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Finding connections – flamenco meets calligraphy

SANTA FE, N.M. — There are a lot more exits ramps for destination flamenco than many of us ever imagined.

This year, for example, a long-time flamenco company in New Mexico explores the connection between Japan’s precise calligraphy and the swirling choreography generated by Spain’s “country music.”

Flamenco Fiesta 2017 from Mina Fajardo and Chuscales, a wife and husband compania, offer “Hito-fude & Sumi-e: Calligraphy and Choreography – Illusions in Arts,” beginning today at Teatro Paraguas. The annual fiesta continues through Saturday and Sunday with a performance each day.

“I was looking at the dancers and I saw the shape of the character for ‘person’ in Japanese writing,” said Fajardo, a native of Japan who has danced flamenco for more than 20 years.

The connections between the beautiful and, to some, enigmatic Japanese script and the fierce Spanish dance form kept growing as Fajardo saw more and more images that struck similar notes, she said.

“Hito-fude” (pronounced some thing like stow-fu-day) is a single stroke of the brush, and two or more make up a complete symbol, which is “sumi-e (soo-me-eh).” Likewise, a traditional flamenco performance is made up of dancers, singers and musicians, all reacting to one another to complete the performance.

Fajardo’s inspiration resulted in a two-act, five-part program that recognizes each season by actors, dancers performing in traditional flamenco styles and music. The “fifth” season – one that traces the slow and delicate transition from summer to fall – is one New Mexicans may understand well.

Along with the seasons, the calligraphic influence generated other ideas, such as attaching the idea of a horse to the “spring,” a bird to “summer” and flowers, autumn leaves and sunflower seeds to “fall.”

Another aspect of the performance is the story, best described as “the other side of the soul,” said Fajardo.

“Both sides, sad and happy, as in a mirror,” she said.

The performance will feature actors speaking in English, providing more access to audience members about what is happening on stage, said Chuscales, who uses a single name given to him by his grandfather. He is a native of Antequera, Spain, whose family came from the cave gypsies of Granada. Starting his career in flamenco as a dancer, he became a guitarist with empathy for the anticipation needed by the dancers.

Fajardo has studied internationally and performed regionally in the Southwest. She is a teacher, including stints at the Maria Benitez Institute for Spanish Arts, and at several community colleges and public schools, as well as the Spanish Institute of Dance in Houston.

Chuscales started his career in flamenco as a dancer, but now plays the guitar. (Courtesy of Mina Fajardo)

Chuscales started his career in flamenco as a dancer, but now plays the guitar. (Courtesy of Mina Fajardo)

Chuscales began studying guitar at age 6 and as a young man studied with Paco de Lucia in Spain. He was also a flamenco dancer.

Similar to the emotional ballads of American country music, the songs accompanying the dancers are usually full of heartache and open to a singer’s unique take. The interpretations may include rhythm, tone or style.

Both Fajardo and Chuscales have appeared in a number of films. Also, they have four children.

Flamenco music is “country” at its core, as a style of music from Spain’s gypsy cultures, he said.

“Someone may sing it one way, or play it one way, and someone else will do it differently,” he noted.

Flamenco also features a jazz-like collaboration between dancer, singer and musician, Chuscales said.

And, like jazz and Japanese and Chinese calligraphy, a pause, silence or empty space is as important as the activity. It defines what is happening, Chuscales said.

The connection between Japan and flamenco isn’t just happening in Santa Fe, the duo noted. Flamenco is big in Japan.

“They love it and understand it,” Fajardo said.

This year’s Festival Flamenco includes guest artists Joaquin Gallegos, a guitarist, and dancers Domino Martinez and Monze Diaz.

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