Rodrigo y Gabriela por favor

28 Nov

Yeek!  So the holidays and visiting friends has made my posts scattered this month.  I would love to return to a sense of normalcy, but December isn’t exactly the most stable month of the year either.  I’ll try though…not that it matters to anyone else, but I get annoyed when I’m spastic because that’s my natural tendency and I struggle with consistency in…well, life, so it’s something I try to work on for myself.  I’ve got a new bunch of new DVD’s on reserve at the library (I also caved and bought the Royal Ballet’s new production of Manon on DVD so that should be arriving any day now…Rojo save us!), but I’m actually in the mood for a music post today.

I’d like to highlight a duo, Rodrigo y Gabriela.  If you follow me on twitter, they are the only group I ever tweet for musicmondays, mostly because I’m pretty sure the majority of people wouldn’t be amused by a tweet like “Leonard Bernstein, Jeremiah Symphony! #musicmonday” or “Emil von Sauer, Piano Concerto no.1 KICKS ASS #musicmonday” and anything remotely recent I listen to people already know about.  But Rodrigo y Gabriela are somewhat obscure, but have a sound most people would enjoy, and as a result they’re gaining popularity in mainstream American media with appearances on late night talk shows and the like (like all good things, Europe appreciated them first).  I however, have been a fan for five or six years now, since the release of Re-Foc, the rerelease of their first album Foc.  I know what you’re thinking…and yes I have impeccable taste, but that’s beside the point.  The duo is lead by Rodrigo Sánchez on lead guitar and Gabriela Quintero on the rhythm guitar (with the occasional guest on another instrument).  They have sort of a flamenco-ish style with latin rhythms and are AMAZING.  I can’t tell you how obsessively I listen to their albums, and they do a fantastic job of having their own, original style, performing compositions they wrote themselves as well as covers.

It was funny looking for dances to their music because there wasn’t very much, but what did turn up was eclectic to say the least.  Who could have envisioned this music would be used for Irish stepdance, breakdance and…jazz/lyrical/modern?  (I hate to say “contemporary” because that was kind of coined by SYTYCD, so I’ll call it “jalyrimo.”)  It’s an odd assortment of styles, but I love to see that because I think it speaks volumes as to the universal appeal of Rodrigo y Gabriela’s music.  Weird, maybe…but it’s incredulously wonderful that so many people have been inspired by them in their own way, and translated that inspiration into their own language of dance.  It’s also great because it breaks this image that Irish dance has to be to Irish music, or that break dance has to be to hip hop, etc.  I don’t think jalyrimo should be one of the select dance forms that’s allowed to experiment with different musical genres.

Without further ado, we have a piece titled Chorine, choreographed by Nicholas Yenson for a BA exam at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance (sounds prestigious to me!).  The piece is danced to Diem, which coincidentally is my favorite track from Re-Foc.  There’s a break in the middle of the song where it just gets in your face and the rhythm is so heavy it’s like you can feel your heart matching the beat.  It is literally impossible to walk while listening to this song on your ipod and not have this insatiable urge to move, and especially at that big feature moment (which is where Yenson performs his solo).  If you don’t have that urge…well, there’s probably something wrong with you.  I can’t really comment on the dance itself, because I don’t really know anything about Irish dance (I have seen Riverdance live though…that was a thrill!), but nonetheless I really enjoyed the performance, so bravo!

Next is another dance form I really can’t (and shouldn’t comment on) which is break dance, set to Diablo Rojo from Rodrigo y Gabriela’s self-titled album.  Double-coincidentally, Diablo Rojo happens to be my favorite track from the second album, with Juan Loco in a close second.  I like the driving, fast and furious music, although it should be known that they do great slower, sort of loungey music as well that’s great to relax to.  You definitely get your money’s worth with a purchase of any of their albums.  Breakdance to Diablo Rojo was actually a really big (and pleasant) surprise for me because it was really unexpected.  The piece (no title as far as I can tell) was performed by the break dance club of Leeds University, for an annual dance show they put on towards the end of the year.  From what I can gather, there are other student clubs including a Modern Dance Society that offer dance classes and then put on an annual show.  I don’t know whether Leeds has a dance department or not (it appears they do), but I’m very impressed that student run organizations put together an annual show and surely have lighting/tech rehearsals, costuming and the like.  Anyway, breakdance isn’t exactly my favorite genre (it’s not that I hate it, it’s just not my thing) but this piece actually gets my “pick of the day” seal of approval, for choosing unconventional music for breaking.  It was fun to watch!

