Q&A: Ronald Maltais, artistic director of the Castañeda Concert Series

and Emmy Grimm, co-founder of EmiArteFlamenco

flamenco

The Feb. 18 EmiArteFlamenco event will feature singers Eva Encinias and Joaquin Encinias, guitarists icardo Anglada and Mario Febres, and dancers Elena Osuna, Nevarez Encinias and La Emi. The group will also offer two free Flamenco workshops in the Plaza Hotel Ballroom at noon for children ages six through thirteen and 1 p.m. for high school students and adults.

Ronald Maltais, artistic director for the Castañeda Concert series, recently announced the next two performances, the first of which will take place on Saturday, Feb. 18, at 7:30 p.m., in the Plaza Hotel Ballroom. The performance showcases Flamenco musicians and dancers. The third concert in the series will be on Sunday, May 7, at 3 p.m. at Ilfeld Auditorium with violinist Elizabeth Young, cellist Dana Winograd, percussionist Ralph Marquez, and Maltais at the piano.

The Feb. 18 EmiArteFlamenco event will feature singers Eva Encinias and Joaquin Encinias, guitarists icardo Anglada and Mario Febres, and dancers Elena Osuna, Nevarez Encinias and La Emi. The group will also offer two free Flamenco workshops in the Plaza Hotel Ballroom at noon for children ages six through thirteen and 1 p.m. for high school students and adults.

Ron MaltaisMaltais, previously director of music at the United World College USA, left that position to devote more time to composition, directing and performance. He has been a life-long student of the piano, beginning at the age of four. Formal lessons at age eight with noted teachers led to a love of music and a gift for envisioning the creativity and art of performance and composing. Originally from southern New Hampshire, his studies with Maurice Hoffman led to degrees taken at New England Conservatory (piano performance), and Boston University (music composition). Maltais pursued vocal training and has devoted significant time to choral directing and artistic direction. His Meditation for Viola and Strings was conducted by Lukas Foss at Boston University in 1998. Maltais’ travels have led to engagements as a musician and lecturer in several US states and in India, Turkey, South Africa and Peru. He is currently composing an opera based on the life of Camille Claudel. Maltais premiered his Star Axis Preludes for a select audience at the first Light SpectrumConcert (Dwan Light Sanctuary/ United World College USA) in April 2016.

For La Emi (Emmy Grimm), performance and teaching are the heartbeat of a life spent immersing herself in the art of Flamenco. She has had several apprenticeships under Carmela Greco and has performed in various venues throughout Spain. She has also studied with Ivan Vargas Heredia, José Galván, Gala Vivancos, Inmaculada Ortega, Yolanda Heredia, Juana Amaya, Juan Paredes, Torombo, Rocio Alcaide Ruiz, and many more influential Flamenco dancers. For three seasons she performed with the Juan Siddi Flamenco Santa Fe. In 2014, Vicente Griego and La Emi began her own company, EmiArteFlamenco with Skylight Santa Fe as its home theater. In 2016 she opened EmiArteFlamenco Academy offering classes for toddlers, children and adults. For more information about La Emi, go to www.emiarteflamenco.com.

The Flamenco in Las Vegas Castañeda Concert is sponsored in part by Allan Affeldt, Plaza Hotel, Las Vegas Arts Council, New Mexico Arts and generous donors. Tickets are $15 per person and available at the Las Vegas Arts Council. They can also be purchased at the Plaza Hotel and at the door on the night of the performance.

ORP: What is the greatest challenge in putting together a concert series?
Ron: There are many facets to designing and arranging a compelling concert series. Intuition usually guides me, and I am thinking about great variety in the various programs and juggling the availability of prospective performers. My mission in Las Vegas is to feature New Mexico performing artists. This season certainly achieves that goal as all of the performers reside within the state. When people attend a Flamenco performance, the venue, lighting, sound design, graphic design etc. are all critical components to achieving a spectacular result. In the May concert we will bring back a violinist and cellist; both performed at the Castañeda in Sept. 2016. This decision was partly due to the favorable comments of audience members who enjoyed their virtuosity and musicianship.

ORP: What is the most rewarding for you as an artistic director?
Ron: When I am in the audience or performing in an event I produced it is very exciting to feel the energy in the room; to see how the people attending are reacting to the program. An example is when there was a spontaneous ovation at the end of the first half of the Castañeda concert last fall. Usually ovations occur at the end of an excellent performance. I am very committed to enhancing the concert season in Las Vegas. I begin by looking at what is already happening around town and then proceed to add something different to the mix.

