Dallas — The Orchestra of New Spain’s overall mission of bringing immediacy and cultural relevance to artistic traditions of Hispanic heritage has probably never been more pertinent and more necessary.
Talk of “invading hordes” and giant walls has inundated the national conversation, promulgating a sense of fear, misunderstanding, and ignorance in communities all across the country. Here in Texas, it is especially impactful, given the history of this region and the 1,200 miles of common border it shares with Mexico.
“The music we’re doing is every bit as important as Handel,” says Grover Wilkins III, artistic director and maestro for ONS. “Too often we ignore the wealth of artistic tradition that [Hispanic culture] represents.”
He makes a very good point, and apparently that point comes into stark clarity when you follow the money. “There’s a much bigger picture here that is getting lost in the corners of philanthropy and funding,” say Wilkins.
“The City of Dallas, through the Office of Cultural Affairs, has acknowledged that historically different communities have been supported at different levels,” said Joy Bailey-Bryant, vice-president with Lord Cultural Resources, in a report from KERA’s Art & Seek last fall. “And that the city has been instrumental in supporting some organizations more heavily than others.”
According to a draft of the OCA’s 2018 Dallas Cultural Plan, more than two-thirds of the office’s funding is allocated to city-owned cultural venues, like the Moody Performance Hall and the Meyerson Symphony Center, with the remaining funds being used to support the more than 100 small and medium-sized cultural organizations and public art, like ONS.
This weekend, Wilkins and the Orchestra of New Spain will perform Rise of Flamenco at Moody Performance Hall. In collaboration with the Yjastros Flamenco Company of Albuquerque, N.M., they will perform choreography by Daniel Doña, whose work was called “astounding” by the grand dame of the Conte de Loyo Flamenco Theatre.
It is an opportunity to showcase some of the most engaging aspects of Hispanic artistic tradition. “Flamenco is popular,” says Wilkins, “and an iconic aspect of Spanish life.”
In this production, the company will be relying primarily on the professional insight of the dancers. While the ONS specializes in historical accuracy and authenticity with respect to Baroque period style, performance practice, and instrumentation, this program will incorporate both earlier and more contemporary dance forms.
“So,” says Wilkins, “for example, we will be playing with modern bows instead of Baroque bows.”
Also contributing to the production is renowned Mexican artist Juan Carlos de Valle. Known for his realist paintings, de Valle will adorn the Moody stage using visual projections to suggest the set.
It is sure to be an artful affair, both visually and aurally fetching. But, more to the point, it stands to champion an arm of Dallas art that deserves more representation, especially at this time and in this region.
“It’s not all about walls or people coming up north,” says Wilkins. “It’s about a major, influential artistic presence that existed in Europe long ago.”
What’s more, it’s one more way we can encourage a more productive means for communicating with each other. Hopefully, with the Office of Cultural Affairs growing initiatives to improve Dallas’ artistic equity and diversity across different communities, more programs like this will be popping up soon.