Guitarist, dancers interrupt European tour to inoculate city

Gerald Lubensky was just a youngster when his heart was pierced by the beauty and power of flamenco, a distinctive style of dancing -- more of an art form, really -- that comes from Andalucia, the eight-province region of southern Spain.

"My introduction to flamenco was when my father, a diplomat, was posted in Madrid in 1956. I was 10, and it's been with me ever since," says Lubensky, an art professor at Kansas University for the past 37 years and an ardent fan of flamenco.

"I'm still listening to a record that was given to my father 50 years ago. I was able to find it brand new on CD. Mine was all scratched, and it's just a miracle, now with the technology, what's been saved. So I have a brand-new copy of stuff I've been listening to for 50 years."

Sunday will be a great day for Lubensky -- and any other Lawrence-area flamenco-philes.

Lubensky's Spanish friend Antonio Andrade and his Seville-based flamenco troupe will perform their program "Noches de Amor" (Nights of Love) at Liberty Hall for the third annual KU World Music and Cultural Diversity Concert.

Thanks to Lubensky's friendship with Andrade, the troupe will interrupt its European tour just to come to Lawrence and give that single performance.

"It's just a dream come true; this is something that I love beyond belief. It's informed my work as an artist. I'm a painter, and my work is about flamenco and is closely connected to it," Lubensky says.

"To be able to share this with my community is just an incredible joy. I just hope the community responds. If you get it in your blood, you become addicted to it."

Antonio Andrade & Fiesta Flamenca will perform at 7 p.m. Sunday at Liberty Hall, 642 Mass.

The theme of the event -- which is dedicated to the victims of the Dec. 26 Southeast Asian tsunami -- is "Cultural Landscapes: Music as a Symbol of Hope in the Midst of Tragedy."

Influenced by jazz

Clarence Henry, KU assistant professor of ethnomusicology -- and the event's organizer -- calls flamenco an expressive art form that's perfect for this year's concert.

"It's from an oppressed tradition, so they understand the idea of sorrow, and I think that comes through (in) the dance and the songs. The body movement, the hand movement, the sound -- I think it's very passionate," Henry says.

Andrade's own interpretation of flamenco will make the concert an unusual treat.

"Antonio does a lot of traditional flamenco, but he adds contemporary music in it as well. He has a little jazz in it, the instruments that the group uses -- saxophones, different types of drums -- makes it very interesting," he says.

That's exactly right, according to Andrade.

"I have a lot of influences from jazz in my program. I have a lot of influences from bossa nova, because I love bossa nova (from Brazil). There are a lot of different musical influences that I use to express my feelings and, in combination with the flamenco, it's marvelous," says Andrade, 42, in a telephone interview from a tour-stop in Germany.

This fusion of flamenco and other musical styles isn't new; musicians have been doing it for the past 30 years, according to Andrade.

"It means flamenco is awake," he says.

"In the past, we had influences of the (Spanish) Moors and of the Jewish people (of Spain), and now we have the influences of the jazz -- and the flamenco is getting richer and richer and richer."

Potential workshop

Lubensky's friendship with Andrade was key to getting his flamenco troupe to perform in Lawrence.

Lubensky, who speaks fluent Spanish and plays the guitar, goes to New Mexico each summer to participate in flamenco workshops.

"That's how I met Antonio and Yiyi," Lubensky says of Francisco "Yiyi" Orozco, a singer and percussionist with the six-member Fiesta Flamenca.

"I think it's about three years ago. Antonio is just the most incredible and generous teacher. They bring in new choreographers, new guitarists every year to do the workshop, and I'm fortunate to meet these people and spend a lot of time with them."

In July, Lubensky says he hopes to travel to Andrade's hometown -- Puebla de Cazalla, a village near Seville -- with a group of friends and participate in one of his international flamenco workshops.

Andrade's visit to Lawrence might be part of a larger plan, according to Lubensky.

"One of the reasons that he's being so generous in coming, he'd like to start a workshop somewhere in the United States, so coming to Lawrence is like kind of an introduction to the Midwest," Lubensky says.

"I would love to see a regular flamenco workshop at KU or here in Lawrence. We were working on it for this year, but (they delayed that plan) because this performance came about, and Antonio's group is touring throughout Europe."

For Andrade, the brief diversion to Lawrence -- the troupe arrives here Saturday and leaves Monday -- is a small matter.

"It's a lot of traveling, but it will be a very great pleasure for me. I'm so excited because Jerry told me a lot of times to come. I know a lot of states in the United States, but I want to know Kansas," he says.

"For me, it's really a great pleasure -- this (flamenco) is my profession, of course."


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