Zavala was born in Phoenix, Arizona but moved around to many locations with her family, including western Australia for two years. It was when she moved to New York, however, that her life changed in an unexpected way. She came upon a guitarist – Herrera – playing beautifully … right up until he broke a nail, which caused a bit of tension at the time (they both laugh at the memory). Men don’t usually get upset about such things, but when you play an instrument that requires longer fingernails, it is more understandable.
Despite the inauspicious beginning, the relationship blossomed; it turned out they were a perfect fit. Zavala had been dancing since she was about 5 years old and Herrera, born in Florida, had mastered the guitar to the point that he had become noticed in the big city. One of his most notable gigs was when he played for Alicia Keys and her husband at a private party.
“Nathan had already visited Spain and had been playing Flamenco at venues in New York when I met him; he was actually the one who introduced me to Flamenco,” Zavala says.
It wasn’t long before they made names for themselves in the islands, sometimes performing simply as a duo at special events. Those familiar with their performances began to see them with a second guitarist and a second dancer, then a percussionist and on occasion, a trumpet player.
The expanded group was a huge hit at the National Gallery’s Club Havana-themed fundraising night at the Harquail Theatre in 2016, and since then they have been seen at public events, private parties and on local television under the name Flamenco Caribe.
Herrera and Zavala are not content to just sit on their laurels and stick with the status quo, which is why they make a pilgrimage to Spain at least once a year for a month or two. There, they immerse themselves in the culture, music and dancing by attending shows and classes.
“That is where we load up on everything we need, from costumes to gear,” says Zavala.
Although she has taught dance in the past, she says she wishes to focus on being the student at the moment.
Herrera has taught guitar for the last 18 years, although he only has a few students these days, as he wants to concentrate more on performing.
“I used to teach a lot,” he says, “even at the university level. I was an adjunct professor at Southeastern University in central Florida.”
The couple has been married for going on seven years now, and neither seems to have fallen prey to the issues some couples have of living and working together.
“I consider myself super lucky that we get to perform together,” Zavala says. “He keeps me inspired – it’s like playing with my best friend.”
“It’s the best,” Herrera agrees. “We get to create new experiences together. Of course, there is often more pressure, because you live with them, you have to get everything right! [Laughs]”
Anchor & Den at the Marriott, known for its love of international cultures and cuisine, has clearly found the Flamenco Caribe act to be a natural fit for its venue. For some time now, the group has played every Thursday at the El Mercat – Nit de Tapes evening.
Erb stretches her wings by also hosting the salsa dancing lessons at The Wharf every Tuesday for its salsa night, while Zavala is happiest when she is dancing Flamenco.
“I’ve danced a number of different styles,” she says, “but I just love Flamenco. It’s the one for me.”
Elina Zavala’s hair and makeup: StyleBar
Photos: Stephen Clarke