Sunday, May 18, 2014

Studio Mangiameli show to present new insights into world of flamenco dance


Chiara Mangiameli, founder of Chicago-based Studio Mangiameli,, and female lead in Rick Bayless's acclaimed "Cascabel," will present her annual show at the Vittum Theater, 1012 N. Noble St., Chicago, from May 30 to June 1.

"Tides" will feature more than 40 dancers, of all ages and from various backgrounds, addressing the events that changed their lives through flamenco dance and song forms with live accompaniment by musicians. More information is available at!shows/c5k2.

I had the chance to talk to Mangiameli about the upcoming production.

Q - "Tides" will open later this month. What was your idea for the show and how have your students taken to it?

The idea for this show (as well as most of the theatrical student showcase productions I've directed so far), was to weave some of the dancers' personal experiences into the various choreographies, in order for them to have an investment in the dances that goes beyond simply memorizing steps.

"Tides" is ultimately about moments in our lives, experiences, that have left us reeling in some way, altering the landscape of who we are. It's about transformation, resilience, the ability to surprise oneself by surviving, thriving, adapting and growing.

Q - What are some of the fundamental things that you try to convey to your students?

As far as the actual dance form, I try to convey the idea that flamenco dancers are also musicians. They are a reflection of the dynamics, rhythm and mood of the music at any given time. 

Not just through constant movement, but also through stillness, because that too, is part of the musical landscape. Ultimately to reflect the music you must listen, be receptive and make yourself tender and emotionally available to it. 

Quite possible a life long struggle for any dancer.

I try to convey that personal expression is crucial, not just because it reaches and impacts the audience, but because it's transformational for the performer. It teaches us to invest ourselves fully in what we're doing. Not be a bystander to our own experiences.

Q - "Tides" will also feature original live music from several flamenco and world music players, including Carlo Basile of Las Guitarras De España, guitarist Diego Alonso and percussionist Bob Garrett, who will soon to appear in Sting’s new musical, "The Last Ship." Why did you want to work with them and what do you think they bring to the show?

I've worked with the same musicians for years now and I find that with each project, we come closer to understanding, anticipating and finding ways to emphasize our individual aesthetics and strengths. Carlo brings a beautiful classical guitar sensibility and approach to composing music and Diego brings the more syncopated, percussive elements of the flamenco guitar as well as a keen understanding of all flamenco song forms and variations.

Together, these two guitarists bring a wealth of ideas and emotional depth and maturity to the work. Bob is the glue that holds it together with his tremendous knowledge of world percussion.

Q - World-renowned flamenco singer Vicente “El Cartucho” Griego will be the show's special guest. What do you think he brings to the production?

Vicente is a friend and tremendous singer. His voice, much like his personality, is larger than life, warm and soulful. He's also extremely well versed in all flamenco "palos" or songs and brings great authenticity and energy to the stage.

Q - You will again be part of "Cascabel" this summer. What made you want to do the show again? Why do you think it has been such a hit with audiences?

How can I possibly turn down the opportunity to dance with Rick Bayless six days a week, taste his food every day and collaborate once again with the incredible talent that Lookingglass manages to recruit? It also gives me a needed hiatus from my studio to gather inspiration and ideas. 


It's a way for me to go back to my acting roots while incorporating flamenco into the mix.... it's coming full circle with my career in some way and I'm grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of Chicago's thriving theater community. I think it was successful because it combined an extremely high end dinner experience with phenomenal and very unique talent and acts, and a very romantic tale of lost love. 

The word "magical" was one I heard a lot from audience members...

Q - What do you think of the flamenco music and dance scene in Chicago these days and where do you see it headed in the future?

There is no doubt that the community is growing and that flamenco is getting more recognition in Chicago. As with most art forms I think the dancers, singers and musicians that are most invested in it  will struggle, study and create until they've found their own voice beyond the strict tradition of flamenco and the burden we all sometimes feel in trying to internalize and personalize an art form that is not a part of our culture.

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