By Cris Franco
The life journey of East LA-born dancer Maria Bermudez is a saga worthy of a grand opera. She prefers to tell it through dance. Of her entry into the field, she says, “I was first introduced to flamenco by my brother, Alfonso. He was an up and coming flamenco talent whose life was cut short at the age of 29. I believe I was destined to carry on and fulfill his dream to become a recognized artist. Because, once I ventured into flamenco, it was love at first step.”
The rare and gripping tale of how this ravishing talented Chicana then moved to Spain and evolved into a global dance sensation, accepted by the country’s Gypsy community inspired the award-winning documentary “Streets of Flamenco.” Once arrived, Maria immersed herself in the cultura gitana, married a Gypsy musician and created her own grupo, Sonidos Gitanos (Gypsy Sounds). The musical ensemble’s considerable talents garnered them high praise as they performed in the world’s major venues, including the Hollywood Bowl. On November 18th & 19th of 2017, they will grace the more intimate stage of the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood, California. This is great news as flamenco is, at its essence, an intensely intimate and soulful art. “When dancing, I’m listening to the cry in the song, in the music, “ says Maria. “It is deep and transports you to an almost ancestral place were spirit, tragedy, love and survival merge. Flamenco is an enticing art form. It draws you into a rollercoaster of emotions. It is our job to communicate that ride to the audience.”
She learned how to communicate through movement from the legendary Gypsy artists with whom she has professionally collaborated for more than two decades – one of very few foreigners allowed into their intimate circle. Bermudez is highly recognized for her extraordinary loyalty to the art form and furthering its worldwide reach.
Onstage, Bermudez invokes the traditions she knows intimately from her earliest days of study under the great dancer and Patriarch, El Farruco (whose great-grandsons grace international stages today). Through a ConVivencia – in the sense of Community or “a life lived,” the respected artist, teacher and choreographer seeks to strengthen the connection between the Andalusian elders and her southern California communities.
In a spirit of coming full circle, this show celebrates the arc of Bermudez’ formidable professional career, as well as the path ahead of aspiring artists drawn toward the sometimes lamenting, sometimes euphoric cry of Gypsy flamenco. Her advice to young bailaores (flamenco dancers), “If you choose this type of dance as your profession, everything else in your life takes a back seat. You must immerse yourself wholly to be true to the artform. If you do that, your life is enriched culturally, artistically and physically. The rewards are endless!”
Maria Bermudez continues her life-long work as an ambassador for the art this weekend at the El Portal alongside Ana de los Reyes, Cante/Singer; Miguel Rosendo, Cante/Singer; Bernardo Parilla, Gypsy Violin; and Jesus Alvarez, Guitar. Along with Bailaoras/Dancers direct from the Linda Vega Dance Studio in Santa Barbara, and Special Guest Artist Pedro Córdoba, Bailaor/Dancer. Tickets and show info: (818) 508-4200 or El Portal Website.