Ecos de España School Programs:

Almer plays I. Albeniz’s “Asturias”.  Enjoy!

BACKGROUND: Spanish music and dance arts contain multicultural origins that developed over centuries, and include influences from ancient Iberia, the Celts, ancient Greece and Rome, North Africa, East India, the Middle East, Caribbean, South America and the three great Western religions; Christianity, Islam and Judaism.  As early as 200 BC, during Greek rule in Spain, the contry was already a renown center for music and dance.  Flamenco as we know it today was created by the Spanish Gypsies in the 1850s, a product of their prodigious musical talents, East Indian heritage, their assimilation of Moorish, Jewish and Iberian established influences in Spain, and a need to express the pain and anguish of the persecution they experienced over centuries at the hands of the Spanish ruling classes.  There are at least 52 different rhythms (palos) in the flamenco repertory, and the rhythmic sophistication of this unique art form is unparalleled.

Ecos de España's school assembly program introduces K-12 students to the sophistication and variety inherent in music and dance from Spain and Gypsy Spain. It’s a perfect introduction to Hispanic world culture for today’s “global generation.”  See a promotional video by clicking onto "Video 1" on the home page.  A teacher's manual is available.
Guitarist Almer Imamovic introduces students to a selection of the
timeless classical compositions created for the Spanish guitar.  He briefly talks about the history and construction of the guitar, as well as the composers and compositions.  Students gain knowledge of Spanish guitar techniques such as "tremolo," and from their seats learn how to use their fingers and hands to imitate the intricacies of this strumming technique.  They also learn a clapping game, whereby they must listen carefully to the music to keep up as Almer speeds up.  This game has proven to be a popular, delightful challenge.  The Ecos de España program is the only one that features the Spanish guitarist and Spanish classical repertoire as an art form in its own right.   
Flamenco dancer Susana Elena discusses and performs a cross section of dances that showcase flamenco style, rhythmic variety, and its culturally diverse influences.  For example, the dance/rhythm called "Guajira" also contains Cuban influences.  Students are introduced to Gypsy history, culture, and dance vocabulary. 
From their seats they learn how to use their arms and hands like flamenco dancers.  Different props are introduced, and students learn that the Cordobese hat and the Spanish fan, once just everyday objects, are now "objet's d'art" incorporated into the dances.  Gypsy song lyrics, those exquisite four-or-five-line lyrics that, in the words of poet Federico Garcia Lorca, "belong to no one, but float in the wind like golden thistledown," are briefly introduced. 
Classical dancer Albertossy Espinoza's original choreography to "Asturias" is accompanied by Almer and exemplifies the masculine power, control and singular energy of the male dancer in flamenco and Spanish dance.  His "Paso Doble," demonstrates how the mastery of technique allows an artist free range of strength and expression.  Ecos de España is the only assembly to feature examples from Spain's classical and theatre dance tradition executed by an artist of such high-caliberAlbertossy introduces himself by talking about his battle with extreme shyness as a child, and how he used dance as a transformative experience to overcome it.  He also touches upon career possibilities and highlights in dance, with the particular aim of sparking more interest among boys.   
Additional Audience Interaction: 1) In order to better explain how the matador escapes the horns of the bull in Albertossy's Paso Doble, one student is chosen to be the "bull" to Susana's "matador," and the audience always finds this hilarious.  2) At program's end volunteers from the audience join us onstage to perform a simple tang-flamenco, danced with scarves.  The audience is taught to encourage and support the performers with "jaleos," words of encouragement such as Bravo and Olé.
All Three Artists instill the message by example that mastery of an art, as with anything in life, requires focus, dedication, patience, cooperation, good eating and exercise habits, and perseverance

The assembly program and workshops were certified by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission in 2007, and align with VAPA Standards for music and dance.  They also contain partial content for history, social science, mathematics and language.  They are currently listed as approved programs on the L.A. County Arts Commission Website under “Tools and Resources, Programs for Students.”  See certification by clicking onto "Citations" on the home page, scroll down the left column, and click onto the documents to enlarge them (there are two)"Citations" also include letters of recommendation from teachers and students.

Through a shared love of Spanish music and dance Susana Elena, Albertossy Espinoza and Almer Imamovic have combined their talents and training to create a diverse program for K-12 students and staff.

Susana Elena has studied flamenco in Sevilla, Madrid and Jerez de la Frontera, Spain.  Since 2007 she has been presenting a fun, educational and interactive Spanish and flamenco dance program at over 60 libraries, numerous festivals, civic organizations and a growing number of schools throughout Southern California.  In 2007 she received certification from the L.A. County Arts Commission to teach and perform VAPA Standards-based dance programs as well as four-week workshops.  Click onto "Venues" on the home page to see a list of past performances.
Albertossy Espinoza,is the founder of Fusion Performing Dance Academy, a nonprofit in City of Commerce.  A versatile dancer, his training includes ballet, modern, jazz, and Spanish classical and flamenco.  He is also an actor (SAG/AFTRA/AGMA), as well as a sought-after master dance teacher and choreographer.  Two recent career highlights include choreographing “Cabaret” for Dick Van Dyke’s production at the Malibu Stage Co., and performing as an actor/dancer with the L.A. Opera under the direction of Placido Domingo in “The Barber of Seville.
Almer Imamovic, originally from Bosnia, is an award winning classical and world music guitarist, composer and arranger who has performed nationally and internationally (Paris, London, Sarajevo, Stockholm, San Francisco, New York, Chicago).  A sought-after musician for film and TV projects as well,  his composition, "Stani Draga," was chosen by Angelina Joli for her movie, "In the Land of Milk and Honey."  "Guitar Teacher Magazine” featured him as part of a series on outstanding teachers in the USA, and currently he is a Professor of Guitar Studies at Occidental College in L.A..  He has a master's degree from USC Thornton School of Music.  Today he and his wife, flutist Jessica Pierce, are the owner of Sierra Madre Music, a teaching studio and retail store in Sierra Madre.
Making the arts a part of children’s lives is important for the skills they impart, the cultural knowledge they convey and, above all, for the joy they bring.