Tierra Flamenca

Bar Bodega, Wellington

16/10/2008 - 16/10/2008

Concert Chamber - Town Hall, THE EDGE, Auckland

17/10/2008 - 17/10/2008

Production Details

From the heart of Spain, to the soul of New Zealand: Emotion, passion and tradition

New Zealand Tour October 2008:  Auckland – Wellington – Hamilton – Tauranga – Hastings – Napier – Wellington – Nelson – Christchurch – Dunedin

For the first time after twelve years of dedication to the world of flamenco in Jerez and abroad, Francine Sweet returns to her country of birth with Tierra Flamenca: From the Heart of Spain to the Soul of New Zealand for a tour throughout New Zealand in October 2008.

The tour will start with the Otago Festival of the Arts followed by the Body Festival in Christchurch and the Tempo Dance Festival in Auckland, and encompass North Island dates in Wellington, Tauranga, Hamilton and Hawke’s Bay and concluding with the Nelson Arts Festival.

Francine brings with her a ninety minute show and will perform a stunning array of emotionally charged flamenco with five fellow Spanish artists. Full of Andalusian passion and fire, Tierra Flamenca is an experience that offers antipodean audiences a taste of Spain’s exotic side.

Dancing since age five, Francine traversed the globe with her dance and has gone through the rites of formation in flamenco in Jerez de la Frontera, the birthplace of the art form. Having dedicated most of her life to work and study with the gypsies and the flamencos of Jerez, her dancing expresses a strong temperament and ´instinto flamenco´ (flamenco instinct) – a rare quality in a dancer.

Jerez de la Frontera is birthplace to the greatest exponents of flamenco. Situated in the province of Cadiz, Andalusia Spain, it is the source from which pure flamenco song, guitar and feeling resonates.

Flamenco is an art form that grows beyond its vital cultural roots and folklore. It originated in Andalusia (southern Spain) and is most concentrated in the provinces of Cadiz and Seville, which include Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz, Lebrija, Utrera, Moron, and the port towns, ‘los puertos’. It is comprised of cante (song), toque (guitar) and baile (dance). The cante and compas (rhythm cycles) are the backbones of the art form and provide the primary inspiration to its interpreters. Similar to blues, flamenco cante possesses its roots in feeling at its rawest. 

This is a rare opportunity to experience the power and sincerity of traditional flamenco through the instinctive voice and courageous journey of a unique New Zealand dancer.

Tierra Flamenca is proudly sponsored by Trinity Hill Wines, Tio Pepe, AllPress Coffee and Tempo 08.

Wednesday October 15  Bar Bodega, Wellington | Ticketdirect 
Friday October 17  Concert Chamber, Auckland | The Edge 
Sunday October 19  Gallagher Theatre, Hamilton | Ticketdirect 
Tuesday October 21  Baycourt Theatre, Tauranga | Ticketdirect 
Thursday October 23  Trinity Hill Winery, Hastings | Ticketdirect 
Friday October 24  Century Theatre, Napier | Ticketdirect 

Manuel de la Malena - cantaor (singer)
Ana de Los Reyes - cantaora (singer)
Jesus Alvarez - guitarrista (guitarist)
Jose Luis Bermudez Peña (Percussionist/Palmero)
Jonatan Miro - bailaor (dancer)

Stirring and exhilarating

Review by Raewyn Whyte 18th Oct 2008

Playing for one night only in the third week of the Tempo Festival, Tierra Flamenca’s Concert Chamber show was sold out well before they arrived in town. The flamenco audience in Auckland is very much an international one, and generally knowledgeable about the artform, both from viewing the regular international performers who visit here, and from their experience of flamenco in a number of different styles and settings, including performances in the tablaos of Spain. They are not uncritical, and can be a hard audience to win over.

Despite the unsympathetic setting — a bare stage raised above flat rows of unstaggered seating, with such terrible sightlines that many audience members chose to stand throughout at the sides and rear of the chamber; and despite some technical problems with onstage sound, the passionate, energetic, intense and deeply sensual performance of the Tierra Flamenca ensemble very quickly had the audience responding with encouraging calls, applause, and drumming feet.

The ensemble of Gypsy-style flamenco puro performers from Jerez de la Frontera was assembled by expatriate New Zealand flamenco dancer Francine Sweet. They are mature performers, highly experienced and with international ciruit credits, and they form a highly responsive ensemble. 

Manuel de la Malena and Ana de Los Reyes are powerful singers who are play a critical role, verbally goading and teasing and encouraging the dancers, setting the emotional environment with their vocals, clapping the rhythms to keep everyone up to the mark, or embellishing the rest with counterpoint and hocketing beats. In their deeply moving solos especially– Triruma dedicated to Ana’s children, and Del Corazon a la Boca (From the heart to the mouth) they left you wanting to hear much more. 

