Flamenco Maestros in Al Son Son – Flamenco, at TriBeCa Performing Arts Center

Sonia Olla (dancer/choreographer) and Ismael de la Rosa Fernandez (singer) will topline “Al Son Son – Flamenco,” a 90-minute spectacle of authentic Andalusian music and dance to be presented at Tribeca Performing Arts Center May 28, 2015. The one-night concert will highlight the traditions of La Familia Fernandez, one of Flamenco’s most distinguished families. Olla and Fernandez, while famous in Spain, are rarely seen in concert in the U.S., but they appeared in March at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC and more recently in a sold-out NYC Tablao at the Roger Smith Hotel that produced cries for more. The May 28 concert at TriBeCa PAC is an opportunity for them to share their distinctive music and techniques with a wider audience. Seating is limited to 260 seats. Tickets are $20 general admission and can be purchased at 212.220.1460 and www.tribecapac.org.

Appearing with Olla and Fernandez will be guitarists Pedro Cortes, playing under the musical direction of Mr. Fernandez, and a gran coro comprised of thirty members of Sonia Olla Flamenco Studio, who engaged in a six-month developmental workshop in preparation for the event. Some of the dancing chorus are older dancers with dance injuries and recent surgeries, for whom Ms. Olla’s tutelage has been therapeutic.

Sonia Olla
Sonia Olla. Photo by Joan Crisol.

The title of the concert is difficult to translate into English, but it roughly means “Take us to the rhythms (grooves/swings) of the heart of Flamenco.” (Al is a combination word of A (to) and El (the) and Son is an abbreviation for soniquete or sonsonete, signifying rhythms and sounds.) Choreography and direction are by Sonia Olla and all musical direction is by Ismael Fernandez.

About The Performers

Sonia Olla was born and raised in Barcelona and earned a degree in Spanish Dance and Flamenco at the esteemed Instituto de Teatro y Danza of Barcelona. She then completed her training with the legendary Merce Esmeralda, Manolo Marin, Mariquilla and Antonio Canales. In 1999, she made her professional debut with the illustrious Rafael Amargo as part of his world-renowned company in the critically acclaimed production “Amargo.” Since then, she has toured as company member and soloist, sharing the stage with flamenco greats such as Antonio Canales, Domingo Ortega, Aida Gomez, Eva la Yerbabuena, Rafaela Carrasco, Maria Pages, La Farruca, Alejandro Granados and the famed Nuevo Ballet Espanol.

In 2011, she premiered “Entretiempo” with celebrated flamenco singer Ismael de la Rosa Fernandez at the prestigious Teatro Lara of Madrid, her first production acting as director, choreographer, and principal dancer. After moving to New York, she and Ismael Fernandez collaborated to create “Tiempo Al Aire,” a unique blend of traditional flamenco with elements of jazz and percussion, which sold out Joe’s Pub as part of the world-famous New York Flamenco Festival in 2014. She has performed at The Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Le Poison Rouge, Instituto Cervantes, Birdland, and is featured regularly at Spain’s most notable tablaos. She has been featured in The Washington Post as well as numerous Spanish newspapers, including ABC, El Pais, El Periodico de Aragon, El Diario, Que, La Voz, and Diario de Jerez. She has also made television and radio appearances on Tele 5, the “Victorio Duque Show” (Cadena Cope), the “Eva Cordon Show” (Radio Nacional de Espana), the “Goyo Gonzalez Show” (Punto Radio), the “Ana Camara Show” (Onda Cero), the “Asuncion Borderas Show” (Cadena Ser), and the Internet show “Flamenco TV.”

Son Son
Sonia Olla and Ismael Fernandez. Photo by Maite H. Mateo.

Ismael Fernandez was born in Seville, Spain, of Gypsy descent and grew up performing in flamenco festivals throughout the world with his internationally renowned family, La Familia Fernandez. His professional career began in Spain’s premier flamenco tablaos such as “El Cordobes” (Barcelona), “La Carboneria” (Seville) and the famous flamenco cuevas, or caves, of Granada. In 2004, he won the National Contest of Cordoba, singing bulerias for famed dancer Soraya Clavijo, and that same year he was a finalist in the Festival De Cante De La Union. He regularly participates with his family in the celebrated Bienal de Flamenco de Sevilla.

