-winning guitarist, explained. "But nowadays, the cajon [a drumlike box] is now used extensively in flamenco."
|Paco Pena: 'Flamenco Vivo'|
|Where: George Mason University Center for the Arts, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax|
|When: 8 p.m. Friday|
|Info: $23 to $46; one free ticket with student ID; 888-945-2468; cfa.gmu.edu|
The art of flamenco came into its own during the reign of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 15th-century Spain and was born out of the persecution of Moors, Gypsies and Jews. From this mixture of people, cultures and customs, all close to languishing in oppression and suffering, flamenco was born, expressing the joys and sorrows in the lives of these hapless minorities.
Paco Pena's "Flamenco Vivo" showcases material from the whole spectrum of flamenco. His own musical compositions are featured, along with works by Montoya, Ricardo, Sabicas and Escudero. The company of performers includes two guitarists (in addition to Pena), three dancers, two vocalists and a percussionist.
"There is structure when I put together a show; there is an idea behind it, and we all work together to produce that idea," Pena continued. "But I always like to leave plenty of room for improvisation [by] the artists onstage.
"The thing is there's a communication, one with the other, a language that we all understand. There must be trust between myself and the performers to pull that off."
And that language is as tangible as the instruments and the costumes. If successful, the communication and trust flows from the company to the audience.
"I want to move people, stir people and make them feel emotional," Pena said. "If that is achieved, I'm happy."