‘Tablao Sevilla’ Showcases Authentic Flamenco in Manhattan

On April 1 and 8, 2015, world-renowned flamenco artists Sonia Olla and Ismael Fernandez will present the world premiere of “Tablao Sevilla” at the Roger Smith Hotel, 501 Lexington Ave. in midtown Manhattan.

This intimate theater setting offers audiences a unique opportunity to observe the dynamic exchange between singer, dancer and guitarist, and to fully experience the raw expression of traditional flamenco.

The term tablao comes from the Spanish word tablado, meaning wooden floorboard. It is used to describe an intimate performance space for flamenco. Unlike large theater performances, flamenco tablaos provide the audience a unique opportunity to see the dynamic exchange between singer, dancer and guitarist in an intimate setting. Sonia Olla (dancer) and Ismael Fernandez (singer) are partners not only in flamenco but also in marriage. They come from a long lineage of famous flamenco gypsies known as Familia Fernandez. This world premiere will also include special guest artist Ismael “El Bola,” Ismael Fernandez’s son, a rising star and one of flamenco’s most sought-after vocalists.

Sonia Flamenco
Sonia Olla. Photo by Angelica Escoto.

Sonia Olla and Ismael Fernandez will appear in a major concert, “Al Son Son: Flamenco,” on May 28, 2015 at TriBeCa Arts Center, appearing in a 260-seat theater with an ensemble of 30 dancers. Info on that concert is in formation and will be available around April 22.

Tablao Sevilla is co-produced and co-directed by Sonia Olla (dancer) and Ismael Fernandez (singer), with choreography by Sonia Olla.

The duo recently 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.”

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.”

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 the “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.

Sonia Olla and Ismael Fernandez will present “Tablao Sevilla,” April 1 and 8, 2015 at Roger Smith Hotel, 501 Lexington Ave. (at 47th Street), Manhattan. Doors are open at 6:00 PM, curtain at 7:00 PM. Admission is for two sets: one at 7:00 and one at 8:15. Running time is 2 hours. tickets are $55, includes one complementary drink. More drinks and tapas also available at the bar. Tickets can be purchased online. The phone number for more info is 917-647-1365 and the company’s website is www.soniaolla.com.

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.