The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Saturday, Oct. 27
My dance professor told me about Spanish dance performances at the Hirshhorn Museum, so I decided I would go check out the richness of Spanish culture. Arriving an hour and a half early, we walked around the Smithsonian for a while until it was time to get to the festival.
We were greeted by a sculpture hanging from the ceiling. In the lobby, a delicious smell engulfed us as we wandered the side where a chef from the Spanish restaurant Taberna Del Alabardero was preparing a variety of dishes for visitors to taste. I tried the tortilla espanola which is a potato, egg and onion omelet. I also had the Mediterranean sala, a dish with tuna fish, peas and carrot pie. They also served cazuela de gambas al ajillo , a shrimp casserole with garlic sauce and parsley.
There was also storytelling of Spanish folktales, flower making and, my personal favorite, the music and dance performance by the Spanish Dance Theater. These events are all part of Family Day of the Festival Familial to celebrate the world of Juan Munoz, an artist whose work is exhibited at the Hirshhorn.
“Ole!” The voices of the Spanish dancers and the rhythm of the castanets filled the Marton and Gustave Ring Auditorium. The Spanish Dance Theater performed more than 10 dances, including regional, folk, classical, Escuela Bolera, neoclassical and flamenco. The dancers dressed in elaborate, traditional costumes and filled the auditorium lively singing, dancing.
Director of the Oxford Academy Lourdes Elias pointed out the differences and origins of each dance. The hour of dance was a sheer amazement for all the visitors, and the festival-like atmosphere of the auditorium was full of excitement and interest. Children and adults clapped and smiled at every dance. The little ones laughed at the male dancers as they performed a series of intricate jumps to amaze the audience.
The first performance, a folk dance with five dancers dressed in black wearing flower aprons and shawls, danced and sang to a story. Gold earrings dangled from their ears, and a singer from the back of the auditorium sang a melody to complement the dance. The opening act drew everyone into the show as if they were part of the family.
A solo from the 17th Century performed by Nancy Sedgwick, a member of the Spanish Dance Society and teacher at the Oxford Academy, showed how ballet influenced the Spanish dance culture. Sedgwick wore ballet slippers and performed a variety of ballet steps in her dance.
A dance from Francisco Goya’s period in the 18th Century presented a common dance usually performed in a park. Elias explained that dancing was a good way for boys to meet girls.
The following dance from the 19th Century showed dance society members Elias and Jaime Coronado performing for a king. Coronado impressed the crowd with his cape-swirling skills. The dancers’ constant yelling of encouragement during the performance showed their compassion and involvement in the art.
My favorite dance consisted of three female dancers dressed in red and black costumes. The atmosphere of the stage changed quickly from a light-hearted family feeling to a serious and powerful place. The three dancers moved quickly, stomping in perfect unison with a feminine grace. Their arm movements were strong, and their clapping commanded attention.
Boleras were the last dances performed. A guitarist accompanied these lively performances, and dancers took the stage individually to show off their skills.
One of Elias’ earrings fell in a solo. As my flamenco teacher always said, “A good flamenco dancer always loses her accessories while dancing because she does not care about her looks. She is into the dance.” The Hirshhorn performance showed a group of dedicated dancers giving all they had.
This article appeared in the November 8, 2001 issue of the Hatchet.