The lives of flamenco dancers at the National Institute of Flamenco (NIF) were upended in the last year with in-person performances halted for months.
Yet, the cante could still be heard – though faint and in the background.
The vibration from dancer’s steps couldn’t be felt, but each dancer’s passion continued to grow.
Beginning on Tuesday, July 13, the NIF will present Festival Flamenco Alburquerque, which is in its 34th year.
It will also be one of the first in-person cultural events to happen in New Mexico this year.
“We are very excited to get back onto the stage to perform for an in-person audience,” says Marisol Encinias, NIF executive director. “The dancers are hungry to get back on stage and audiences are ready to get their cultural fix.”
The masterminds behind Festival Flamenco Alburquerque have curated the five-day festival to appeal to flamenco and dance fans.
Of course, planning a festival takes time’ and Encinias was forced to pivot in order to get the event off the ground.
A few weeks ago, the U.S. Consulate in Madrid denied visas to the artists that were slated to perform at this year’s festival because of the pandemic travel restrictions.
Encinias had to make the decision to book new artists – mainly from North America.
Encinias says during the festival’s first five years, the dancers showcased were U.S.-based.
“We have groups from Boston, Mexico, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami,” Encinias says. “The dancers are Spaniards who live in the States. They are all from different backgrounds and spectacular dancers.”
Encinias says there will be about 50 artists presenting pieces throughout the festival.
A few of the groups slated to perform are: Compañía Flamenca Irene Lozano “La Chiqui de Málaga,” Compañía Flamenca Nuestra Señora Reina de Los Angeles, Yjastros: The American Flamenco Repertory Company, Caminos Flamencos and Compañía Flamenca Nino de los Reyes.
The solo performers include Irene Lozano, members of Compañía Nuestra Señora (Briseyda Zárate, Manuel Gutierrez, Vanessa Albalos, José Cortés, Andres Vadin), Nino de los Reyes, Isaac de los Reyes, Triana Maciel Prats, José Díaz “El Cachito,” Aarón Santiago Barrul “El Cigarra” and José Luis de la Paz.
Encinias is used to curating the festivals and aims to make the best festival.
Last year’s festival was online and reached more than 10,000 people, she says.
The performances at Festival Flamenco Alburquerque will also mark the first performances back at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.
Encinias says there will also be nightly performances at the Tablao at Hotel Albuquerque.
The events start at 10:30 p.m. and feature performers working in an improvised setting.
“It’s not rehearsed and gives you the feel of being in Spain,” Encinias says. “We try to keep this as authentic as we can.”
The festival features 20 workshops covering an expansive range of flamenco-related topics taught by master artists, each 90 minutes in length, unless otherwise noted. Each individual workshop occurs over the course of four days.
Also part of the festival is a two-day history conference – “8th Biennial New Perspectives in Flamenco History and Research Symposium.”
The 2021 conference theme is “Where do we go from here? Flamenco in the Early 21st Century.”
Encinias says there will be discussions surrounding race, inequality and inequity, people’s movements, and social issues addressed in and throughout the history, education and presentation of flamenco.
She says participants are encouraged to question what it means for diasporic peoples to practice this art form in the 21st century.
“The symposium provides a unique opportunity to examine various aspects of the art form of flamenco,” she says. “The keynote speaker is Brenda Dixon Gottschild, who is a scholar in dance.”
Dixon Gottschild curates post-performance reflexive dialogues, writes critical performance essays, performs self-created solos, and collaborates with her husband, choreographer/dancer Hellmut Gottschild, in a genre they developed and titled “movement theater discourse.”
The symposium takes place on Friday, July 16 and Saturday, July 17. The event is free but registration is required.
While Encinias is excited to have performers back on stage, she is aware that it’s the first live production in a year and a half.
“We’ve worked hard to maintain our staff and artists,” she says. “We continued to pay people as we kept the ball moving with the institute. The flamenco world is pretty small and we are humbled to be able to get a great pool of talented performers for this year’s event. They were all very willing to get back on stage.”