The Grapevine Art & Soul Salon

Views and Reviews: Barbara Knott

Smitten with Moonlight


On a gray winter afternoon, away from the dreary atmosphere of politics
that thrives on shallow talk and undercurrents of trickery
my sister Nancy and I drive toward Atlanta’s Marcus Jewish Community Center
where Calo Theatre Company is presenting Suenos Andaluces

(Andalusian Dreams): an afternoon of poetry and flamenco, those Gypsy ways
of searching inward depths to find a fecund flowering: duende, what
Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca called the mystery, the roots fastened in the mire
that we all know and ignore.
He says, All arts are capable of duende

but where it finds greatest range … is in music, dance, and spoken poetry, for these
arts require a living body to interpret them ….
Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith
reviewing Lorca, says: We write poems in order to engage in the perilous yet
necessary struggle to inhabit ourselves—our real selves, the ones we barely

recognize—more completely. It is then that the duende beckons, promising
to impart “something newly created, like a miracle.”

Today, Calo Gitano will celebrate flamenco, together with the poetry of Lorca
and Rafael de Leon: a weaving of words, music, and dance that will reach

outward and upward as well as downward and inward like a tree that roots
and climbs and blinds us with its beauty—the main difference between them
being pace. Trees grow so slowly we can see them move only when breezes blow
or animals shake their branches. Alive with flamenco, the human body moves

so fast it burns: fiery footstamping, hands clapping, fingers snapping, eyes lowering and
then the gathering gaze that rides above striking costumes moving, to wrest from
heart and soul the mire’s mystery: duende, that makes of passion a miracle of real people
whose lives matter to themselves, to each other, and to the world beyond, within.

Ah, Lorca! Your life will always matter. We think now of your disappearance in 1936
at the age of 38, body never to be found, though Franco is reported to have
said you “died while mixing with the rebels,” (how quietly the language of tyranny
creeps into public speech). But your death, like your life, was no accident.

In sealing your fate, they released your power. Your bones lie somewhere still unknown
but your genius runs free in the body and blood of your poetry. Leonard Cohen
caught and channeled your flow forever into song, long before he died last autumn
leaving his legacy in the wabi-sabi bowl where your light shines along with his.


We take our seats on the front row nearby friends Pearla and Bill Kennedy. It seems
strange at first to be attending a flamenco performance in a Jewish community
center. How interesting later to discover that flamenco was forged in the fires
of Andalusia in Spain during the l7th and 18th centuries among Gypsies, Moors

and Jews—all outcasts at the time, all carrying with them rich oral traditions
in music and song, including traces of Indian influence. Like Maestro Manuel de Falla
Lorca locates the human voicing of deep song in the earliest musical systems
of India and in the theory that those who came to be called Gypsies

left there in 1400, passed through the Middle East including Egypt
and soon appeared in European countries, notably Spain, where they refused
to merge with the larger culture, preferring the freedoms of their wandering ways.
Lorca credits the guitar with shaping a new culture: The guitar has made

deep song into something Western. It has created unequaled beauty out of the Andalusian
drama—the struggle of the Orient and the West.
Before Leonard Cohen’s life became
a concert, his musical mentoring came from a flamenco guitarist who prepared
him for Lorca’s profound impact and influence. In concert, Cohen often tells

how, when he was 15, he found a book of poems by Lorca and how he disappeared
into its images, among them a fistful of ants thrown at the sun, and the arches of Elvira
(wife of Don Juan) that were her thighs, a place of weeping. Like Lorca, Cohen
engaged in a lifelong blending of sacred and profane, essences of

longing. Cohen says he squeezed himself into that fistful of ants and lived
among them and learned their ways. He passed through the arches and touched
Elvira’s thighs and wept, slipping away like a school of silver minnows into a place
where he invites us all to join him as he gives voice to the universe:

Here there is no space and no time and no conflict, no fight, no language
differences, we’re just here smitten with the moonlight.

