PORT ANGELES — This art form shares traits with rock’n’roll and hip-hop, Martín Santangelo told his audience last Saturday.
People — gypsies, Arabs, Sephardic Jews — endured persecution from mainstream Spain, he said, so they screamed out with their voices, their guitars and their bodies. In this way, their music has origins similar to that of the rock and rap we hear today.
“You scream out, because you’re fed up,” said Santangelo, artistic director and producer of the renowned troupe known as Soledad Barrio & Noche Flamenca.
“This is flamenco,” Santangelo said after the ensemble, along with his wife, dancer Soledad Barrio, had given a short demonstration on the plain black stage of Field Arts & Events Hall.
The ensemble, 12 artists, came to Port Angeles on Oct. 30 for a two-week residency to rehearse for the West Coast premiere of a new show, “Searching for Goya,” at the Meany Center in Seattle next Thursday through Nov. 18.
Their local presence will culminate in a pair of performances.
At Field Hall, a place Santangelo called “delicious” for its acoustics, Noche Flamenca will appear at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.
Their new piece, which began taking shape in early 2022, is a set of vignettes, each drawing inspiration from the paintings of Francisco de Goya. The troupe performed a short example from the work in which bulls, painted by Goya, float from the sky.
Tickets to Noche Flamenca’s concerts, ranging from $10 to $75, are available at fieldhallevents.org. The concerts will be in the 500-seat Donna M. Morris Theater at Field Hall, 201 W. Front St.
Gabriela Garcia, Noche Flamenca’s production manager, said ensemble members feel fortunate to have this time in Port Angeles.
The calm, quiet and physical beauty of this place has allowed the artists to focus solely on the work without distraction, Garcia said.
“The beauty of nature has allowed them to reflect like never before on the work they are taking on. To be in a place like Port Angeles with access to the beautiful Field Hall,” she added, “lends itself to creativity and introspection.”
Barrio, the principal dancer, is a petite woman with a fierce bearing. Among other honors, she has won the Vilcek Prize in Dance from the Vilcek Foundation, which raises awareness of immigrant contributions in the United States.
“When I dance, I am my true self,” Barrio has said.
She was born in Madrid; Santangelo is a New Yorker from Greenwich Village. The pair, then in their late 20s, met in the Spanish capital in 1992 and moved to New York City to found Noche Flamenca a year later. They have since led the troupe to worldwide prominence, touring and teaching audiences about their art.
From the 15th century forward, the people who created flamenco were oppressed: not permitted to speak their native language, celebrate their culture or be who they are, Santangelo said.
And so, in caves and cellars, they made music.
“It starts with the voice,” Santangelo said, because the people didn’t have much money for other instruments.
At Field Hall, the singers, musicians and dancers listen to one another, interlocked and improvising: “they’re communicating very quickly,” Santangelo said.
During a question-and-answer session last Saturday, Garcia interpreted for the Spanish-speaking performers.
To a query about how it feels to be out there dancing, one artist said simply: “free.” Another said sometimes he feels great, sometimes he doesn’t. Either way, flamenco is “a necessity.”
Flamenco, Santangelo added, is “a way of saying I’m here, this is who I am.”
For more information about the company, visit https://www.soledadbarrioandnocheflamenca.com.
For additional information abut Field Hall, see https://fieldhallevents.org/#/events.