While I was in Miami last month, I had the chance to catch up with my favorite Miami-based flutist, Giselle Real d’Arbelles, better known as Giselle "FluteTrance." I followed Giselle online for awhile, and her unique style and fusion of music, art, and fashion always intrigued me, so I knew we had to meet!
FS: So you bellydance? How did you get into that?
GR: Well, I was inspired by Viviana Guzman after a performance at Florida Flute Convention, where I saw her combine bellydance and flute. I always had the concept in my head to combine the two, but it seemed too big…but I always thought, someday! I’d hear certain flute music that’s very rhythmic and want to dance to it. I started bellydancing by traveling. I went to Egypt twice with a bellydance group. It’s really demanding! At times, it was really interfering with my musical things, but I've learned to do both!
FS: I've always thought you reminded you of Viviana! How has she been an influence?
GR: At the Florida Flute Convention, I saw her perform the Hungarian Pastoral Fantasy and some tangos. I always include tangos in my recitals because I really enjoy playing them. At her night concert, she told her inspiring story about her body casts. When she talked about bellydancing, my ears perked up. Then she said that dancing helped her recovery. All my friends were pinching me, telling me “that’s totally what you want to do!” So I was seeing this gorgeous woman doing it and she was such an inspiration to me. She gave the message about dreaming big and going for it, and it stayed in the back of my mind forever. She made such an impact on me that day.
FS: You have a show called "Once Upon a Dream." I love the concept and visual presentation of it. How did you put together the show and what does it mean?
GR: The reason I called my show “Once Upon a Dream” was because it was a dream I had 10 years ago, and it took me that long to finally do it! With the classical standard, I was leading my life as several different Giselles. There’s the “classical” Giselle, the one who loves to dance and loves all the other arts, and the Giselle who grew up in Miami in the entertainment and party scene. Then, many spiritual layers. It took awhile to infuse them all, but this is me! Flutetrance is all those parts of me coming together, and "Once Upon a Dream" is a combination of everything!
FS: I love the visual elements of your performances. I feel that having strong and creative visual ideas can enhance the experience so much. How do you incorporate fashion and visual elements into your shows?
GR: I like to be very original with all my stuff…my tutu skirt from Once Upon a Dream was made just for me. At Art Basel, we created a mini show where I was attached to the end of the red carpet with a red dress in such a way that by the time the guests got to the end of the red carpet it looked like they had just walked down the train of my dress and found me there playing my flute with electronic music accompanied by my partner singing and a dancer in a silver costume that sort of looks like a strange, futuristic rabbit, which was performance art. People were surprised and loved it. It was super fun.
FS: That's awesome! Not many flutists or classical musicians perform at Art Basel.
GR: I have a production company called United Vision. And the name really says what we stand for. I partnered up with another artist/singer to create a company that believes in the beauty behind fusion; fusion of all the arts (music, dance, theater, visual arts (like video mapping), etc) into one integrative show and production. And the best is when we can showcase this type of show at a location or event that is supremely cultural such as Art Basel. At an event like that we can really go all out and do the unexpected because in the art scene there are really no limits.
FS: It's great how you can infuse all of the arts into everything you do.
GR: Well, I am also a professor of humanities at Miami Dade College: I teach all the arts...art, theater, philosophy. I incorporate everything I know from these into my shows. We’ve had to learn business and I’m still learning. Creating my shows, it costs money. The money has to come from somewhere. Wherever it is, it shows I have to invest. The videos and costumes took time and money. I'm very influenced by Native American spirituality, traditions, and music. I also like helping small companies and designers so they can make original pieces for me and I can help them. I like to showcase other people’s work and my work. A lot are experiments….
FS: And you make a lot of your own videos, too?
GR: Making videos is a major process! (haha) It's important that people have a visual if you want to connect and create more internationally. What I do is also pretty random, especially for a flutist so I think it's hard for someone to envision through sheer explanation. When they can see it live or on a video that's when they are like "aha! I see how this works now."
Creating a video can get tricky especially when it's done at a live show. You're also working with the vision of another artist; the videographer. It's an art to really know how to capture the right moments live with the perfect frames and lighting, and then a whole other art and skill to edit and deliver the final product. It's been a great deal of learning experience working with videographers because they are beautiful mirrors. The videos show you so much. They show you your strengths and weaknesses as a performer and they also present beautiful new idea that happen spontaneously in the moment that sometimes MAKE the video and you never would expect it.
