By ERIC SCHELKOPF
Chiara Mangiameli earned rave reviews last year for her performance in the theatrical show "Cascabel" with master chef Rick Bayless.
Now, Mangiameli, www.studiomangiameli.com, will bring her production, "Quejios - Cries In The Air," to the Vittum Theater, 1012 N. Noble St., Chicago.
The production, www.vimeo.com/61942237, will run from May 31 to June 2, and tickets are $25 for adults, $15 for children age 12 and under, available at www.brownpapertickets.com.
I had the chance to talk to Mangiameli about her new production and the flamenco dancing scene in Chicago.
Q - What was your vision in developing "Quejios - Cries In The Air?" Has it come together as you envisioned?
"Quejios - Cries In The Air" was inspired by "cante flamenco" (flamenco singing), which I see not only as the starting point for most flamenco dances, but also as one of the most soulful and expressive styles of folkloric singing. It tends to get under your skin and much like electricity, its presence is felt in the air long after it stops.
My hope is to connect to the audience in some way and for the images they see or the music they hear to linger with them for a little while.
As with most things in life, a vision that you first start off with might evolve in ways that were unexpected. My students are a big part of my process in putting a show together.
Their personalities, a random mistake in class, anything might inspire a new idea, a different direction. I'm not sure anything comes together the way I first envision it and I'm not sure that I'd have it any other way.
Q - Alfonso Cid is a guest singer in the production. What do you think he adds to the project?
I met Alfonso years ago while performing with Las Guitarras De España and I've wanted to work with him ever since. He grew up with flamenco in his native city of Seville, Spain, and has also been through a very rigorous training process to learn vocal technique and the history of various "palos" (song forms in flamenco).
He adds tremendous versatility, knowledge and of course the kind of power that is necessary to accompany several dancers, while always providing the appropriate mood and emotional backbone to fuel the dance.
Q - How do you think the flamenco dancing scene in Chicago compares to other parts of the country? What sets flamenco dance apart from other forms of dance?
I think the scene in Chicago is relatively small but growing all the time. There seems to be more interest in the dance and guitar element and not as much in the singing as you might find in cities such as New York or Albuquerque.
Flamenco in its truest and most basic form is meant to be improvised and improvisation relies on a tremendous ability to listen to and communicate with the guitar and the singing. All of this requires a certain amount of relaxation and ability to be truly "present" in the moment and in the music.
When you experience that yourself either as a performer or as an audience member, you experience something unique and almost magical. Perhaps that's the what they refer to as "duende."
Q - What do you enjoy about teaching flamenco dancing? What do your students teach you?
The best part for me is the rhythm: the musicality and dynamics that you can achieve not only with your feet but with a hand movement, a shrug, anything that shows that the music is alive in you and working its way through the body.
My students teach me that not everyone learns the same way, everyone has their own way of processing information. They constantly remind me to be patient and to maintain a sense of humor about it all.
Q - You earned rave reviews for your work last year with Rick Bayless in the Lookingglass Theater production of "Cascabel." How was that experience and would you do something like that again?
The experience was phenomenal. After leaving the stage many years ago I was presented with an opportunity to use my acting background, singing and flamenco dance all in one role. My life felt like It was coming full circle…. not something you experience very often.
I got to work with my very dear friend and accomplished guitarist Carlo Basile, eat some delicious food with Rick Bayless and be a part of Chicago's most innovative and creative theater company.
I'm always open to interesting and challenging projects….
Q - Do you have any dream projects?
I've been studying Argentine tango and am fascinated by some of the similarities in technique between it and flamenco: the separation of upper and lower body, the elegance of its lines and extensions. That might very well translate into a dream project one of these days :)