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The language of flamenco

Flamenco is more than a style of music, it is a language and a culture. The songs, or cante, and lively dance forms, such as alegrías and tanguillos, are essential to that language, but communication between the artists is at the crux of an exciting flamenco performance.

"Amigos Flamencos" is a group of artists who are fluent in the language of flamenco.

The troupe features SOU Director of Percussion Terry Longshore, Ashland guitarist Grant Ruiz and Medford-based dancer Mónica Morales. Guest artists include guitarist Chris Burton Jácome and dancer Marielena Jácome of Phoenix, Ariz.

"The communication that is the beauty of flamenco is enhanced by the fact that, once you learn it, it's easy to work with others who are fluent," says Chris Burton Jácome. "It's allowed us to come up with a great show in a short amount of time."

Chris Burton and Marielena Jácome have spent the last week in Ashland, recording a piece for a new album and holding a three-day dance workshop at Oak Street Dance Studio.

The piece, "La Alma del Árbol, La Resonancia de una Rama," was composed for flamenco guitar, marimba quartet and cajón. It was commissioned and premiered last year by Longshore and his SOU Percussion Quartet, Compás.

"La Alma del Árbol" will be one of the highlights of the concert on Jan. 14, along with "Rosas Rojas," a tango from Jácome's album "Flamenco."

"I usually play 'Rosas Rojas' as a solo," Jácome says. "But I'm excited about the improvisational aspect of the show. The flamenco styles of song and dance allow for artist interpretation. Each inspires the others and brings out the best."

Jácome studied flamenco guitar in Sevilla, Spain, and has five albums to his credit. The most recent, "Levanto," was released in May. Find it at www.CBJMusic.com.

Marielena Jácome holds a master's of fine arts in choreo-graphy and perfor-mance at Arizona State University. She travels to Spain to study dance under Concha Vargas, Juana Amaya and La Gallardí.

As an educator, performer and composer, Longshore performs regularly as a soloist and with ensembles Skin & Bones, Caballito Negro, Sonolumin-escence and Duo Flamenco. He holds a master's and doctorate from the University of California at San Diego. His compositions are published by Go Fish Music.

Morales was born in Madrid, Spain. When she was a child, she moved with her family to San Fernando in Andalusía, the heartland of flamenco. She came to the U.S. in 2003 and performs and teaches flamenco in Southern Oregon.

Ruiz has played guitar since he was 10, starting with classical music. He studied flamenco in Spain, then became a performer and teacher in Southern Oregon. He's played in several productions at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, including "Lorca in a Green Dress" and "Othello." He's part of Duo Flamenco with Longshore and a member of the Jefferson Classical Guitar Society.

Chris Burton Jácome and Marielena Jácome join friends at Southern Oregon University for a night of Spanish flamenco. - Photo by Sylvia Hardt