By Yasmeen Salama / Inscape Editor
By Yasmeen Salama / Inscape Editor
With all the pop stars, rock shows and big name singing sensations stealing all the spotlight in the entertainment industry, it is really refreshing to see a performer bring something as vibrantly new and artistically multi-faceted as “Benise: The Spanish Guitar.”
After the huge success of his show, captured on a PBS special, the brilliant guitarist Roni Benise gathered a smaller group of performers for yet another world tour.
On Oct. 10, Southern California locals were treated to what is now known as the “Latin Riverdance” at the City National Grove of Anaheim.
Benise started as a street performer, playing at the L.A. County Fair where many Riverside locals likely passed by.
His small-scale success playing at such humble venues eventually built his performance up to stage level with his debut flamenco extravaganza, “Nights of Fire.”
The success of the Emmy Award winning show, with its unique modern flare and multi-national tributes, was all he needed to create his Latin Riverdance spectacular, “Benise: The Spanish Guitar.”
The show told the tale of a romantic guitarist searching across the globe for his long-lost love.
But what makes it unique is the way the story is told.
Through the graceful hands of musicians and through the rhythmic tapping of flamenco dancers toes, the performance brought a whole new dimension to the typical romantic plot line.
Though much of the original cast did not perform in Anaheim, the new set of performers was no less dazzling.
The unnamed main character, characterized by Benise’s deft performance on the guitar, and actually by the guitar itself, journeyed to France, where a couple ballroom-dancers glided to his playing.
He then traveled to Spain, where the flamenco dancers showed off elaborate costumes and beautiful choreography in what is one of the most graceful dances in the world.
He then headed off to a bull-fighting arena, where the audience began to shuffle their chairs a bit closer to the stage.
The lead dancer twirled alone around Benise while he serenaded her with a guitar solo, twisting a bright red cape around in an artistic interpretation of the bull-fighters’ movements.
In Italy, the guitarist traveled to a masquerade ball where all the dancers waltzed in elegant ballroom dresses and masks.
Though unfortunately this number was not performed at the Anaheim concert, the music was and featured a brilliant violinist who continued to impress throughout the show.
In the original story, the guitarist continued his search in the Middle East, where the tantalizing belly dancers took the stage.
At this point, the performance took a different turn. Benise and his backing musicians became the main focus and the dancers supplemented that act.
The main dancer did a solo number, dressed in a classic flamenco dress, after which an Argentinean tango number brought the house down.
Now, tango is not a dance for everyone, but this number was handled in a classy way that showcased the men’s talent every bit as much as the women’s.
By the time the show swept the audience off to South America, it seemed as though a party broke out on stage.
After some exotic Cuban salsa and gregarious Brazilian samba, the guitarist finally found his lost lover and the show ended fittingly with a wedding number and a wedding party that had every last person on stage, dancer and musician alike, giving it all they had.
The Anaheim performance showed more musical solos, featuring the musicians’ various instrumental talents than the PBS special, and loosely followed the plot that the original performance held to.
But despite these differences, the show still dazzled the audience with its unique passion.
Not only a gifted guitarist, Benise’s composing prowess and appreciation for cultural dances brings to American audiences a taste of world music that they don’t get to see much any more.
Coupled with modern jazzy and rock embellishments, it is a fresh take on classic sounds and a uniquely artistic way of conveying a timeless story.
Though Benise will not be performing in California again for this tour, his show is featured on a PBS special and he will be performing at various venues around the U.S. before his tour takes him across the globe again