Nancy and I want to be smitten with moonlight late on this February day in 2017
when our world seems suddenly so rickety. We will fight, not each other

or others in the world of politics, but internally, to find something that matters, and we
have come to where we know there will be artful expressions of the duende
quest, this duel with the self, to be fought on the rim of consciousness for ourselves
and our suffering world. Ah, Lorca! Downed by a dictator but undefeated.


Our seats are on the front row at eye level with the stage floor—disconcerting
until I realize we are like poppies peeping above ground. That impression
of our rooted position is enhanced when Kevin Wilson drifts upstage like
the lankiest, tallest shadow you have ever seen, bringing darkness with him.

He speaks! Welcoming words, toward our flowery faces. And then retreats.
Rachel Gorwitz on viola and “Doble T” on guitar season the air with sound.
Then a piano solo, Mary Beth Morrison playing “Sevilla” from Suite Espanola.
The black grand piano is the only set piece other than a barrel table near the back

wall with a chair on either side, nearby two other chairs and music stands. One seat
has in front of it a box that cantaor Kevin will use from time to time for drumming.
He will be joined there soon by singer Agdi “La Rosi” Sarmiento.
Poems of Federico Garcia Lorca and Rafael de Leon will be recited

by Clara Azcunes de Ojeda and Edwin Ortiz in Spanish with English translations
on screen. Marianela “Malita” Belloso and her sister Maria Carolina “Cara” Belloso
together with the Calo Dance Company, will electrify the stage with their
tapping, stomping, snapping, swinging, circling arabesques.

Guitar, hand drumming, dancing and song create the reality of the present moment.
In the words of T. K. Smith, The duende stirs as a way of saying you will only stay whole
by moving—day after day, note after note, poem after poem—from one word
to the next,
a paradigm playing in the background of our soon-to-be rapt attention

to what we came to see and hear. Kevin’s voice, so full of range and emotion, so
mature, shapes a stirring song that, in Lorca’s voice, knows neither morning nor evening
mountains nor plains. It has only the night, a wide night steeped in stars.

Lorca also says that deep song is akin to the trilling of birds, the crowing

of the rooster, and the natural music of forest and fountain. We are hearing all
that and more as we notice how far we feel now from the city. Away from cities
(Lorca tells us), The passionate wind of poetry will blow on the dying fire, bringing
the embers to life, and these people will continue to sing: the women in the shade

of the grapevines, the shepherds on their bitter paths, the sailors on the fecund rhythm
of the sea.
Questions arise: Did song come before language?
Did language appear first in Nature, through the imitation of birdsong, the cries
of animals, and the infinite sounds of matter?


We learn from Lorca that in Andalusia, the Gypsies combined ancient, indigenous
elements with what they themselves brought, and gave what we now call
deep song its definitive form. So it is to them we owe the creation
of these songs, soul of our soul. We owe the Gypsies the building

of these lyrical channels through which all the pain, all the ritual gestures of the race
can escape.
Behind the performers, on a screen, appear the lyrics of Rafael de Leon’s
“The Prophecy” in which pain and ecstasy come from the familiar motif
of something amiss in the lemon grove of love.

Among Andalusian Gitanos the man with machismo respects perhaps above all
his mother. The poem opens with a maternal tribute offering poignant contrast
between loyalty and romance. Doble T’s guitar surrounds and stirs the inner life
of the poem and we are immediately in the presence of a long lament

about love gone wrong. I gave ten cents to a pauper and he blessed my mother.
That simple beginning opens up a flood of childhood memories
magical moments created with a girl over several years where a passion
born in a boy seemed to burn in her, too, throughout adolescence

until double-edged tongues told him yesterday that she got married a month ago
when life became real and he learned that you are (only) worth as much as you have!
Harsh, harsh lesson for one lost in a youthful fantasy of being wed to the girl
himself. His lament leads him to a bitter prophecy:

She will remember every night in her dreaming sleep that she loved him
and will call herself Coward and will see that he died young and will wake up
crying for the one who is not your husband, your boyfriend, or your lover
but the one who has loved you the most.

He recalls lavish compliments he paid to her hair, her small round hands
and her feet following the steps of the wood pigeons. So many lovely images.
Not just here but elsewhere, in Lorca’s poems as well, we will hear of the first sob
and first kiss—of tresses and thighs, moonlight, knives, blood and betrayal.