Throughout the show, the necessary bed of rhythm was laid down securely and soundly by guitarist Jesus Alvarez and percussionist/palmero Jose Luis Bermudez Peña, providing a rich source for the delicious improvisational forays that featured throughout the dancing.  Both are clearly masters of their respective instruments, Alvarez articulated the notes crisply and cleanly, strumming and plucking quietly or dramatically as needed, knocking on the body of the guitar, or playing at whichever end of the neck is required. In his solo Transportado, dedicated to a relative now living in Auckland, he showed off just a little, and there were some recognisably contemporary sequences of music exchanged between himself and Pena. 

Dancers Jonatan Miro and Francine Sweet were well matched in their duets A la Calle Justica and Tempranillo. They are equally lithe and slim and supple and strong, each demonstrating the requisite rhythms in powerful drumming footwork, launching into intense stomping, punching, hair-whipping attacks on invisible enemies, prowling to and fro across the stage, or executing multiple spins on the spot.

While the programme did not include the slower forms of flamenco, in their solos Alegrias de Somorrosto for Miro and Jere ‘Zelanda for Sweet, there were moments of respite, when the dancers would turn oh so slowly with elegantly winding hands slowly raising from hips to above the head, or take up a stance which accentuated the arch of the spine, or pause a little before launching into the next barrage of sound and action.

The dancers’ costumes were of course a feature, with Miro’s ranging from the traditional high-waisted form-fitting black pants with ruffled shirt and silk vest to a sports jacket which swirled dramatically in his multiple off-centre spin turns, allowing glimpses of his torso between trousers and untucked shirt.  Sweet’s form-fitting dresses were embellished with ruffles, with colourful top layers often lifted to expose a elaborately trimmed underskirt as much as to free the legs to move faster or take larger steps. Her costumes were always complementary to his in one detail or another, the polka-dots of her ruffles matching his polka dot cravat, or both wearing embroidered burgundy silk waistcoats. 

It was a very satisfying show, stirring and exhilarating by turns, and multiple curtain calls were received before a short finale which saw each take to the floor in turn, poking fun at the more overtly sexualised aspects of the dance form, and quickly releasing the tension built up throughout the show from compliance with the rhythmic rigours of the form.


Pete Acott October 23rd, 2008

Tierra Flamenca


Having attended the show and really enjoyed it, I am writing to say what a

wonderful, clear, informative review was provided by Raewyn Whyte. 

I greatly appreciated the evocatively descriptive way she described

the performance.  Her review put into excellent words my own memory of

the show. It is not very usual for the reviewer to comment on the

Knowledge-ability of the audience, however Raewyn is spot on that

many of the audience would have been keen 'afficionados' and therefore

able to distinguish between, and critique the various compas' and palos.

As a student of the art-form I was fortunate enough to attend a

Flamenco guitar workshop with Jesus Alvarez the next day after the

performance and I can only agree with Raewyn's knowing perception of

his talents as a great Flamenco Tocaor.


 Thanks; well done to Raewyn, and kind regards.


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Milagro! Milagro!

Review by Jennifer Shennan 18th Oct 2008

This was the night flamenco came to town. The performance began for me when someone at the ticket desk thrust a tumbler of the best dry sherry from Jerez into my hand, and it continues some hours later as, with heel beats still echoing through strong coffee and black chocolate, I hunt for the words that might best describe what we saw.   Milagro could be a starter.

Francine Sweet, New Zealander-turned-flamenco-dancer, may be petite in stature but her achievement in assembling this troupe of five outstanding flamenco artists from Spain, and arranging a tour to six centres in New Zealand, is a towering one.  The staging was not sophisticated – standing room for most of the audience, so "restricted viewing" applied, the stage lights were too huge by half, and whoever designed or operated them should go back to school. But atmosphere abounded, and the capacity audience numbers, including local aficionados, were not worried about furniture. All the items, sung or danced, went straight to the heart of whatever the matter is.

The singers, Ana de Los Reyes and Manuel de la Malena, were thrillingly strident, and showed much pleasure as they gave us plenty. Jesus Alvarez, guitarist, and Jose Luis Bermudez Pena, percussionist, were in closest rapport and gave generous support to the dancers. You can bite music that sounds like this.

The male dancer, Jonaton Miro, is a dancer of brio and bravura who brings great force and swiftness to his zapateado / footwork, and delivers stunning point and counterpoint in his rhythmic sequences. The body spins, with head pulled forward out of the vertical, are breathtaking.

Francine has a smouldering, powerful presence, lashings of style, and a technique of great assurance.  Her footwork is fast and strong, but it was her occasional adagio arm and hand movements that brought to the evening’s performance the silent softness of whispered secrets that you could supply your own subtitles to.

A surprise, perhaps, that no duo was danced by these two, so we saw intense, meditative and memorable solos instead. A typical flamenco finale brought out musicians who turn to dancing for a minute here and two minutes there.  The great flamenco tradition has kept music and dance wedded as one art form, and in those closing glimpses we see how that rhythmic palindrome works.  Milagro has to be the closing word as well.


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