The word "delight" describes one's reaction to the very full house that greeted the Zorongo Flamenco Dance Theatre for its debut performance at The Cowles Center for Dance, Feb. 24. With a near-capacity crowd of 500, the audience was probably the largest the company has enjoyed since its 1993 engagement at the 472-seat Joyce Theater in New York City.
|"Zorro" artwork and animations by Jonathan Thunder|
As she has throughout a long and storied choreographic career of translating authentic flamenco from Spain to both Minnesota and the concert stage, Artistic Director Susana di Palma crafted an original, flamenco story ballet, this time bearing the title of "Zorro in the Land of the Golden Breasted Woodpecker (Moningwunakauning)."
|Susana di Palma, artistic director|
In a nutshell, Chisholm married a Scottish fur trader and lumberjack. In the family struggle about the upbringing of their children, around 1900 a Franciscan missionary priest baptized their two daughters and took them forcibly to the Catholic boarding school for Native children at Bayfield, Wisconsin, designed to obliterate their language and culture.
Family tradition recounts Chisholm's rage at the injustice and her determination to get her girls back. At one point, she walked from the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe reservation near Hayward, Wisconsin, all the way to Bayfield on the shore of Lake Superior, a distance of 80 miles. All of this drama was incorporated into the production.
Di Palma drew inspiration also from the novel "Zorro" by the Chilean writer Isabelle Allende, whose hero of Spanish and Shoshone parentage fights injustices against Native people in colonial California. In her fancy, Di Palma conjured the embodiment of the Ojibwe Trickster who morphs into Zorro to assist her great-grandmother.
|Dancer Antonio Granjero, Zorro/Trickster|
The narrative, including requisite black capes and sword fights, played out against an omnipresent full moon among stylized birch trees with a dancing cast led by Antonio Granjero in the title role. Bridget O'Flaherty portrayed Susan Chisholm as a young woman, and Di Palma her older spirit form.
|Pedro Cortés, Jr.|
A strong cast was rounded out by dancers Deborah Elias, Colette Illarde, Carolina Sierra, Gabriela Sierra, Myron Johnson, Andrea Plevan, Laura Horn, Jenna Laffin, Christine Kozachok, Catherine Higgins Whiteside, and Sarah Bartlett.
In its aspirations to provide a destination and all the tools of theater for the art form of dance, the Cowles Center was imagined and wrestled into existence to make possible exactly the kind of production that was Zorongo's "Zorro." One hopes to see many more like it, witnessed by capacity audiences.