Much like a woman, the beauty that is flamenco stems in part from the mystery that surrounds it. Practitioners and researchers differ on everything about flamenco: Its origins are hazy, the importance of innovation over preservation is hotly disputed, and the current state of the art (is it in decline or in a golden age?) is argued by all sides.
All of this is good. If flamenco could be nailed down with one definition or categorized neatly as a specific set of elements, it wouldn't be a living art. Flamenco is "a flame that insists on dying in order to be reborn," according to Jean Cocteau, and the exact nature of what makes flamenco breathe depends on who is tending that flame.
Kristina Martinez has been dancing flamenco for twenty years now. She made her professional debut at the first Forest Park Forever event in 1985, and to commemorate the passing decades, she's organized a one-night-only flamenco show that takes place at 7:30 p.m. at the Missouri History Museum (Lindell Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue; call 314-752-9882 for tickets, which are $20). While it is often assumed that the dance itself is flamenco, there are in truth four elements: the dancer, the guitarist, the singer and, of course, that mysterious passion that the spectacle arouses. And so Martinez performs with the aid of dancers Octavio Neito and Marcia Espinola, and guitarists Bill Jones, Norberto Aguado, Walt Goodman and Rasheed Outavia (these last three also provide the singing). This group shall fan the flame of flamenco, celebrating Martinez's special occasion -- but also celebrating flamenco, and life, itself. -- Paul Friswold
Once backwards, once forwards, a single story is double-barreled by he-said/ she-said spitfires. Mulling over their five-year relationship in musical monologues, Jamie celebrates the couple's meeting (she's a shiksa goddess) while Cathy mourns their demise (he's a dirty cheat), and each pulls at threads until they twisty-tie with a duet that is both beginning and end. Sound depressing? Think again. With the two characters continually polarized, the hilarity and the agony of being in a relationship play out like a musical game of Pong. The Washington Avenue Players Project presents Jason Robert Brown's award-winning The Last Five Years at the ArtLoft Theatre (1529 Washington Avenue) at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday (August 11 through the 27). For tickets ($15) or information, call 314-412-5107 or visit www.thewapp.com. -- Kristyn Pomranz
Shake That Brass
At the Greensfelder Recreation Complex in Queeny Park (550 Weidman Road, Ballwin), the Saint Louis Philharmonic Orchestra (www.stlphilharmonic.org) is presenting a benefit concert at 8 p.m. entitled "Brass & Sass." We imagine the "brass" portion of the program is when the orchestra plays "76 Trombones" and "A Trumpeter's Lullaby." The "sass" probably kicks in with the Broadway showstoppers, music from Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban (wizards are sass incarnate) and the Mission: Impossible theme (oh, come on, that's kind of sassy!). To purchase tickets ($10 to $30) to hear these selections and more -- and to show the orchestra that with that much brass and sass, you'll have to shake your ass -- call 314-421-3600. -- Alison Sieloff
Winter in Summer
The Winter's Tale, one of Shakespeare's serious romances, is admittedly a tough read. There are two kings to keep straight, the kings' spouses and offspring, the nations of Sicilia and Bohemia, and a rampaging bear (more of a cameo, really). The message -- that jealousy is a cancerous emotion that can affect future generations of the same family -- becomes a rich tapestry of point and counterpoint when staged live, and seeing the play performed makes the action much easier to follow. (The bear shall perhaps always remain a mystery.) St. Louis Shakespeare performs The Winter's Tale at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with 2 p.m. matinees Sunday (August 12 through 21) and an additional 7:30 p.m. performance August 18 at the Grandel Theatre (3610 Grandel Square; 314-534-1834 or www.stlshakespeare.org). Tickets are $18 to $22. -- Paul Friswold