Solo Debut for Flamenco Dancer Rebeca Tomas

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FIERCEPhoto of Rebeca Tomas by Maly Blomberg.

Rebeca Tomas, a fierce and feminine New York-based Flamenco artist, makes her solo debut with “A Palo Seco,” an evening of Flamenco music and dance, infused with an innovative and edgy New York feel. The production, performed by Tomas, two dancers, two singers and four musicians, will take stage May 14 to 16, 2010 at Theater 80 Saint Marks.

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FEMININEphoto by Zita Bradley.

Based in Manhattan, where she freelances as a soloist with various companies, Rebeca Tomas has been deemed “a fierce performer” (Explore Dance) and “a postcard image of the feminine Flamenco dancer” (Kansas City Metropolis). Since summer 2008, she has toured with the internationally renowned company Noche Flamenca. She also performs regularly with Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana, Jorge Navarro’s Pasion Flamenca, and Oscar Valero Flamenco Company. Tomas began her formal dance training in Granada, Spain at Maite Galan’s Escuela de Danza Espanola. She later moved to Madrid, where she studied at the internationally renowned Flamenco Academy Amor de Dios under such figures as Maria Magdalena, La China, Manuel Linan, and Rafaela Carrasco. There she appeared at various tablaos, including Al Andalus and Las Carboneras. She has also studied in Sevilla with Juana Amaya, Pastora Galvan, and Yolanda Heredia. In May 2008, she received a grant from the Jerome Foundation to return to Spain and deepen her studies in Bata de Cola, and in June 2008 she received a scholarship to participate in a summer intensive program at Jacob’s Pillow.

Petite yet strong, Tomas is only 5′ 1,” but appears much larger onstage. Her performing style is sharp, graceful and clean. “Being small, I have a low center of gravity,” she confides. This might be why she can tightly execute a wide variety of turns, from repetitive “heel” turns and pirouettes, to the most famous of the female Flamenco turns, the vuelta quebrada, in which Tomas arches her back so completely that she never takes her eyes off the audience. She has also been praised for the musicality of her footwork, which displays an unusual precision of rhythm. Trained as a pianist, she connects intricately with her musicians, improvising freely and playfully with them. She also connects intensely with the audience, toying with it adroitly as she leads it through moments of joyfulness, severity, high energy and tension. Notwithstanding the novelty of a Flamenco dancer playing piano in a performance, she’s an artist that traditionalists will be proud of. “I’m quite mindful of the tradition,” she insists, “while finding my own personal style within it.”

Where she challenges the traditional form is in the aforementioned solo, “Metamorphosis,” which is set to a thunderously dark storm of piano and grunt-laced singing that swells into an ominous chorus. Tomas pushes at the edges of convention, adapting Flamenco rhythms and footwork to radical and unexpected styles of modernist post-folk music. Elements of modern dance creep in, accompanied by unusual use of hands and dire expressions of face. Part of her background is Russian Jewish, and possibly the piece testifies to the inherited weight of mortality and heritage. “It has been an exciting process to create something that, for the first time, feels one hundred percent my own,” she says.

Tomas grew up in West Hartford, CT and attended the University of Rochester, where she graduated with a B.A. in Psychology and Comparative Religion, while also studying classical piano at the Eastman School of Music. It was on a semester abroad to Granada, Spain, during her undergraduate years, that she ran smack into Flamenco and found her calling. “I don’t think I even knew it existed, but when I saw it that first time, there was no going back. I thought to myself, ‘This is it. I have to do this. I have to know this. I have to become a part of this world, and this has to become a part of me.'”

The evening will feature dancers Rebeca Tomas, Sol “La Argentinita” and Laura Montes. Musicians will be guitarist and musical director Pedro Cortes, bass player Sean Kupisz, violinist Ali Bello, percussionist Oscar Valero and singers David Castellano and Barbara Martinez. Lighting Design is by S. Benjamin Ferrar. The production is directed and choreographed by Rebeca Tomas, who developed the original concept while abroad in Spain on a grant from the Jerome Foundation.

Performances are May 14 to 16, 2010 at Theater 80 Saint Marks, located at 80 Saint Marks Place, Manhattan. The performance schedule is Friday and Saturday at 8:00 pm, Sunday at 3:00pm. Tickets are $20-35; the box office is reachable at (212) 388-0388 and online ticketing available at www.theatre80.org.

Jonathan Slaff is a New York publicist in the specialty of international cultural events. Jonathan and his writers keep us ahead of the curve in the world of the arts and culture.