The Godfather of Flamenco

The Godfather of Flamenco
November 15, 2016 Shelly Chapple Clements
Photo by Ron Clarke. Image courtesy of René Heredia.

 

Photo by Ron Clarke. Image courtesy of René Heredia.

Photo by Ron Clarke. Image courtesy of René Heredia.

Maestro Rene Heredia is credited with bringing Flamenco to Colorado, so it is no wonder that he packed the house at Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center for one show only, “Una Noche de Flamenco”, on Friday, November 11 as a part of Denver Arts Week 2016. Maestro Heredia is as much a cultural historian as he is a musical genius making this pride of Denver community theatre the perfect venue for his concert.  

Su Teatro, located at 721 Santa Fe Drive in the heart of the Arts District, is the third oldest Chicano theater in the country. For more than 40 years, the group has been creating and touring recognized and home grown productions that speak to the history and experience of Chicanos. Born from the Chicano Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and 70s, Su Teatro (Your Theater) began in 1972 as a student-organized theater group at the University of Colorado at Denver. (Source: History | Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center) In 2010, Su Teatro purchased and renovated the Denver Civic Theatre, which has plans to become a regional Latino cultural arts center.

Rene Heredia’s is the creator of Gypsy Productions Inc (GPI). He has been internationally recognized for his talents for four decades and has received accolades as a leading figure in the development of Flamenco Guitar and Dance in the United States. Heredia has won Governor’s and Mayor’s Awards for excellence in the Arts for performance and education. Recently, the Denver Musicians Association acknowledged him as “Distinguished Award Recipient for 40 plus years of membership and pioneering work in the music industry,” and he was inducted into The Latin Chicano Music Hall of Fame. Heredia is not only the artistic director and lead guitar player but also the choreographer of Una Noche de Flamenco.

As the community bustled into the Angela Martinez Performance Hall, they drank wine, ate cookies, and talked of shared experiences. Some had travelled to Spain and seen Flamenco performed in its homeland and some were from Miami where access to Hispanic cultural is plentiful. The diverse audience that filled the hall included friends of the artists, families with young children, students of Flamenco, and so many other community members. This was a show for generations of music and dance lovers.

Photo by Ron Clarke. Image courtesy of René Heredia.

Photo by Ron Clarke. Image courtesy of René Heredia.

The Flamenco Fantasy Dance Theatre musicians were a company of men, led by Heredia and second guitar and bassist Ricardo Pruitt, with additional guitarists Paulo Hector, Andres Metzger, Wayne Rubin, and Hari Sowrirajan. The dancers were a company of women: Daniella Cano, Suzanne DeAtley, Liliane Kupper, Gabriela Ogu, Monica Perez, and Mila Popovich. They were led by executive director and lead company dancer Diane Lapierre.

This was a concert of classics and for each song there was a story and for each story, a dance. The Rumba that opened the show gave a nod to famous hispanic performers such as Carmen Miranda with maracas and scarves, bright colors and flowers, claps and syncopation. Heredia took us on a geographic and historic journey from 7th century Granada, the last stronghold of the Reconquista to the Golden Era of Spain in 1492. We experienced the Fandangos originating from Huelva in the Andalusian region of Southern Spain where Cristobal Colon (Christopher Columbus) famously awaited financial backing from the Catholic Monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand. The dancers shared the dance of Los Guajiros, the pheasants of Cuba, and of Los Gitanos, the gypsies of Spain.

The intricate rhythms and footwork of the dancers opened the second act as the musicians presented the traditional composition of Zapateado de Las Companas (the tap dance of the bells). Iconic classics followed including Las Siguiriyas, one of the Cantes Grandes (Serious Songs) and the famous Malagueña by Cuban born composer Ernesto Lecuona. When Heredia played solo, he seemed to melt into guitar, becoming one with his music. The energetic finale was a Bulerias Flamenco jam testing the musicians and dancers with speed and endurance and exciting the audience to its feet.

Maestro Rene Heredia is from Granada, Spain and a direct descendant of gitano puro (pure gypsy) family. He is knowledgeable, passionate, and talentethe real deal right here in Denver. The Flamenco Fantasy Dance Theatre is a nonprofit organization with the mission “to preserve and promote the art and culture of Spain, by bringing the timeless beauty of Gypsy Flamenco dance and guitar to people of all ages and backgrounds”.  Donations can be made to help ensure the continuation of this unique art form.


Shelly Chapple Clements was raised in rural Pennsylvania, in Amish Country.  She was drawn to the city of Pittsburgh through dance at the young age of 9 and never looked back.  Her dance education took her from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, to the National Academy of Arts in Champagne-Urbana, IL.  Shelly returned east and graduated from the renowned Pittsburgh High School for Creative and Performing Arts after which she enjoyed a professional modern dance career in San Francisco from 1990-2002.  She is a master instructor for young dancers and currently teaches ballet in Littleton and Highlands Ranch and is the Artistic Director of Youth Programs for DAMAGEDANCE.  Shelly has been a Colorado resident since 2002 and holds Bachelor’s Degrees in Spanish Interpretation and Translation, Hispanic Literature, and Theatre Dance from Colorado Mesa University, and attended the master’s program at the School of Education and Human Development at University of Colorado Denver.  Her passion for writing gives voice to the dancer who speaks not on the stage.

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