Seattle dancer brings new show to Carpinteria
There’s no other art form like flamenco.
That’s according to Seattle dancer Savannah Fuentes, who will perform her new solo show, “Flores de Verano, Flamenco en Vivo,” at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the Carpinteria Woman’s Club, 1059 Vallecito Road, Carpinteria. It’s her first performance in Carpinteria, but she performed some years back in Santa Barbara.
Ms. Fuentes noted the power of flamenco to inspire emotions.
“People often cry at my shows. They tell me how emotional they felt,” she told the News-Press this week by phone from Santa Rosa, one of the stops on her and singer/guitarist Diego Amador Jr.’s West Coast tour. “My hope is people will always have an emotional response.”
She and Mr. Amador were on tour in March 2020 when the pandemic interrupted their West Coast tour and stopped her live performances until this summer.
While disappointed she couldn’t perform, Ms. Fuentes said she felt liberated to have a break from the business of performing. It gave her time at home to create “Flores de Verano, Flamenco en Vivo,” which is Spanish for “Summer Flowers, Live Flamenco.” Ms. Fuentes said her costumes have included a beautiful floral dress.
She also sees a metaphorical meaning in the title’s floral reference. “Every show is like planting a little seed in every place we go.”
In fact, her dance work celebrates rebirth and new beginnings. It features traditional flamenco musical forms as well as contemporary themes.
“At first, it was really scary to go back after all this time being alone and not dealing with an audience,” Ms. Fuentes said about her current tour. “Now it feels really good. The audience gives you really good energy every night. They appreciate what you’re doing. It feels great to be back on stage.”
Ms. Fuentes’ appreciation for music and cultures is in her blood.
“My mom’s Boston Irish; my dad is from Puerto Rico,” she said. “They’re both musicians. No one else in my family does flamenco, but they (her parents) are culturally open people.”
Her parents, Jorge Fuentes and Cathleen Mora, passed on a love of performing to Ms. Fuentes. Mr. Fuentes, a singer and guitarist, played in a band performing rock, folk, reggae, Americana and Latin music, and Ms. Mora sang with the band.
Today Mr. Fuentes focuses on producing music. “But when I was a kid, he was doing gigs, staying out late,” Ms. Fuentes said.
Her interest in flamenco dance (baile) and singing (cante) came during her early childhood after she watched a performance on TV.
“I felt I had a connection with it,” she said. “I love flamenco. I think it (a love for flamenco) is something you’re born with.
“Flamenco comes from people who’ve had a really difficult time,” Ms. Fuentes said, but noted the power of music and dance to help people face challenges. “I think all of the arts help you to do that. All of the art disciplines help you to change your life and get through difficult times.
“Flamenco is a complex art form that spans all of the human emotions,” said Ms. Fuentes, who started taking flamenco lessons when she was 18 or 19. “You study 10 years before you think about performing.”
She studied with acclaimed flamenco artists such as Guadiana, Joaquin Grilo, Eva Yerbabuena, El Farru, Isabel Bayon and the person she considers her most significant mentor, Maestra Sara de Luis.
“I studied and raised my kid,” the single mother said. “At some point, I started to shift more to performances with small tours of five, six, eight shows, then 14 shows. I started touring in 2011.”
Ms. Fuentes has performed throughout Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Montana, Idaho, Colorado and Arizona, often performing for communities that didn’t have access to flamenco dancing and singing.
“People don’t know what flamenco is in a lot of towns, but I would find a small venue,” said Ms. Fuentes, whose daughter today is a marine science student at Cal State Monterey Bay.
While Ms. Fuentes is the dancer in the program, she stressed Mr. Amador’s role as the singer and guitarist. “Diego is an amazing artist from the heart of Sevilla. He comes from a flamenco family.”
In fact, Mr. Amador’s father is famous flamenco pianist Diego Amador. And his uncles Rafael and Raimundo Amador founded the popular flamenco band Pata Negra.
Diego Amador Jr., who released his first album, “Presente en el Tiempo” on June 21, is following in his family’s footsteps, and Ms. Fuentes is happy to have him accompany her on the tour.
“The music is the most important thing. The dance is secondary,” Ms. Fuentes said.
But there’s no doubt about the dynamics of flamenco dancing.
“There’s a lot of footwork, a lot of percussion in the feet, hopefully a lot of soul, a lot of emotion,” Ms. Fuentes said.
She noted her costumes aren’t traditional flamenco costumes and are more streamline. “I have a wonderful costume designer, who is the head of the University of Washington’s costumes department.”
Ms. Fuentes stressed again that she’s happy to be back performing.
“When I started to book the tour, I didn’t know what was going to happen. But everyday is more of a celebration.”