Festival Flamenco Internacional

June 10, 2005

Festival Flamenco Internacional
Lensic Theatre, Santa Fe, NM

Rodey Theatre, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM

June 10–18, 2005

Reviewed by Ninotchka Bennahum


Ten minutes to curtain at the last performance in Albuquerque, Rosario Montoya Manzano, known to the flamenco world as “La Farruca,” daughter of the infamous flamenco maestro “El Farruco” and one of the greatest flamenco dancers in Seville today, did not go onstage. Refusing to comply with an agreement made between herself, her musicians, and festival producer Eva Enciñas-Sandoval, La Farruca was sorely missed by an audience of loyal New Mexico flamenco fans who come year after year to share in the treasures of this annual event, now woven into the rich cultural history of the Land of Enchantment. In La Farruca’s place, minutes later, danced two passionate soloists: Karime Amaya, relative of the great Carmen Amaya, and Joaquin Enciñas, son of Eva. Thus, the 19th Festival Flamenco Internacional came to a close with two dancers who happened to be sitting in the house.

Enciñas-Sandoval’s extraordinary producing efforts brought together a diverse group of artists from New Mexico, Mexico, and Spain to teach and perform in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. This year was dedicated to flamenco dynasties—families whose dancing and singing preserves their particular style of flamenco. Each dynastic tradition was taught to festival students and presented to Albuquerque and Santa Fe audiences. Festival students could study guitar, singing, cajon, music theory, and gain experience from three groups: the family of Carmen Amaya, now residing in Mexico; the Farrucos, “keepers of the flame,” from Seville; and the more contemporary choreography and dancing of Andrés Marín and his guest artist from the Ballet Nacional de España, Ursula López.

Yjastros, a New Mexican flamenco company directed by Enciñas-Sandoval’s children, Joaquin and Marisol Enciñas, opened this week of flamenco performance at the Rodey Theatre. Yjastros (translated as “stepchildren”) is an impressive young company of local dancers trained at UNM and at the Enciñas’ Instituto Flamenco and exposed to both traditional Gypsy and modern Andalusian trends in flamenco choreography through the touring and teaching of invited performers each summer.

Enciñas’ ambitious large-group work Dialogos opened with a fantastic pianist, Gonzalo Grau, whose transposition of Gypsy flamenco phrases into jazz piano brought an even richer interpretation of the compas. Filled with entrances and exits and groupings of dancers that draw something personal out of each performer, Dialogos was entertaining. Xicano Power, by postmodern Sevillian sensation Israel Galván, had dancers clad in hip hop-esque clothing, standing through many beats of compas, glaring out at the audience as if to say, “Don’t look at me.” Both Marisol and Joaquin danced solos in various evening performances. Marisol Enciñas’ Solea por Buleria shows her warmth and intensity as a dancer, her nuanced and sensitive approach to her audience. She draws rhythms out of her feet, out of the floor with an intellectualism unexpected of an American performer. If she smiled more, offering more than a single intense gaze, she’d have taken us into her heart.

is also ambitious. Joaquin Enciñas’ rhythmic spin off of traditional cante’s structure and into long, improvisational footwork sequences is original, while influenced by the choreography of Galván and the intense scrutiny of Eva La Yerbabuena. Enciñas is a powerful dancer, trained in ballet and modern dance, and brings to the stage a command of theater that most flamencos do not have. That said, his solos are 20 minutes too long. What starts as original and genuine becomes taxing and self-indulgent. The care he puts into programming his company’s repertoire and musical accompaniment must also be brought to the framing of his own choreographies. But when he smiles and throws his jacket on the floor—a Gypsy gesture that men earn—he wins the applause of invited Spanish performers, which is a testament to his veracity. Most notable in Yjastros are Gypsy composer and guitarist extraordinaire Chuscales and flamenco cantaores José Fernandez and José Anillo, the latter showing sensitivity to the nuances brought out by dancers reflected in the cante.

Following Yjastros in a second night of performance on June 15 at the exquisitely renovated Lensic Theatre was the Amaya Dynasty, cousins of the great Carmen Amaya, who now reside in Mexico City. A family affair, it includes mother/daughter dancers—Mercedes and Karime—and father/son guitarists—Santiago Aguilar and El Tati, and Santiago’s son, cajon player Hector Aguilar. Year after year, the Amayas have returned to New Mexico and the audience has welcomed them. Musically, they are a museum. One could learn the flamenco canon just by watching them work. However, every solo is repetitive with long displays of footwork that lack soul.

The art of flamenco rests on the ability of great dancers and musicians to test the rhythms of its canon and push them through solea—improvisational interpretations of learned measures and phrasing. Without this, the field can’t grow. Enciñas-Sandoval’s gift as a flamenco producer is to know whom to invite to New Mexico and when, such that a history of flamenco emerges year after year in the heat of the Southwest. Coupling the Amaya dynasty with the Farrucos—one family originally from Barcelona (Catalonia), the other from Seville—Enciñas-Sandoval brought together two edges of Spain and two flamenco traditions. The Amayas are quicksilver, built on speed and tricks and surprise; the Farrucas, roaring with an atavistic intensity that you feel only when walking around the Coliseum or watching flamenco in Andalusia. While the Amayas pull out the stops, bringing the audience to its feet with rapid spins and endless pounding footwork that builds to a frenzied finish after 45-minute solos, the Farrucos hold the keys to the treasure chest. La Farruca’s Solea, albeit a little slow after a knee injury, was an elegant and beautiful performance transported from her home to Santa Fe.

I cannot comment on the Farruco’s closing performance at Rodey Theatre because they did not go onstage. That said, Farruca’s singers at the Lensic Theatre on June 16—Jorge Rubio, El Canastero, and Anillo—were nothing short of sublime. One felt transported to a patio in Seville. Their musical interlude felt clumsy, coming after the introduction of the great “Farruca” and the young, powerful Mexican-American dancer Rosario Montoya, and before the adolescent explosions of Farruca’s second son, Farruco, a far less gifted dancer than his brother, El Farruquito, who has been sentenced to 16 years in prison for manslaughter in Spain.

The most innovative artist at the festival was the renowned Sevillian dancer/choreographer Andrés Marín. Son of a dancer father and singer mother, Marín has brought many gifts to the art of flamenco choreography. Like Galván, a younger and more intellectual choreographer, Marín experiments with the basic rhythmic structure of flamenco’s dances, building Forsythian phrases that implode rather than build on rhythms, reorganizing the sequence of song and guitar measures, and bringing new emotional weight to the dynamic steps and directional changes. At the Lensic Theatre on June 15, he walked onto the stage in a black velvet suit and a bright-green shirt and stood in profile, his back slumping—a stance antithetical to the lithe composure required of the professional dance artist. Exploring dramatic connections between light, color, sound, and dance, Marín’s dancing interfaced smoothly with rear projections on an upstage scrim in Solea y Bulerías. Austere images of his peculiar, arthritic-looking body questioned the finesse and articulation typical of flamenco performance. Abandoning entire rhythmic phrases (continued by the singer and guitarist), Marín stood staring out at the audience or off into space, purposefully ignoring that predatory gaze that defines flamenco “aire,” but yielding the same effect: power and intensity in space. See www.feelflamenco.com.