Listen again to T. K. Smith: El duende is the spirit of evocation. It comes
from inside as a physical/emotional response to art. It is what gives
you chills, makes you smile or cry as a bodily reaction to an artistic
performance that is particularly expressive.


Now the Belloso sisters are dancing, Cara onstage first, in unshakable seriousness
eyes focused inward, followed soon by Malita—a duet paying dues to duende
and forcing the battle to a pitch. Malita’s fierceness evokes Lorca’s description
of the flamenco dancer who battles the air around her, air that threatens at any

moment to destroy her harmony or to open huge empty spaces where her rhythm
will be annihilated.
Both dancers are challenged to fill a dead, gray space with a living
clear trembling arabesque, one which can be vividly remembered.
We watch mesmerized
by their work. Their finger talk echoes Indian classical dance where the task

is to follow elegant set patterns without change. But this flamenco demands discovery:
a gust, a burst of creativity, individual and bold. Wearing seductive skirts and shawls
they swirl close to Nancy and me near the edge of the stage, and lo!
I look up to see that Malita’s very underarms are undulating.

From behind us, a woman’s single voice sounds her own crescendo. Ole!

Then more viola, piano, guitar and a recitation of Lorca’s “The Unfaithful Wife”
where a Gypsy speaks about a trip to the river with a girl who said
she was a virgin but it seems she had a husband and, of course, we wonder
if her husband has failed her in love. The ever-chivalrous Gypsy moves

deftly to the rescue. They leave city lights and step into sounds of crickets
and dogs howling far away. He touches her sleeping breasts that open like hyacinth petals.
They remove clothes (including his tie and gunbelt with revolver and her four
bodices and starched petticoat) to reveal skin more smooth than seashells:

Her thighs slipped from me/ like startled fish/ one half full of fire/ one half full of cold./
That night I galloped on the best of roadways,/ on a pearly white mare,/ without bridle,/
without stirrups.
Wait! Is this Lorca or Leonard Cohen? I ask that, I realize, only
because I came to Lorca through Cohen, who thrilled to Lorca’s images

as they resonated in the readiness of his soul to absorb them. He says
“It was only when I read, even in translation, the works of Lorca that I understood
that there was a voice. It is not that I copied his voice; I would not dare.
But he gave me permission to find a voice, to locate a voice …

… that is, to locate a self, a self that is not fixed, a self that struggles for its own
existence.” Cohen built some of the poet’s images into his own work and recorded
Lorca’s “Take this Waltz” and created a cathedral where sensuality and prayer
could live together. What a wonderful tribute from master back to master!


Later, Cohen discovered that instructions came with this voice … never to lament
And he didn’t. And neither do we, when we are with them.
We are treated to another maternal tribute in Lorca’s “I Will Let You Do Anything.”
Wait. The refrain is I will let you do anything/ but offend my mother …

because a mother is hard to find/ and I found you on the street.
Reciter Edwin Ortiz declares that his heart is shared between two loves
And if I find one of them crying/ it is because it was hurt by the other.
He chastises the girl for causing others to think he is a ragdoll

for her, says that in her right hand and her left, there are holes through which
the rivers of my money/ go to the ocean.
Reciter Clara Azcunes de Ojedo shares
the stage, listening, giving full-throated feminine responses. And we learn what may be:
that the mother forced the son to marry the girl he found on the street

whom he must have loved, despite all his insults, including the claim that when
his mother was young, she was forty times more beautiful than you. Embedded
in his angry tirade is another qualification: And what do I care?/ As long as you never…/
leave my side,/ I will let you do anything/ but offend my mother.