ORP: You’ve taught, conducted and composed music. Which do you most enjoy and why?
Ron: I made a decision to step away from a full-time position as a music director/ teacher at the United World College USA this season (after a 15 year run). This surprised many local residents who have been very loyal supporters of my concerts and overall work in the past. I see it as a way of challenging myself to return to a more intense focus on piano performance and music composition. In the May concert I will present an original work composed for a professional colleague. When you announce such a thing you must follow through. It’s a bit frightening, but in a sense you are lighting a fire under yourself! Also, the Brahms Trio which I have programmed for the May concert is quite difficult, and I am greatly enjoying the process of mastering the piano part in this work.

ORP: The next two concerts have been set. Talk about the Feb. 18 performance and what led you to select Flamenco as the art form for this event?
Ron: There is a strong Flamenco tradition in New Mexico. In some ways it is different than what you might see in Spain. I feel it is up to artistic directors to invest serious time and thought in looking for ways to promote important cultural traditions. When I first came to New Mexico I was drawn to Native American music, and through numerous visits to several Indian pueblos within our state I was amazed by what I saw and heard in the music performances and sacred dances.

ORP: What appeals to you about Flamenco?
Ron: The drama of it is compelling; sometimes subtle, but then wild and seductive. The chemistry between the dancers and musicians springs from a kind of improvisational daring. Watching Flamenco (even once) could be a life-changing experience for spectators. I remember seeing a small, excellent Flamenco ensemble in Cordoba, Spain some years ago, and the images are still engraved in my mind, along with the unforgettable sound of their music. I walked back to my inn on that balmy summer night feeling somewhat dazed.

ORP: How do dance, vocal and instrumental performances differ in presentation and preparation, or do they?
Ron: I am not a dancer, but I have observed/collaborated with dancers many times, even composed music, which colleagues then choreographed. Watching the body language of confident musical performers who are not dancers (ex. A jazz quintet) is not so different.  There are many ways to communicate, and body movement is key to this.

ORP: The objective of a concert or performance is to provide beautiful artistic expression. What are the technical or logistical aspects of putting together an event, aside from practice, practice, practice?
Ron: The greatest performers sometimes talk of states of consciousness they experience in their quest to achieve the highest possible expressive outcome. Some get there rather easily through natural talent/ intuition. After getting through the preliminary technical work of learning musical notes or learning dance steps you must find a way to take it to a different level. Of course your own gifts allow it to become personalized. Your interpretation would likely be different than any other and this is the magic we strive for. As performance artists we are actually recreating art over and over again. This is a difficult question to answer and I hope my response makes sense!

la-emiORP: Emmy, talk about your company of Flamenco artists.
Emmy: My company was founded two years ago by my Godfather, Vicente Griego and myself. This is a family company. We feel very blessed because we get to do what we love with the people we love, in the place we were born and raised.

ORP: How long have you all been working together?
Emmy: We began working with each other prior to the opening of EmiArteFlamenco. We have been working together many years.

ORP: What excites you about the art of dance?
Emmy: Flamenco is an art form that originated through the people.  It was born in the streets amongst families. It is a way to tell one’s story. It expresses everything that I go through in life, love, heart break, anxiety, joy and many more emotions.

ORP: When and how did you become a Flamenco dancer.
Emmy: My father, David Grimm, worked at the box office for Maria Benitez during her Summer Season of shows at what is now The Lodge at Santa Fe. My mother used to go to the shows when she was pregnant with me. I grew up going to these shows and at the age of four I began my studies with the Maria Benitez Institute for Spanish Arts.

ORP: What is the greatest challenge when putting a performance together?
Emmy: For me the greatest challenge is making the time to do all of the needed things. It is important to promote the show, but you also must make time to rehearse every day.

ORP: What is the greatest joy?
Emmy: I believe that the Lord put us all on this earth to serve our purpose. God blessed me with a love to dance. It gives me true joy to be able to do what I love and share it with my community. This show is truly exciting. We will be celebrating our love for New Mexico, as well as for the art form of Flamenco and what a better way to do it than amongst familia!

For more information about EmiArteFlamenco go to www.emiarteflamenco.com

What: Castañeda Concerts: Flamenco in Las Vegas
When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 18
Where: Plaza Hotel Ballroom

Cost: $15 per person
Where to purchase tickets: Las Vegas Arts Council and online at lasvegasartscouncil.org. Tickets are also available at the Plaza Hotel. 

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La Emi Photo: Daniel Quat Photography