World Class Group has Old Pueblo Roots

March 11, 2011

Article by David Sanders of the Arizona Daily Star

Posted: March 10, 2011

Photograph: David Sanders

Vail Theatre of the Arts played host to an evening of festive movement, from the rhythmic tap of metal-soled shoes to the fluid motion of a red dress to the blur of a guitarist’s fingers and chants of “Olé!”

Welcome to flamenco music presented by the Chris Burton Jácome Flamenco Ensemble. The seven-member group performed Friday for 200 people at the theater, on the campus of Empire High School at 10701 E. Mary Ann Cleveland Way.

Warming up backstage beforehand, Chris Burton Jácome, a University of Arizona School of Music graduate, said he was glad to be back home, having performed in the United States and Canada for the past seven years.

“We try to perform in Tucson about once a year,” said Jácome, who studied flamenco guitar in Sevilla, Spain. “It’s always great for me because I’m a native of Tucson and it’s always great to come home and play for family.”

The ensemble is made up of percussionist Kris Hill, bass player Adrian Goldenthal, singer Mele Martinez and dancers Jason Martinez, Bernatte Gaxiola and Jácome’s wife, Lena Jácome.

Photograph: David Sanders

Together they perform about 200 shows a year in North America.

Having a show of this caliber is a great asset to the theater in Vail, said theater director Bonnie Vining.

“We bring in four to six shows a year that are professional, world-class shows,” she said.

The theater brings in professional performers for two reasons – to make money to help fund the theater, and to provide cultural opportunities on the southeast side.

“School budgets have been cut and we are the district theater for the Vail Unified School District, and there are a lot of costs in managing and maintaining the theater for those other 150 shows a year,” said Vining, who said area high schools stage performances at the theater and groups rent it out as well.

The mostly older crowd enjoyed the two-hour performance, especially getting the chance to yell out “olé” every few minutes.

“What’s nice about flamenco is that every show is different so there is a lot of improvisation in what we do,” Jácome said. “We don’t know what we are always going to do, so it provides us that opportunity to feed off the audience and create something special.”

He added, “It’s always great and exciting, but sometimes it’s a little spicier, sometimes it’s a little sweeter.”

In that case, it was candy for the eyes and ears Friday night.

Photograph: David Sanders

Contact photographer David Sanders at 573-4155 or



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