I always sit side by side with my video editors until the final product so I have learned the complexities of editing and the long time it takes to get it right. When working on a video that is a music video that is when you have a little bit more control...but not that much either (lol)! I've learned that the music is what really guides what the concept of the video will be. You may have a vision initially of the video being recorded in a theater, which is great because you have so much accessible in a theater (stage, lights, props, etc), but then the music tells you that it actually needs to be out in the woods because the music calls for real nature. It's really interesting. It's really great to work with video directors because they have a different perspective than we musicians do so they can really contribute concepts and ideas that may have never occurred to me.
FS: I totally agree! Do you work with music producers as well?
GR: Yes I write my own music and assist with the production process. I don't know how to manage the music production programs fluently so I mainly just sit side by side with the producer and we co-create by picking out all the sounds and instruments that accompany an electronic track as well as the special effects the flute may have and the build ups and breakdowns. It's really fun and there are so many options.
I have a few producers that I work with consistently and 2 of them are also DJ's that I perform with consistently. These DJs are also well versed in the arts. One of them is a classically trained pianist, guitartist, and percussionist and the other is a visual artist that has one of the most prominent art galleries in Wynwood (our art district). It's really important to me that my producers share my vision of multiple art integration.
My favorite music to play to for show is electronic, and many different varieties from trance, tribal to deep house. They really lend themselves easily to the sultry sound and vibration of the flute. It's surprising actually. The tribal house often has a nice bit of middle-eastern flair incorporating their modes and rhythms and those are great tracks for when I want to combine belly dancing with my flute playing.
FS: Lets talk a little more about how art has influenced you.
GR: I've always been an ardent admirer of all different types of art. I was in theater for a short bit in elementary and middle school and as you know I dance. I always appreciated the visual arts and after completing my Masters I decided to take some additional classes on art history. Being a Humanities professor is perfect because the amount I've learned about all the arts, and logistics behind the creation of these arts as I teach about them have provided me more support and creative influence when creating my own shows and videos. Also, attending so many different type of art events have lead me to meet a wealth of talented and unique artists in every branch of the arts and work with them on my shows.
FS: And how about fashion?! I think you're definitely the most fashionable and risk-taking flutists I know!
GR: There was a certain well-known teacher who told me I wouldn’t succeed and that I should just be a model…it really hurt me because he didn't seem to care to hear me play. However, it just pushed me harder. I always like to dress like myself and express myself! We're performers, so why look boring on stage? If you plan on being an all encompassing performing artist/entertainer, then looks are an important part of it. It doesn't mean you have to be sexy. But put yourself together in a way that is unique, interesting, and suiting to you. I felt for sooooo long like I needed to constrain myself from who I was because I was a classical musician. I "had" to always be conservative, and truth is I'm not. Finally got to the point that I said screw it, and now I do and wear what I want AND I play quality music and connect with my audience.
FS: YES! I think there's quite a double standard today with female classical musicians and how we should dress. I've been told many times by other musicians to tone down my wardrobe and pictures, but I'm not a conservative person either, so why pretend I am, especially in my art?
(We had an in-depth discussion of fashion and sexism in the music industry, which will be explored more in next month's issue)
FS: And you have your own production company, too?
GR: Yes! I have a production company called United Vision, which works by combining many different types of artists and art and presenting them at times in unexpected ways. The fusion started from the beginning through the joining of my partner and I. He comes from a rock/pop performance background.
Luis Arrambide, my partner, was brought to Miami from Mexico for his singing talents to be the lead singer in a band that performed consistently in one of the top clubs in Miami for several years. When the club closed he decided to create a company using the wide network of artists he had met in his years at the club. When he partnered with me, coming from a classical background, I brought to him the use and influence of the finer arts. We started creating concepts together that fused Latin music, or rock, or electronic, or hip hop, and many other genres with classical instruments and the classical orchestra, and even opera. It's been a journey that we are still traveling through seeing how far we can really go.
We like to work a lot with brands. Both he and I have a natural inclination towards fashion and so it makes sense for us to use that other branch of the arts with our shows. We have created several shows, original songs, and music videos for brands like Perry Ellis. We also work with other corporations and are currently now working with Pepsi. Working with brands is interesting because they often push to be creative within whatever box represents the brand.