I met Maria at Jacob’s Pillow in 1959 she came with Ximenez and Vargas dance company. They played the Pillow many times over the years. Maria Alba was not supposed to speak English; she was told by the leaders of the Flamenco Company to speak Spanish. After a few years working together, she says to me in perfect English, “I need an iron.” And I said, “Maria you speak English!” And from that exchange grew a great friendship. She was actually an Irish-American, but she was the lead dancer of this company. Her father was a journalist. In fact, after Ximenez and Vargas she made her own company with Ramon de los Reyes and they toured the US. One of the things I remember, Ramon made us carry an actual anvil (heavy!) to beat the rhythms for one of the dances. Ramon was a very macho Spaniard, he made her iron and starch the ruffles on the bata de cola dresses for the company and she was the lead dancer. Later when he was gone we got it the anvil made in paper mache and a metal flap on top so we could beat the flap. We change the dress material to less maintenance. Eventually it became just her company. She was handled by an association who took a large percentage of her companies fee, hence she often worked in bars on 57th street for extra cash. Often the people who were booking her couldn’t find her and they called me and of course I knew which bars she was in so I found her. She also took in stray animals so there were numerous cats and dogs in her apt.
Because I did a lot of driving, and one of the performers was a Hungarian gypsy, I would set the scheduled time we were leaving. So I got some flack from him about the departure time, and as we were driving in the desert so I stopped the car and said, “If you don’t like it get out.” Maria interceded but I calmed down at the hotel (but I was willing to leaving him in the desert as I was doing the lighting, the stage managing AND the driving.)
On another tour in 1967, Maria said after we were all pack up and waiting to leave. Apparently, we need to wait (she was going with a guy from the numbers racket) so we couldn’t leave until she got in his car in front of our station wagon to give her the money to go off on tour.
Once we went to Chicago – she has met a Clark transfer driver in the bar – he was a union driver for theatre used to driving big transport trucks. – but for Maria he took care of her little dogs AND he drove one of our station wagons – an amazing tour.
From time to time Maria would come to my house she loved to cook and she made her 3 alarm chili. Being Irish she was a good drinker by the time the chili was done she was less interested in eating.
I worked with Maria from 1959 to 1985. It was always an adventure, a wild ride getting to knowing her dancers, musicians, her men and animals.