Tucson Flamenco Festival returns with changes, additions

2013-09-19T00:00:00Z Tucson Flamenco Festival returns with changes, additionsBy Gerald M. Gay Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The holy trinity of flamenco — classic Andalusian singing, dancing and guitar play — will be on display at Casa Vicente during the fifth annual Tucson Flamenco Festival this weekend.

The festivities, which start tonight and run through Sunday, will feature crackerjack performers from New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Spain in what has become a tradition at the South Stone Avenue restaurant.

More than 1,000 flamenco fans filtered through the four-day event in 2012.

Marita Gomez, who owns Casa Vicente with her husband Vicente Sanchez, said they are constantly trying to up the ante when it comes to entertainment at the event.

“It is a huge undertaking,” said Gomez, whose family hails from Argentina. Sanchez was born and raised in the small town of Piedralaves west of Madrid.

Among this year’s offerings is the addition of a guitar competition, which has been playing out at the restaurant over the last two weeks.

Guitarists in several age groups, were recruited through the Tucson Guitar Society, the University of Arizona Guitar Studies Program and the Community Music School to go head-to-head in a tournament that will determine who has the best flair for flamenco in town.

Several of the finalists will perform as part of tonight’s activities.

“The guitar and Spain are connected,” Gomez said. “We started this competition to encourage guitar in the community. We thought it would be slow in the first year because people hadn’t had time to prepare, but we have been really impressed.”

The sets will be followed by performances from national and international acts, including dancer Auxi Fernandez from Cádiz, Spain; dancer José Moreno, son of famed flamenco artists Estrella Morena and Pepe de Málaga; and Jesús Montoya, who has been singing with professional companies since he was 9 years old.

Gomez said headline acts will perform earlier in the evening this year; around 9:30 p.m. instead of 10:30 or 11.

A matinee performance also will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday.

“We were seeing people leave at intermission before the main entertainers came on stage,” she added. “In Spain, 11 p.m. is still early, but in Tucson that’s late.”

Club España de Tucson will be on hand selling Spanish merchandise, performers will provide lessons in workshops and a giant pan of paella will provide a late-night snack during intermissions.

Each evening will start with a fashion show to showcase the designs of local and regional talent. Gomez said the Tucson community has embraced the festival, which makes it is such a worthwhile event to plan.

“It is exciting and something different,” Gomez said. “It has been wonderful to see it grow.”

Event will feature finalists from guitar competition, earlier headliner performances.

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