Ah! The vicissitudes of love. But we are only just beginning to explore that world
(our world) where there still is and we hope always will be—love.
Agdi “La Rosi” Sarmiento enters downstage to sing. Doble T accompanies her.
Edwin Ortiz (wearing a fetching hat) recites while Cara Belloso

dances Rafael de Leon’s (What else?) “Sorrows and Joys of Love,” an astonishing
expression of heaven and hell in carrying a secret love, a love that is known
and embraced by two who cannot openly embrace because he is a married man.
Yet how they love, how they dream of each other, what extravagant gestures

break out, like the time he sees her at the Plaza Nueva giving a kiss to his child
and runs to the child, picks him up, and like a thief in ambush,/ from his face of poppy/
my mouth bit your kiss.
And then he bids the woman, no matter what happens
to keep on loving him, torment of my torments!

The stage now is full of women wearing flowers in their pinned-up hair and skirts
with saucy inset ruffles visible when they swirl. The last one flirts her way offstage
shaking her ruffle. I wonder why the dancers’ hair seems always so under control.
Is it teasing? Ready always to be unpinned by some chivalrous Gypsy?


After a brief intermission, six lovely girls grace the stage looking for all the world
like their adult counterparts, full of color and boldness, dressed in pink, tight long skirts
with ruffles, white tops and fringed pink necklaces, pink flowers in their hair.
I watch their eyes, intrigued to see a “come hither” look already there and waiting.

When the children depart, Kevin and La Rosi stroll singing to the front of the stage.
Visually stunning: he is dark and as tall as God, she is a white moon shining, their flirtation
full of seduction as well as chivalry in the hand of the man lightly caressing
the long hair of the girl whose allure leads them offstage and out of sight.

As the dark sky, Kevin seems to bend and eclipse La Rosi as the moon in such a way
as to create a Yin/Yang configuration, perfect symbol for the creative blend and balance
of multiculturalism featured so beautifully in their performance of Lorca's Romance Sonambulo
as a song, and throughout this production of Suenos Andaluces.

“Ballad of the Moon, Moon,” first poem in The Gypsy Ballads of Garcia Lorca
published as Romancero Gitano in 1928, establishes the Gypsy notion
of the moon as a goddess who seduces and compels moon consciousness as she
shines her not-so-bright light, leaving edges of darkness where mystery

can bloom. In the poem, Moon appears in a smithy where Gypsy parents have left
their young son alone. She performs a lascivious dance that causes him to stare
and stare until he warns the Moon to run away lest the Gypsies return and make
white necklaces and rings of her heart. She replies that when they come in

they will find him on the anvil with his eyes closed. Gypsies arrive
through the olive grove, bronze and dreaming,/ heads lifted/ and eyes
half closed …. Across the sky moves the moon,/ holding the young boy
by the hand.
And so he goes, forever captive of the Moon, as the poet

is both captive and cantaor for her world of semi-darkness loved by Lorca
and Rilke and Rumi and D. H. Lawrence and Leonard Cohen, among others who
understand how the sensual gives breath and sound, beauty and touch
to the sacred, and together they birth the joys and sorrows of our lives.

Dancing feet tap roots that reach the underworld, the other world described
by Michael Meade in Why the World Doesn’t End: … the roots of renewal
are to be found in the deeper ground of living myth and genuine imagination
that sustains our connections to the joy of life and the roots of creativity.


Reciters Edwin and Clara, along with singers Kevin and La Rosi, guitarist
Doble T and dancers Malita and Cara and Luciana Araujo, now join forces
in rendering Rafael de Leon’s “Requiem for Federico Garcia Lorca.”
Oh! the pain and ecstasy: They killed him in Granada/ on a summer afternoon/

and the entire gypsy sky/ received the stab. Like the previous poem’s departure, poet
Lorca’s spirit disappears into the ashen skies, spilling a heart-rending sequence of verses
bloody and beautiful—no casual lamenting here. The heart and art of poetry
rise out of brutality to show—not tell, but show—Rosa of the Camborios

who moans sitting at the door/ half alive and half dead/ among mourner’s clothes.
Her icy breasts are like two doves without beaks, wounded and stabbed ….
Of Federico we hear that the cinnamon cream/ has died! and is shrouded with lemon
and plum.
The poem is full of weeping and tearing fabric, of blood and roses

and rivers of anguish. In Lorca’s words, the melodic phrase begins to pry open
the mystery of the tones and remove the precious stone of the sobs, a resonant tear
on the river of the voice.
I notice how, over dancers’ hips like horses’ haunches
skirts are rippling. Then comes de Leon’s powerful cry:

Who dried the carnations/ of my summer … ?

