I first caught up with Tamara Adira, dancer and artistic director of Arte y Pasión, in the summer of 2013 when she was just wrapping up her performance in "Dibujos de Travesuras." Already planning her next creative move, Adira promised something unexpected in her next production.
Since then, she has worked relentlessly while giving sneak peeks of her upcoming production at various events throughout the city. On Sept. 12 at 7 p.m., Adira will present a full performance of "Angel of Gravity" – a culmination of Arte y Pasión’s work and efforts of the past year – at The Uptown Studio on 700 Fredericksburg Road.
Over the years, Arte y Pasión has given the city of San Antonio world-class performances with Adira enlisting the help of renowned flamenco dancers and musicians each time. As the mastermind behind such productions as "Generaciones" (2010) and "Arte y Pasión" (2011), Adira shows no signs of slowing as she pushes forward with her latest production.
Recently, she has scaled down her performances from larger theatrical productions to more intimate performances throughout the city. Her latest production, "Angel of Gravity," is just that.
“Arte y Pasión is a company to serve as a forum for independent artists to gather and collaborate together to make and perform good flamenco," Adira said. "What has happened – and I don’t really think this is on purpose, it’s just organic to our development – is that while grounding our knowledge base in the roots of pure flamenco, we have ended up exploring more contemporary and experimental work in flamenco and Spanish dance.
"My vision for this year is to push the boundaries of flamenco by counterbalancing it with new disciplines and art," she said. "I would like to continue to explore juxtaposing dance against fine art and continue with experimental composition pieces and ideas while still keeping it pure.”
With each new production, Adira brings forward a new concept.
“I also enjoy very much centering a theme, a central idea of exploration, or loose storyline around each project so that the project becomes more than a flamenco show– each project becomes a vehicle to provoke thought, feeling, and memory," she said.
While inspired by the Laurie Anderson song "Gravity’s Angel," Adira also lists other sources of inspiration.
“Another source of inspiration for the namesake of this production is that dancers have often been compared to angels. But flamenco dancers are connected to the earth," she said. "Flamenco dancers could be called angels bound by the force of gravity, striving for the heavens but bound to earth.”
For "Angel of Gravity," Adira has assembled a new cast of dancers and musicians of various backgrounds and disciplines. There is flamenco guitarist Luisma Ramos hailing from Seville, and jazz musician Jean-Philippe Rominger, from Strasbourg, on violin.
Modern dancer Stephan Gaeth joins Adira in what is the signature piece of "Angel of Gravity" with both dancers donning a bata de cola, or a “train dress,” as it is commonly known. The duet was first premiered at Bihl Haus Art Gallery in February during this year's On and Off Fredericksburg Art Studio Tour.
Having seen Adira perform over the years, she can be described as somewhat of a mysterious figure. Not afraid to appear vulnerable before her audience, Adira turns the “dirt of life,” as she says, into works of art.
Often performing in slacks, Adira’s onstage persona incorporates both the masculine and the feminine. In the farruca, a dance usually performed by a male dancer, Adira embraces the wholeness of the human spirit dancing with both grace and authority.
Flamenco dancers Yvonne Castano and special guest artist Bianca Rodriguez round out the cast of dancers.
“Bianca is one of those rare dancers I have had the pleasure of working with today who uses her dancing as a vehicle of emotion, not just expression of technical ability," Adira said. "She brings it back home in her movement and reminds me of what it’s all about.”
On vocals, or cante, there is Francisco “Yiyi” Orozco from Barcelona and San Antonio’s Chayito Champion. The two singers, both masters at their craft, provide some of the most heart-wrenching vocals I’ve heard in recent times.
Revealing her admiration for Orozco, both a vocalist and percussionist, Adira lists him among the many musicians who have left a “permanent mark” on her development as a dancer.
As for her experience working with Champion, Adira said, “It has been a real pleasure working with Chayito. Chayito is a great spirit and sings with all her heart. She has put her all into her work, and lately I’ve noticed she has been expanding her repertoire to marry the traditional and contemporary. Chayito is one of those artists who understands how important it is – to be a leader in your field, you must keep studying and improving.
"Indeed, she is a highly sought-after artist, having performed across the U.S. from coast to coast and abroad in foreign countries, including Spain," she said. "She is an American artist who has made it in flamenco. As you can imagine, this is not an easy feat.”
Finally, if the ensemble of dancers and musicians is not enough, Adira has invited Spanish artist JD Morera, who will be doing live painting throughout the performance. Morera, who finds inspiration in the music and dance of flamenco, has provided the backdrops to Arte y Pasión’s most recent performances.
Working alongside so many musicians over the years, Adira is always sure to give credit where credit is due.
“The people who have the deepest effect on my work are those who push me to think differently and therefore dance differently,” Adira said, citing dancers Teo Morca, Solangel “Lali” Calix, Antonio Arrebola, and guitarists Ricardo Diaz and Brent Del Bianco as further influences. “Dancers need to understand that, in order to dance well, we need to become musicians of sorts – we need to listen to the music, attempt to understand it, and attempt to master it as a vehicle of composition. These musicians spent a great deal of time working with me to understand that.”
Like an artist’s sketchbooks, Adira’s productions over the years reveal the dancers' personal and artistic growth. Always remembering the masters of flamenco, Adira keeps a keen eye to the future. Bridging both the traditional and the new school, Adira proves to be one of the most creative visions in the South Texas flamenco scene.
*Featured/top image: Stephan Gaeth and Tamara Adira performing the signature piece to "Angel of Gravity." Photo © Nicole Marie Moore.