Flamenco Pacifico Quintet

Flamenco Pacifico performs Thursday night at the Lebanon Public Library and Saturday at the Majestic Theatre in Corvallis. 

Berto Boyd, the guitarist and leader of the group Flamenco Pacifico, recalls a show the musical and dance ensemble performed at Ashland High School.

Afterward, a student asked a question that went something like this: "Isn't what you guys are doing just cultural appropriation?"

Boyd was diplomatic: "You can think of it that way," he remembers answering. "But how flamenco came about was a mixture of cultures."

And Flamenco Pacifico, which performs Saturday night at the Majestic (and has a shorter show on tap tonight at the Lebanon Public Library), reflects many of those cultures.

The art form was born was in Spain: "Flamenco is the blues of southern Spain," Boyd said. "It's the music people used to relieve their suffering." But, like so many musical genres, it has collected influences from other cultures as well: Boyd pointed to jazz as an example, and particularly Brazilian jazz. (A particular inspiration for Boyd has been the 1981 album "A Friday Night in San Francisco," featuring the flamenco guitarist Paco De Lucia along with Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin.) 

"If it wasn't for American jazz, modern flamenco wouldn't exist," Boyd said.

Body has been writing modern flamenco now for two decades, work that has included commissions for dancers. All the music to be performed at Saturday night's show will be Boyd originals.

But the work still requires collaboration with other musicians and dancers, including Melissa Cruz, a guest dancer from Oakland for Saturday's performance. 

People sometimes ask Boyd how he puts a Flamenco Pacifico performance together, considering that the ensemble's members live in different locales. "It's the beauty of the internet," he said.

With Cruz, for example, Boyd will write a piece of music and then send it to the dancer. She'll listen to the music, create a video of her dancing, and ship the video to Boyd. "A lot of time, the music changes" after he watches the video, he said.

Despite the precision required by flamenco, the art form leaves plenty of room for improvisation, Boyd said — by both musicians and dancers. That can add an element of surprise for the performers: "Hopefully we'll all end (a song) when we're supposed to end."

Saturday's concert features a unique addition: A fledgling guitarist, 16-year-old Raven Dow-Hygelund, will join the ensemble on stage for one song and will be playing in the Majestic's lobby beginning at 6:45 p.m. Dow-Hygelund's family moved a couple of years ago from Bend to Corvallis, where she worked with Boyd. "In the past two years she has blossomed like you couldn't believe," he said.

Other members of the ensemble include dancer Elena Villa, guitarist and vocalist Grant Ruiz and percussionist Terry Longshore.

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