May 2023

The Steiny Road to Operadom | Karren LaLonde Alenier | www.scene4.com

The Inspiration of Flamenco
 in a Time of Trump and Stein

Karren Alenier

On the evening (March 30, 2023) that we learned that former United States president Donald J. Trump had been criminally indicted in New York for crimes not then disclosed, the Steiny Road Poet was treated to a world-class flamenco ballet by Sara Baras at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. The ballet is entitled "Alma" and translates as soul, something many of us news junkies believe Trump may have little to none of.


Gertrude Stein said, "Americans are like Spaniards [sic]" and she wrote in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas that "Gertrude Stein and Spaniards are natural friends." Her long-time friendship with Pablo Picasso embodies those declarations. Numerous scholars have written about Stein's radical experimentation in terms of dance. For example, Daniella Aguiar and João Queiroz in their paper "From Gertrude Stein to Dance: Repetition and Time in Intersemiotic Translation." All of this to say, that Steiny sees intersections between Donald Trump, Gertrude Stein, and flamenco dance.

First Steiny's impressions of "Alma"—a cross between radical tap dancing, martial arts, belly dancing, a Moslem call to prayer with jazzed overlays, and Sufi whirling. While repetition frames every move in flamenco, creating a mesmerizing trance state, nothing is exactly the same. Having come out of Andalusian Gitanos (gypsy) culture, it has always been outside traditional dance forms. Another feature of flamenco is its tricky off beat timing, which the musicians enhanced with rounds of handclapping. What was apparent in Baras' presentation is that she mixed the hubris of, say, a matador in the bull ring with her intention to show her loving concern for both her audience  (throwing them kisses) and her fellow dancers and musicians (going to each one and hugging them). Clearly it was a performance Baras did not want to end as she offered up multiple encores. The show with its excellent musicianship (guitars, drums, flute, saxophone, and those rhythmic dancer heels)  inspired the same kind of awe that Steiny experienced when, in the 1980s, she took her son to Spain, and they attended a bull fight by the top matadors—it was a cultural learning experience. 

So, the crossovers between Donald Trump, Gertrude Stein, and flamenco dance are over-the-top repetition, offbeat timing, and a certain diva attitude that defies all criticism.


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Karren Alenier is a poet and writer. She writes a monthly column and is a Senior Writer for Scene4. She is the author of The Steiny Road to Operadom: The Making of American Operas. Read her blog.
For more of her commentary and articles,
check the Archives.

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