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Flamenco Dancer

Vc Life and Stlye

A Gypsy in Ventura
La Farrona de Califas aka Ana Galindo: Flamenco Fever

Interview by Amy Jones
Photos by Dina Pielaet

A mesmerizing and mysterious art, Flamenco is a fundamental part of the culture of Spain. It’s also an international phenomenon that continues to captivate audiences and consume the hearts of new students. Ana Galindo, a dancer/choreographer who now teaches and leads her own company, has been on fire with Flamenco for over fifty years. Her mentor was once Carmen Amaya’s dance partner. Her company – Pacific Action Dance Theater now rehearses at the Livery Theater in Ventura. She reminisced about Flamenco and founding the company in 1960 with Bob Fosse and Tanya Smirnova: “We were choreographers for Fox, Warner Brothers and Columbia studios. I remember working with Yul Brenner and Tony Curtis on the film Taras Bulba. I also trained with George Ballanchine and toured with Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. We danced classical ballet, East Indian, modern…but my specialty has always been Flamenco, and that’s what I do with the company now.

’You have to understand Flamenco is more than dancing. Flamenco is a lifestyle. I back up with palmas (clapping) or on drums the cajon (a wooden box slapped with the hands), or I do jaleo – statements, like light rapping we yell out to the dancers to get them excited or make fun. Palmas must be used carefully and be perfect to complement the tacaneo or foot tapping designs the dancers use. And of course the master guitarista. You can spend your whole life learning it, trying to perfect duende.

Duende is deep passion - for the family, the loved one, the dance. Deep passion is the key component of the content of the singer; the dancer interprets the words into movement. It can be haunting or a love song. The serious songs tell of the pain of the people; that is cante hondo. I once danced to a lettera, a phrasing, once about a man who lost his daughter in a fire. Eventually the singer moved the song to a lighter place. The light fun party songs are the cante chico. But in his song, it all went together and that is life. Flamenco is life. It takes a lot of work, and you have to study too, because it’s an art form that’s over a thousand years old…and the songs and beats and movements have a timeframe and lineage of when the songs were born and who danced them, who their students were and who passed on information.

Flamenco comes from the east beyond India, from calls to prayer, music made at campsites and along ancient trade routes where the forms and the bloodlines came together and migrated to Spain where Flamenco was ultimately cultivated.

The gypsy bloodlines are not only Spanish. They were nomads from Indian, Arabic and Egyptian worlds, part of the soviet back block, Romania, Jerusalem, the mountains of Afghanistan, campsites in Turkey. Gypsies came to Spain over different periods, and they intermarried; in the bars their songs interwove. After over a thousand years the base rhythms remained and other songs were woven over it. So Flamenco starts with the siguiriya, the oldest song; later it is followed by soleare and many other core songs, and it kept traveling on ships from Spain to Cuba, Puerto Rico, then America. Salsa is the same rhythms from siguiriya just pushed up top speed.

Flamenco puro, gypsy Flamenco, is really a form of rapping. It’s improvisational like a lot of Jazz. The singer raps in the moment to tell you how he feels. That’s the real flamenco, when the singer is able to rap and sing laments, poetically harmonized, phrasing and everything perfect, over and over all night long. The guitarist who accompanies the singer has to be well equipped with years of training and fingernails so well kept, and he has to be able to hang all night long too. Flamenco has a lot to do with fire and perseverance, how tough you are on the inside.

In Santa Barbara, we will perform at the courthouse and the mission during fiesta. There’s a long history of Flamenco being danced on the steps of Catholic churches although it was banned by the church in Spain several times. They didn’t want the wild hoochi mama dances.

And, if people only knew how many gypsy tribes are in America…One time I was biking through the Carpinteria campgrounds. As I passed, I swore I heard flamenco, so I whipped a U. And, there was a little boy just whooping it out. He was so good; I was in tears. He knew every flamenco song, and he knew it perfect. This is proof of how deeply the art is woven into the culture. Children learn flamenco from their grandmother, from their family in the kitchen. They learn it through the poetry and song…My little grandson was acting out with his mother because he wasn’t getting his way and he breaks out a flamenco song in Spanish wailing, ‘Oh my heart is broken as if you stuck a sword through me.’ Bravo mas flamenco puro.”

Pacific Action Dance Theater is available for public and private performances in tablao or concert style. An open workshop is available every Saturday, at the Livery Theater from 1-4pm for $20.00.



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