Throughout his expansive career, Fernandez has worked with flamenco legends such as Antonio Canales, Farruquito, Marina Heredia, El Torombo and Leonor Moro, to name a few. For several years, he has been a featured company member of internationally acclaimed dancer Maria Pages, with whom he has appeared at The Joyce Theater (New York, 2004), Sadler Wells Theatre (London, 2004), Esplanade Theatre (Singapore, 2004), Orchard Hall and Bunka Mura (Japan, 2001, 2002, 2006), Teatro La Zarzuela (Madrid, 2007), Teatro Real (Madrid, 2008), and the Gran Teatre del Liceu (Barcelona, 2008). He co-produced and co-directed “Entretiempo” and “Tiempo al Aire” with dancer Sonia Olla, sharing the stage with artists David Paniagua and Ruben Lebaniegos. In 2011, “Entretiempo” was televised on Flamenco TV and in 2014, “Tiempo al Aire” sold out Joe’s Pub as part of the world-famous New York Flamenco Festival. Later that year, “Tiempo al Aire” debuted at Lincoln Center Outdoors.

Hailed by The Washington Post as a “most charismatic performer” and a “connection to the Gyspy source,” he has made several radio and television appearances, most notably Tele5, Radio Nacional de Espana, Cadena Ser, Punto Radio, and Onda Cero.

The duo are prized as teachers. Ordinarily, Flamenco dances are taught by simply having students copy their teachers’ steps. Unique among master teachers, Olla and Fernandez approach the art from the music in, aiming to transmit a complete understanding of the Cante Flamenco (songs and singing of Flamenco), an art which derives from the lyrics and poetry of the people from Andalusia in the south of Spain. Historically over the decades, Flamenco “dance” has become popular among non-spanish speaking audiences around the world, but the singers’ authentic lyrics and the poetry are the soul of the art, expressing the suffering and joy of the people. In no other Flamenco studio does a singer come to classes and sing while students are learning to dance. Sonia Olla then approaches the dance by having her students understand where and how to move to the music. For those who do not understand Andalusian Spanish, she stresses listening and responding to the tones and inflection of the singer and the musical phrases.

Recent Reviews

In March 2015, Sonia Olla (Dancer/Choreographer) and Ismael de la Rosa Fernandez (Vocalist) appeared at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC in a concert that was part of “Iberian Suite: global arts remix,” presented in cooperation with the governments of Portugal and Spain. The Washington Post (Ann Midgette) praised their dance as so intense, earthy and real that the ensuing program, while musically excellent, seemed watered-down. Dance Enthusiast (Deirde Towers) added, “Internationally renowned, [Sonia] Olla has all the technical precision and grace of the best Flamenco dancers. But she sets herself apart by doing what so few visibly do: she listens. Her dance is as much an erotic affirmation of the “cante,” (song), as it is startling for its range. A relaxed voluptuary, she pulls at the lush fabric on her hips waiting for the singer to complete his phrase before making her own galvanizing, percussive response. Her “Solea” transmits love, a love of being fully alive, acutely alert, while savoring every snap of electricity. At the close of this brief solo, the entire audience jumped to their feet.”

On April 1 and 8, 2015, Olla and Fernandez offered “Tablao Sevilla” at the Roger Smith Hotel, 501 Lexington Ave. The intimate theater setting offered audiences a unique opportunity to observe the dynamic exchange between singer, dancer and guitarist, and to fully experience the raw expression of traditional flamenco. Critic Brenda Repland (Arab Vistas Today) applauded of Olla’s mastery, writing “Her vibrant energy was earthy, voluptuous and electric,” and called for audiences to follow the duo to their upcoming major concert at TriBeCa Performing Arts Center in May.

Jonathan Slaff writes on cultural events from the brainy, the edgy and the good. He helps us keep ahead of the curve in the world of the arts and culture.