Vamos a China!
I write this a few hours prior to boarding the plane for Newark and, ultimately, Beijing then on to Shenyang. The two other guitarists that are going on the tour are in the other room yelling at each other as they prepare a “puchero” and the place is filled with steam and loud laughter. They are Panzekito (son of the legendary singer Pansequito) and Paco Fonta; both are great guitarists and we are all great friends. Mick LaBriola, percussionist par excellence, and Michael Gadzinsky, classical violinist, complete the intrepid group of guest artists that are accompanying the 16 dancers that comprise Ensemble Español.
The Ensemble has been invited to tour 3 or 4 cities of China as a “Cultural Exchange Tour” between Northeastern Illinois University and it’s sister school in Shenyang. The Ensemble is in residence at Northeastern (in Chicago). I have been an invited guest artist off and on since 1989—I’ve been with them to Puerto Rico and Poland. They are an incredible mix of talented dancers and musicos, mostly from Latin America and are under the directorship of Dame Libby Komaiko. I truly relish my time with Ensemble Español and working with them has been a continous learning experience. This trip promises to be no exception!
So we’re staying at the first dancer’s condo in the Uptown district of Chicago, on the shores of Lake Michigan. We just completed 3 days of rehearsal including an open one that was attended by 300-plus patrons and well-wishers. We are quite happy with the show and the music we put together for it. Everyone is very upbeat!
I hope to have the opportunity to continue blogging during our tour—I really know almost nothing about modern-day China and what to expect. Everything will be a fresh adventure.