Despite the show’s titular name, Flamenco Sephardit is neither only a dance style or Jewish culture. In its sixth year running, the show has become so much more than that.
“This performance is really for people of all religions and cultures to see that there are more similarities than differences between us,” says Jeffrey Eckstein, the show’s creator. “This isn’t just a Jewish show or a Flamenco show, it’s everything.”
At its core, the show’s goal is to combine flamenco with the Jewish Ladino traditions of Spain. Although both have their roots in Spain, the art of fusing the two together is what takes up the most time during practice. And before you think that this Flamenco you’re imagining, think again.
“You are going to see traditional but also see it mixed with other styles of music,” says Celia Fonta, director of Siempre Flamenco, an organization that advances and preserves Flamenco music in South Florida. “It’s not like the commercial Flamenco around town, but it’s a lot more than you think it is.”
Fonta has spent the last 40 years dancing Flamenco and has been with Flamenco Sephardit since its conception. She has seen it maintain its roots in Miami and even travel to other places such as Texas and Italy. She first met Eckstein through her husband, Paco, who is also a guitarist and Flamenco dancer - a combination of talents that you do not normally see.
Paco is just one example of what also makes this show unique: it asks its performers to try something new to create something no one has seen before.
“If you can find masters of their talent that are open to learning new styles, then you have new products that get to combine different things such as opera and dancing the show,” said Eckstein. “I wanted to find extraordinary musicians trying to learn something new without the ego or drama.”
In his search to find artists willing to use their talent and continuously learn a new art form, Eckstein found several people who have helped make the show what it is. For example, Rabbi Philippe has three degrees from The Conservatoire de Paris, an incredibly rare feat, and has helped maintain the show’s relationship with its venue, the Temple Emanu-El.
Additionally, Eckstein was able to bring the father-daughter duo, Jeff and Lakshmi Basile, in for the first time in the show’s history from California. Lakshmi is a well-known flamenco dancer and her father and bassist, Jeff, actually made the string arrangements for the show’s music when it began. It is also the first time the show will have a bass playing on stage as well.
Altogether, the show represents a culmination of firsts for both the performers and the audience. It is the first time the audience will see different flamenco styles represented and two female flamenco dancers on stage, thanks to Basile and Fonta; usually, flamenco is a male and a female. The audience will also get to see a range of ethnicities and ages represented on stage to provide a show that is both traditional and modern to appeal to everyone watching.
For a show with so much diversity and innovation, it is no surprise it keeps returning to Miami Beach. It is ironic that at first, Eckstein was told there was no way he could fill the venue.
He brought in over 1,000 people.
Join him on Sunday, January 27 at 7 p.m. to be one of the thousand who gets to witness Flamenco Sephardit.
Temple Emanu-El: 1701 Washington Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139