In The Studio

In The Studio: How Flamenco Vivo Uses Dance to Enrich Underserved Communites

Inside the Center for Flamenco Arts, you can hear the rattle of castanets and the sounds of Spanish guitar as Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana works on their upcoming tour of Navidad Flamenca, a holiday show they perform every December in each of the five boroughs of New York City. Their outreach spreads from seniors to children with disabilities and working with young girls and women in empowerment workshops.

We caught up with the Center's director and company dancer, Leslie Roybal, to get an inside look at how Flamenco Vivo continues to reach new audiences through community engagement:

Community outreach is clearly a very integral part of the company's foundation. How did that get started?

Carlota Santana and Roberto Lorca who co-founded Flamenco Vivo in 1983 always felt strongly about arts in education. Carlota would take her boom box with her when she traveled and perform for whoever would engage with her. So now we not only do outreach in schools but with different senior centers and community centers in the New York area, as well as internationally.

Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana Photo by Christopher Duggan

Why do you think flamenco has that ability to make change on a social and even political level?

Right now there's such a need for this type of outreach, especially because of the changing demographics of the United States and the large population of Spanish-speaking people. And flamenco ties in all of those cultures. It is an art form comprised of Latin American, African, Jewish, Christian and Arabic cultures, and we're all unified by that language.

It's really enriching on all levels because it's not only the dance that touches people but it's the singing and the music that we do that expands the ways in which we can engage with our audiences.

We recently wrote a story on where to find the best flamenco in Spain. Where would you say the best flamenco is in the United States?

There's a such a thriving community of flamenco here in NYC. Any night of the week you could see some form of flamenco! Outside of NYC there are communities emerging everywhere from Minneapolis to Chicago and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Navidad Flamenca performances are December 3–9, and are free and open to the public.

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