"Ven Pa'Ca, Flamenco in New Orleans"


John Lawrence of Ven Pa'Ca. Photo by George Ingmire.
John Lawrence of Ven Pa'Ca. Photo by George Ingmire.

On this week’s program, we enjoy the music of Ven Pa’ Ca’, a flamenco ensemble based in New Orleans.  The recording of this performance took place at Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro with many in the audience, including Teresa Romero Torkanowsky, the woman responsible for bringing Flamenco to New Orleans in the 1960’s. 

During the program, we will meet Teresa to hear about her travels as well as the Flamenco’s connection with jazz.  This week, we also have some ceviche with Nick Bazan at Rio Mar.

Upcoming Ven Pa'Ca Performances:

Yuki Izakaya (525 Frenchmen St) April 5, Friday, 8 pm
French Quarter Fest (Palm Court Jazz Café) April 14,  Sunday 2 pm  
Yuki Izakaya 525 Frenchmen St - April 14, Sunday  8 pm
New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (Lagniappe Stage) April 26,  Friday 3:55pm     
The U.S. Mint  - April 30, Tuesday 10 pm
The Windsor Court Dinner Theatre - May 1, Wednesday 6pm
Café Granada (1507 S Carrolton) - May 2, Thursday 9pm                                 
Yuki Izakaya (525 Frenchmen St) - May 3, Friday 8 pm
The Balcony Bar - May 25,  Saturday 9 pm

Web Extra! A former New Orleans Flamenco dancer, Dr. Mariana Maduell, saw a past New Orleans All the Way Live feature Chateau Flamenco in the 1960s and wrote to clarify the mystery. She was generous enough to also share images from her time here dancing with Teresa Romero Torkanowsky. Below are exerpts from her letter and photos from the Chateau Flamenco.

The place on the corner was indeed Cafe Banquette, not Chateau Flamenco.  The small doorway to the right of the corner doorway was the entrance to where we performers lived (upstairs).  The door cut off at the extreme right of the photo led to the club, but the entrance was actually one door further right. I believe the street address was 607 Chartres although anything I had to document that was lost in Hurricane Katrina.  I have one photo of us dancers posing in the patio and one from a performance at the Chartres St. club. (Featured below!)

I performed at Chateau Flamenco for about 2 years, starting at the Chartres St. location, then later at the St. Peter St. location (next to Preservation Hall and Pat O'Brien's). I lived in a studio apartment above the club on Chartres Street for about a year.

The original club was opened by Teresa Romero Torkanowsky in the late 1960s; I don't remember if it had the same name, as I was too young to be there at the time.  After Teresa closed it, Ciro, whom she had brought there as a performer in her second ensemble, decided to reopen it and make it his own.  I first performed there in 1970 as the lead dancer of a group performing under Teresa's direction while Ciro was on a national tour.  A couple of months later, I was asked to dance there by Ciro, and I joined his ensemble.

I don't know how much you know about the history of flamenco in New Orleans.  To the best of my knowledge, there were company performances there before 1963 (Carmen Amaya, José Greco, José Molina), but as far as I know, there were no classes until Teresa Romero Torkanowsky came to New Orleans and started up classes at Lelia Haller's old studio on Jeannette Street uptown.  

Teresa formed a company, "Teresa y su compañía española", and I performed with them from 1964 until 1970 on concert tours in the southern region, also at bank openings, schools, restaurants (e.g. Court of Two Sisters), etc.  We did a summer gig at the Swan Room of the Monteleone Hotel back around 1967, and our ensemble included Harvey Hysell (Ballet Hysell, New Orleans Ballet) and Joseph and Gwen Delle Giacobbe (Delta Festival Ballet), also the belly dancer later known as Habiba and "Isadora" dancer Leif Anderson (daughter of artist Walter Anderson).

Teresa opened the first club, Club Flamenco, around 1968 at 607 Chartres St., bringing in guest artists such as Teo Morca and La Conté de Loyo, and singer Pablo Cañas (from Spain).  She then brought Ciro and his partner Rosa Montoya; I believe guitarist Carlos Sánchez came in with Ciro.  When Teresa closed the club, Ciro reopened it as Ciro's Chateau Flamenco.  It stayed at that address until 1972, then moved to St. Peter St. near Pat O'Brien's and Preservation Hall. Chateau must have closed around 1974, because Ciro moved back to Madrid, and I moved into one of his two apartments there (I had switched from Teresa's company to Ciro's in early 1970, did one of his Sol Hurok tours, then worked with him at the Chateau; I left for Madrid in 1972).

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