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Form & flair: Festival Flamenco features a worldly mix of tradition and innovation

Belén López will present the U.S. premiere of “Flamenca” at Festival Flamenco Alburquerque. (Courtesy of National Institute of Flamenco)

Flamenco is an art form that is full of passion.

In its 32nd year, Festival Flamenco Alburquerque has grown into an international event through the tireless work of the National Institute of Flamenco.

For eight days, the city will be filled with the pulse of flamenco, and it is transformed into a cultural epicenter for the art form.

The festival celebrates flamenco, the ancient form of artistic expression of the Spanish-Gypsy culture. The lure of flamenco is its ability to explore the full range of human emotion with an intense, vibrant quality that leaves audiences captivated.

This year’s event is a little later than in previous years, when it was held the first week of June.

“We have a lot of people coming from out of town and the West Coast,” says Marisol Encinias, associate director of the National Institute of Flamenco. “We listened to feedback from them as the festival would conflict with them being in school. This year, we’re able to accommodate their school year, and it’s working out fantastic.”

Though it is a little later, the dynamic level of performers is still the same.

There will be 52 performers from Spain – mostly from the areas of Seville, Jerez and Madrid.

“Every year, we try and do a very curated show so it’s a different experience,” Encinias says. “All of the shows are very different.”

Festival Flamenco is known for pushing the boundaries, from traditional to avant-garde.

This year’s lineup includes Sergio de Lope, Lucía La Piñona, Belén López, Concha Jareño, Olga Pericet and Manuel Liñán.

The festival will open on June 15 with a show by De Lope, a flamenco flutist and saxophonist.

He will lead a group of five next-generation flamenco musicians in “Ser de Luz.” The concert will celebrate Andalusian culture through the innovation of flamenco and jazz.

Encinias is looking forward to López taking the take stage, because she is bringing her family of Gypsy singers, guitarist and percussionist on June 17.

“Belén is one of the greatest when it comes to flamenco in its pure form,” Encinias says. “There aren’t a whole lot of extra frills or theatrical components. She has a ton of classical training, which ties in really well to the raw flamenco expression.”

Pericet will have the U.S. premiere of “La Espina Que Quiso Ser Flor” on June 19.

“It’s a beautiful concert,” Encinias says. “It has a storyline and it’s funny, tragic and a good theatrical experience.

Pericet is the winner of the 2018 National Dance Prize, and a top figure in flamenco and Spanish dance.

She is recognized for her avant-garde and revolutionary pieces.

Another anticipated piece – and U.S. premiere – is Liñán’s “¡Viva!” on June 20 at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

The piece has put together six male dancers, all of different Spanish forms – flamenco, danza estilaizada and escuela bolera.

Liñán celebrates a world in which masculine and feminine break form and roles, all while breaking rules.

“Manuel has been breaking barriers with gender roles and celebrating freedom,” Encinias says. “In flamenco, he was always confined to dress as a man for a long time. In the last several years, he began to learn shawl work. He choreographed the piece to have seven dancers who wear women’s dresses and dance a powerful flamenco piece. Two of the dancers are in the National Ballet of Spain. Manuel is doing what he feels, and honestly, it’s beautiful to see somebody who is able to do that.”

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