Last is jalyrimo, one of them being a complete piece and the other being just some rough phrases, both set to Orion (a Metallica cover), also from the self-titled album.  Orion doesn’t have as much pace as Diem or Diablo Rojo, and is a little more steady and loose which aptly fits the jalyrimo style.  I’m not surprised two choreographers decided to pick the same song, and I’m sure they wouldn’t be either.  The staged performance, Subito, poco a poco, choreographed by Cara Scrementi appears to be at one of the Loyola Universities, so Rodrigo y Gabriela’s music is making its way into the American dance scene.  In Subito, the choreographer intended to include movements that looked like they were being controlled by external forces, which really came through about a 1:20 in, where there these hunched over leg kicks that flick out of nowhere.  Complete opposite from the whooshy, lifted grand battement of ballet.  I think the piece could have been a little more daring if the intent was to “take control of forced movement,” like there’s a part in the middle where the dancers are doing turning leaps into rolls on the ground in a circle, and it seemed a little too geometric to me.  I think the fact that the exact same phrase was repeated in the opposite direction is what made it so mathematical, and I found myself craving a little spontanaeity.  Nevertheless, excellent work.

Rodrigo y Gabriela’s latest album, 11:11 was just released this autumn so it would be unreasonable to expect a dance to any of the tracks already, but I hope we see more in the future.  The concept behind the album is really cool, as each track is specifically dedicated to a musical artist that inspired them.  My favorites include Hanuman (dedicated to Carlos Santana), Buster Voodoo (dedicated to Jimi Hendrix), Triveni (dedicated to Le Trio Joubran), Savitri (dedicated to John McLaughlin),  Hora Zero (dedicated to Astor Piazzolla) and Atman (dedicated to Dimebag Derrell).  I’ve got a lot of favorites on this album, and in my humble opinion it’s their best work yet, with amazing potential for great dances.  A lot of their songs in this album have some bite to them, so choreographers who want something with an edge to it, get on this!  The whole thing is so damn good, that I must insit on  HIGHLY recommending it.  If there were a term that was above “highly recommended” but just short of “mandatory” while still being suggestive with urgency, that’s the word I would use.

7 Responses to “Rodrigo y Gabriela por favor”

  1. Rick November 29, 2009 at 8:11 am #

    Very interesting. I liked the first set to Rodrigo y Gabriela’s Diem, and the last set to Stairway to Heaven.

    Since the only group you Tweet is Rodrigo y Gabriela, you might be interested in the fan site that I set up at All the best stuff in one place!


    • youdancefunny November 29, 2009 at 11:22 pm #

      Hi! Thanks for your comment! And awesome site you have there…hope you don’t mind if I add it to my list of links.

      I’m DYING to see them live someday!

      • Rick November 30, 2009 at 7:18 am #

        Yes, you’ve got to see them live.

  2. savannah August 4, 2010 at 8:21 am #

    The first time I ever heard of Rodrigo y Gabriela was when former PNB dancer Noelani Pantastico filmed an interview with now-principal Karel Cruz and featured video of him pirouetting to “Tamacun.” Loved the juxtaposition, but not sure if it’s still online.

    • youdancefunny August 4, 2010 at 9:13 am #

      Interesting! I’m still waiting on something like a ballet in four movements set to Rod y Gab…

      • savannah August 4, 2010 at 10:33 am #

        Ah. Found the link:

        It would be neat to have a longer ballet set to their music. In fact, that’s one of the things I like so much about Ulysses Dove’s Red Angels: it doesn’t take established music from the classical canon. So many neoclassical pieces seem to be choreographed to standard orchestral music, while modern pieces often use a mumbo-jumbo of sounds. It would be great to have something that utilizes the middle ground and presents quality choreography too.

      • youdancefunny August 4, 2010 at 3:13 pm #

        Thank you for finding that! I do agree that a lot of more popular music seems to be avoided, for fear of being too mainstream…but the danger is a lot of great stuff is completely overlooked. I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Red Angels, but I know what you mean…”Who Cares?” is one of my favs for similar reasons.

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