Friday, March 1, 2019

Flamenco Quartet Project will show its innovation during Chicago Flamenco Festival


Whether it is through her school, Clinard Dance Studio,  or through her Flamenco Quartet Project, Wendy Clinard continues to find ways to keep flamenco fresh and exciting.

The Flamenco Quartet Project will perform March 5 at SPACE, 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston, as part of the Chicago Flamenco Festival, a multi-week festival celebrating Flamenco music and dance, running through March 14. 

The show starts at 7:30 p.m. and tickets range from $15 to $25, available at
I had the chance to talk to Clinard about the show.
Q – Great talking to you again. The Flamenco Quartet Project will be part of the Chicago Flamenco Festival. What does it mean to you to be part of this year's festival? 

We are pleased to be part of a festival with so many great flamenco artists. Moreover, our Chicago area public has a chance to see, in a concentrated time frame, all the various ways artists are creating with this art form and to see groups like ours that are exploring new exponents of the traditional aspect of flamenco, like it was written yesterday, in Chicago.

Q – What do you have planned for the Flamenco Quartet Project's show at SPACE? What should people expect? 

Performing period is a treat and performing in a new place/venue is very exciting to us because we get to interact with a combination of an old and new audience members. The Flamenco Quartet Project is rooted in something very specific, flamenco, but the way we are working with the form is to challenge the capacity of that specific vocabulary unique to living in Chicago. 

How do we do that? By using world-influenced sounds; by introducing unique instrumentation to the form and by harnessing the unique sensibilities of the participants.

We have intentionally kept the fourth role of the quartet a "visiting artist role," which means that some of our original pieces are recomposed each time a new guest joins us and that is helping us keep the pieces evolving and improvisational. 

For the SPACE show, we will be joined by a singer and flute player from Seville, Alfonso Cid, and Antonio Andujar, a caja player from Madrid.

Q – You formed Flamenco Quartet Project in 2014. In forming the group, what were your goals and do you think you have accomplished them?

The Flamenco Quartet Project mobilizes the "flamenco structure" (the interplay between guitarist, singer and dancer). This structure is a great way to organize the unique instrumentation (i.e. the violin) and world-informed backgrounds of the participants (Arabic, Balkan and Spanish classical). 

What peaks my interest is the "global" presence of the form over that last decade. As flamenco is studied and practiced in other countries and influenced by other music and dance forms, flamenco is evolving and able to tell many stories by many different artists.

Dance forms like ballet and modern have been able to do this and now flamenco too can be experienced by many interpreters. The vocabulary and capacity of the form is so great that it can talk about the various ways we exist and what we go through unique to each artists (i.e. their time period, place and geography).

So this was my goal on the onset and I think we have accomplished that.

Q – How did the musicians in the Flamenco Quartet Project come together? 

We had all worked together on different projects and through those experiences found that we all shared equal parts camaraderie and artistic excellence with a fierce curiosity about music and dance exploration. We are a “quartet," so listening to each other in a more minimal, clear way is possible and so is finding dynamics and textures that give way to other spontaneous ideas that inform the compositions.

If there are too many cooks in the kitchen, it's sometimes hard to discern the various sounds and ingredients. With the four of us, we can handle the four qualities of sounds and trade them in and out, on and off with more ease, which allows us to be more on point about listening to each other in the general sense.

Q – Do you think the group has continued to change and evolve over the years? 

Most definitely. The time element plays into everything; our old compositions, new works and the revolving "guests" have reshaped our pieces and given birth to new pieces. Over time we've learned about how we work together so we assign parts of the old or new pieces to different ensemble members.

There's a real ease in creating; it happens naturally and there is always a surplus of ideas to draw from.

Q – Of course, Clinard Dance Studio is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Has it exceeded your expectations? Where do you see it going from here?

Yes, it has exceeded my expectations and that is not synonymous with “bigger" or “prestige," etc. It has meant, looking back, a steady dedication to music and dance making.

There is such a joy to creating together and we've become more aware of this and that's why we've contracted a little over time; “downsized," I guess you could say; smaller projects with discovery it the helm.

Where do I see it going from here? [We aim to] keep creating and connecting with people. 

Q – Do you have any dream projects or collaborations? 

That changes every week or month, but I've been listening to jazz pianist Robert Glasper and I've found all kinds of new footwork and grooves. I've even found new mechanics in my footwork as a result.

He does these “one mic/one takes" and I think it would be cool to do that "one shot” together with no rehearsal and see what happens.