Member Communications 4 min read

Tapestry Shares the Art of Flamenco

By JCC Milwaukee June 1, 2022

On a cold, wintry night, things were heating up in the Daniel M. Soref Community Hall at the Harry & Rose Samson Family JCC during Tapestry’s Signature Performance of Flamenco.

“I wanted to bring a Flamenco program to the JCC to share the Sephardic Jewish connection to Flamenco and share the talents of two world-class Flamenco artists we have here in Milwaukee,” said new Arts & Culture Director Reva Fox. “Rabbi Shari Shamah, Harriet Rothman, Maureen Luddy, and I were discussing what we wanted to do for the next Luddy Lecture Series. Maureen was very interested in Flamenco since her parents loved dancing.”

“During their almost 64 years of marriage, my parents were avid ballroom dancers. They always found tremendous joy in music and dance,” said Maureen Luddy. “My husband’s family is Sephardic, too, and for all I know they could have been Flamenco dancers or a part of the development of Flamenco. It was my honor and privilege to share this program alongside my husband, David, and son, Noah, in honor of my parents Mortz”L and Claire Komisar.”

Flamenco is a Spanish art form consisting of three parts: guitar playing (guitarra), song (cante), and dance (baile). While the exact origins of Flamenco remain somewhat mysterious, it’s believed to have originated during the Roma migration to Spain. The Roma brought instruments like tambourines, bells, and wooden castanets on their journey, along with a cultural repertoire of songs and dances. When they finally arrived in Spain, they experienced the rich culture of the Sephardic Jews and eventually intermingled their cultures to ultimately produce Flamenco as we know it today.

World-class guitarist Marija Temo, internationally acclaimed dancer Kerensa DeMars, and locally renowned percussionist Mitch Shiner presented our community with a beautiful evening of music, dance, and cultural connection. They performed pieces like Soleá por Bulerías, which is considered one of the most emblematic Flamenco forms. The second verse shares a traditional Flamenco lyric that references the experience of the Sephardim in Spain: You are like the Jews / Although they would burn the clothes you wear / You will never renounce what you are. Pieces also included Il Bastidor, a Sephardic folk song recorded by Flory Jagoda, a Bosnian Jewish WWII immigrant, and Leyenda (Asturias), a widely recognized Spanish classical work performed in homage to the Jewish American Flamenco artist Teodoro Morca.

Tapestry’s Signature Performance of Flamenco connected our JCC Tapestry community with audience members who had never been to the JCC before. “This was our first big hybrid event,” says Reva Fox. “We had been doing all of our events hybrid, or virtual, but this performance required a more complex setup.” 70 people attended in person while more than 40 households joined virtually. One viewer said, “We thoroughly enjoyed the Flamenco program. I’m so glad I could get my folks in on this! We loved the music, dancing, and Mitch. We appreciate the extra effort to make viewing possible beyond the building.”

Thank you to the Luddy family for their continued generosity that supports amazing programs like Flamenco. Kol Hakavod (all respect) to Marija Temo, Kerensa DeMars, and Mitch Shiner for bringing their passion and amazing talents to this performance and sharing the art of Flamenco with our community. Learn more about Tapestry: Arts & Ideas from the JCC.

Click here to read more stories of impact from the 2021-22 Annual Report.