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Flamenco milestone: Yjastros celebrates 20 years of keeping ‘unfound treasure’ alive

Yjastros: The American Flamenco Repertory is spending a year celebrating its 20th year.

Formed in 1999, the National Institute of Flamenco-based ensemble has created works each season and, in recent years, brought in some of Spain’s top flamenco dancers to join it.

“We have four choreographies for this performance,” says Joaquin Encinias, Yjastros artistic director. “Two of them are going to be premieres.”

Yjastros will begin the yearlong celebration at 8 tonight at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

“Yjastros 33” presents works choreographed by master flamenco artists Adrián Santana, Águeda Saavedra, Irene “La Sentío” and Sonia Olla.

Encinias says the exceptional choreographies are made possible through NIF’s partnership with the University of New Mexico.

As resident flamenco company in the department of theater and dance, Yjastros has access to and keeps these important pieces of art alive for the public to enjoy, he says.

“What’s great about the company is that we’re always training the next generation of flamenco dancers,” he says. “… There are a lot of very young dancers that are coming up through the schools. They are becoming a little more featured, one performance at a time. There’s nothing better that speaks to our product. It is one that can keep formulating quality and excellence in this young talent. That’s one of the most important dynamics of a company.”

Encinias says the company continues to grow its repertoire.

“The company comprises a vehicle through which flamenco repertory can live in this country,” he says. “It is a unique entity, and one that has raised the bar for cultural and artistic expression throughout our 20 years. Flamenco is an unfound treasure for many people, and Yjastros brings to light many different facets of the profound beauty of artistic expression. We need culture and art as human beings, and Yjastros is a catalyst to enact positive change in our immediate local and wider national and international communities.”

Saavedra’s piece will be presented as a world premiere.

Meanwhile, Irene “La Sentío” is choreographing a solo.

“It’s an emotional journey in flamenco,” Encinias says. “It’s really one of the iconic pieces, and we’re excited for it to be presented. I think between those two pieces, people are going to be thrown back by the beauty of them.”

Encinias says the company is bringing back a piece by Sonia Olla.

“She did a fandango, and we brought it up last year,” he says. “We started doing the piece last summer in Santa Fe, and we’ve brought that piece into our repertory.”

The piece by Santana is being brought back because audiences appreciated it, Encinias says.

“We’ve been diving deep into our repertoire to see what we can revisit and present again,” he says. “We’re always looking forward to getting new pieces out there. It’s also nice to revisit some of the pieces that people really enjoyed.”