February 24, 2012 | 7:00am
Marisol Monasterio identifies herself as simply a flamenca. Though she's of Venezuelan/Brazilian descent, she has lived in Houston for the past 20 years, and has been learning and dancing flamenco for the last seven. Her journey as a dancer began when a friend introduced her to Maria and Gabriela Aliberti at the Del Espadin Flamenco Studio, and since then, she has fallen in love with this form of art.
In addition to being a dancer, she has recently taken up singing. Her mother sang when she was young, but Monasterio had never sung in her life and has had no studies in singing or vocal training. After starting a flamenco group called Cuadro La Tempestad three years ago, she discovered her voice had the low, mesmerizing quality suitable for flamenco.
What she does: Monasterio is currently a member of the group Cuadro La Tempestad, which consists of a guitarist, two singers and four dancers. The group performs "flamenco puro" from Spain.
"The flamenco that we present is traditional flamenco and it comes from decades of gypsies that pass it on from generation to generation. My challenge is to portray the cante (song) as originally and as pure as it can be, and to interpret the music the way it should be. I learn the basics, the steps and the essence of the dance, but otherwise it's spontaneous. Every time it's a little bit different."
In addition to dancing, the members started learning singing, or "cante," and discovered it fit with their style. The group has performed in celebrated shows such as Artopia and the Houston International Festival.
"I started getting more and more involved, not only in my passion for flamenco dancing but also for flamenco singing. It just started growing, one song after another, and we were able to have a three-hour show almost weekly. I'm still singing and dancing with the group and it's just incredibly fulfilling. It's a huge part of my life."
"I feel flamenco has a huge source of energy and emotion because you dance by yourself and you interpret the music and the singing as it goes. It's life. You just express whatever you're feeling at the moment. It could be deep sadness, depending on the type of music or the song (palo), it could be happiness, it could be sorrow -- it could be so many things."
If not this, then what? Monasterio works as a hand therapist. Having received a degree in Kinesiology and Psychology from the University of Houston and a master's degree in Occupational Therapy from Texas Woman's University, she specializes in hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder postsurgical treatment.
"In terms of artistic ambitions, I think I would be doing something artistic, some way of expressing what's within. I think I would still focus mostly on dancing and singing."
If not here, then where? Though Monasterio has lived in Houston for the past 20 years, she still identifies strongly with her Latin roots.
"I would live in Spain if I could. I would move to Andalucía, in the south of Spain. It's beautiful. It all started with that because I took many flamenco classes in Seville, and then I started visiting the other cities where flamenco was rooted. But it's the culture. They are laid-back. They are happy."
What's next? Keep learning. Monasterio aspires to master more complicated cante styles. Her group will also be performing in the Houston International Festival in April.
"I can't even think about going one day without flamenco, listening to flamenco or spending weeks without dancing. It's part of me and who I am."
More Creatives for 2012 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).
Carmina Bell, promoter and DJ ReShonda Tate Billingsley, writer Kiki Lucas, choreographer and director J.J. Johnston, theater director Mary Margaret Hansen, artist Richard Tallent, photographer Viswa Subbaraman, opera director Emily Sloan, sculptor and performance artist Sonja Roesch, gallery owner Enrique Carreón-Robledo, conductor Sandy Ewen, musician Camella Clements, puppeteer Wade Wilson, gallery owner Magid Salmi, photographer Carl Williams, playwright