Emotion, grace evoked by flamenco group to perform in Walla Walla

Flamenco dancer Savannah Fuentes will perform Friday at Charles Smith Winery in Walla Walla.

Flamenco dancer Savannah Fuentes will perform Friday at Charles Smith Winery in Walla Walla.


WALLA WALLA — As a child, Savannah Fuentes caught a glimpse of flamenco — the Spanish art form of song, music and dance — while watching television one day.

More than a fleeting moment, the clip of the centuries old art-form shown on a travel show captured Fuentes’ emotions and set the path for her career as a professional flamenco dancer.

“When I saw flamenco I remember thinking, that’s what I am,” Fuentes said in a phone interview this week.

It would be several years before the Seattle native took her first flamenco class, when she was 17.

But the connection she felt from that brief glance as a child still grasped her.

“It was hard, but I knew, this is for me — this is what I want to do,” she said.

Fuentes trained with a traditional dancer in the Seattle area, and eventually traveled to Spain for the cultural immersion that is key to train as a flamenco performer.

Close to 20 years since that first dance lesson, Fuentes is now a seasoned performer, and taking part in a 25-show tour across the Northwest that will bring her to Walla Walla Friday.


Courtesy photo

Jesus Montoya will perform with Pedro Cortes and Savannah Fuentes at Charles Smith Winery, 35 S. Spokane St., on Friday at 8 p.m.

Fuentes will perform el baile flamenco with singer Jesus Montoya, (el cante) and guitarist Pedro Cortes (el toque) Friday at the Charles Smith Wines Tasting Room in downtown Walla Walla as part of the Ciudades Northwest Flamenco Tour.

Both Montoya and Cortes are from Spanish families and grew up immersed in flamenco culture from a young age. Montoya and Cortes perform and produce flamenco music professionally.

By bringing flamenco to the Walla Walla area, Fuentes hopes to bring exposure to an art form that is deeply complex with origins that are often misunderstood.

“It’s an emotional art form,” Fuentes said. “For me, it’s more of an experience and a feeling, than looking at it as an entertainment show.”

Flamenco is believed to have roots in 18th century southern Spain, originating with el cante, or singing, then growing to include guitar, dance and hand-clapping.

Fuentes said that although flamenco’s exact origins are debated, she believes Spain’s location north of Africa had much to do with the development of the style. Influence from Islamic culture, from Indian immigrants, and eventually the Romani people, or gypsies, came together to shape the form.

Show details

The Ciudades Northest Flamenco Tour brings dancer Savannah Fuentes, singer Jesus Montoya and guitarist Pedro Cortes to perform a traditional flamenco show at the Charles Smith Wines Tasting Room, 35 S. Spokane St. House-made sangria and wine will be served in the tasting room, as well as nonalcoholic beverages and light fare. Spanish-inspired dishes by Andrae’s Kitchen starting at 7 p.m.

The show begins at 8 p.m. and is open to all ages. Tickets are $20 and available for purchase at the tasting room, by calling 526-5230, or online through Brown Paper Tickets

“It became the perfect storm for this art form to grow,” Fuentes said. “We have this whole cultural hot bed, at this location.

“Someone was singing, then someone picked up a stringed instrument, and picked up tones, and then someone started dancing.

“When the gypsies did come in they added a whole other layer to what was already happening. They really made flamenco what it is today.”

Variations of flamenco have developed through the years, and its popularity has only grown in recent years.

Groups like the Gipsy Kings helped bring a style of flamenco music to the mainstream.

“It’s art, so people take it wherever they want to go with it,” she said.

Fuentes said she, Montoya and Cortes offer a more traditional style of flamenco, where the experience is meant to be an emotional one, and the graceful movements of the dancer’s arms and torso are part of the story, along with the hand-clapping and quick heel steps that flamenco is perhaps best-known for.

The dance is an expression of the music, where a flowing skirt helps accentuate the grace of the movements.

“It’s traditional flamenco singing, song and dance,” Fuentes said about her performances.

“The singing is one of the most important aspects. It’s a show that’s traditional, pretty straight-forward flamenco.”

Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at mariagonzalez@wwub.com or 526-8317.


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