Wailing from virile men and languishing women reaches crescendo and softens
into the image of a grieving dove descending to kiss the forehead of the poet
from Granada,
and a leave-taking question: Where are you going, my friend/
with your secret?/ You will take with you/ voice and sonnet …/

How it wailed inside your skeleton,/ poetry!

Ah, Lorca! Your death goes on. It happens each time hollow men who have managed
to kill the poet in themselves or who have had their poet strangled in infancy
rise to power over the people, often with the help of sallow, sad women who
have never felt the passion that runs in blood and sap of all that lives:

the fire that must be struck from the center of the earth and every heart in the search
for duende and for the deep song that animates authentic life and gives expression
to the soul’s need for passionate integrity. Now we want to be among those women
singing in the shade of the grapevine, waiting for night when the duende

stirred by deep song and fiery dance, may help us, in Bill Plotkin’s
words, believe in and perform our impossible dreams, those with roots in the Mystery.
Like Gypsies, we want to resist absorption by a culture of corruption and greed
of power hunger and perversion. Ours, too, is a struggle not to disappear.


Before the curtain call, five women emerge to deliver a musical Buenas Noches, a song
called "Madrigal." Then a burst of dancing that brings everybody back onto the stage.

Ole! Ole! Ole!

Ole! Ole! Ole!

Storyteller Michael Meade tells us what old people say from time out of mind:
we recreate our lives by dancing and singing a new world from the center of ourselves
a place where all can begin again. Today, we have seen and heard and felt
the dancing and singing. Now we long to take it home, to make it our own.

When we turn to leave, we notice, standing near Bill and Pearla, a dancer we did not see
onstage. Izabel Blankenship tells of back surgery that kept her from performing and comments:
“It gives me goose bumps to watch Malita dance”—a sure sign of the duende.
She, it must be, who called

Ole! while I was watching undulating underarms.

Outside, Nancy spies Doble T walking among the departing crowd. She steps up to give
him praise. His flamenco ways are visible in the chivalrous smile, his all-white suit gleaming
in the twilight, and in the black and white polka-dotted socks worn with white shoes.
His passion is well-costumed, like the art of all who represent the Gypsy soul.

Nancy says to me, smiling at the irony, as we step toward what soon will be Lorca's
wide night steeped in stars: “They are real people. It’s good to be with real people.”

Stage with musicians Mary Beth Morrison, Rachel Gorwitz, and Doble T

Malita Belloso

Malita and Cara Belloso

Photos by Eugenio Beltran


Notes on sources:

The passages I have quoted from Lorca can be found in his small book In Search of Duende, a New Directions Bibelot, published as such in New York, 1998, and in an article by Tracy K. Smith, “Survival in Two Worlds at Once: Federico Garcia Lorca and Duende,” at

Other quotations come from Michael Meade’s book Why the World Doesn’t End: Tales of Renewal in Times of Loss (Greenfire Press, 2012), p. 180, and from Bill Plotkin’s Soulcraft Musings Facebook post of 3/31/17: “Creating a Mature Culture, a 3-part Musing,” available at his Animas Valley Institute page,

Comments from Leonard Cohen were made at concerts in Antwerp (Anvers) in April 1988, in Boston during July 1993, and at his Atlanta concert that Nancy and I attended in March 2013, where his performance of Lorca’s “Take This Waltz” brought them both to a forever place in our dreams.

Recommended for your pleasure:

The setlist for the Cohen concert we attended can be found at

Leonard Cohen’s Atlanta Concert

where you can listen to the songs, including "Take This Waltz"—a wonderful accompaniment for this ekphrastic piece on Calo Gitano’s Suenos Andaluces.

YouTube has many samples of flamenco performances, from street and café scenes to the artful films of aficianado Carlos Suara. Here is one link:

Carlos Suara's Flamenco

Copyright 2017, Barbara Knott. All Rights Reserved.