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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.
The revival of everything '90s has been in full-swing for a while now—we saw Destiny's Child reunite at Coachella, Britney Spears is headed back on tour, and the Spice Girls miiight be performing at the Royal wedding next month. But Hollywood saved the best '90s moment for last, bringing *NSYNC back together to receive their official star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on April 30.
Because we love a good dance #TBT, we're reliving five of the boys' best dance moments.
"I Want You Back"
The band's first single from their self-titled debut album in 1998, "I Want You Back," was the start of their takeover (and their choreographed dance moves).
Looking for your next audition shoe? Shot at and in collaboration with Broadway Dance Center, Só Dança has launched a new collection of shoes working with some pretty famous faces of the musical theater world! Offered in two different styles and either 2.5" or 3" heels, top industry professionals are loving how versatile and supportive these shoes are! Pro tip: The heel is centered under the body so you can feel confident and stable!
When I wrote about my struggle with depression, and eventual departure from dance because of it, I expected criticism. I was prepared to be challenged. But much to my relief, and horror, dancers from all over the world responded with support and stories of solidarity. The most critical response I saw was this one:
"Dance isn't for everyone."
This may as well be a mantra in the dance world. We have become entrenched in the Darwinian notion that the emotionally weak will be weeded out. There is no room for them anyway.
Growing up in a family-owned dance studio in Missouri had its perks for tap dancer Anthony Russo. But it also earned him constant taunting, especially in high school.
"There was a junior in my sophomore year health class who was absolutely relentless," he says. "I'd get tripped on my way to the front of the classroom and he'd say, 'Watch out, twinkle toes.' If I raised my hand and answered a question incorrectly, I'd hear a patronizing 'Nice one, Bojangles.' "
Gina Gibney runs two enormous dance spaces in New York City: Together they contain 23 studios, five performance spaces, a gallery, a conference room, a media lab and more. Gibney is now probably the largest dance center in the country. It's not surprising that Dance Magazine named Gina Gibney one of the most influential people in dance today.
One of the biggest myths about ballet dancers is that they don't eat. While we all know that, yes, there are those who do struggle with body image issues and eating disorders, most healthy dancers love food—and eat plenty of it to fuel their busy schedules.
Luckily for us, they're not afraid to show it:
What does a superstar like Carlos Acosta do after bidding farewell to his career in classical ballet? In Acosta's case, he returns to his native country, Cuba, to funnel his fame, connections and prodigious energies back into the dance scene that formed him. Because of its top-notch, state-supported training programs and popular embrace of the art of dance, Cuba is brimming with talented dancers. What it has been short on, until recently, are opportunities outside of the mainstream companies, as well as access to a more international repertoire. That is changing now, and, with the creation of Acosta Danza, launched in 2016, Acosta is determined to open the doors even wider to new ideas and audiences.
There's so much more to the dance world than making and performing dances. Arts administrators do everything from raising money to managing companies to building new audiences. With the growing number of arts administration programs in colleges, dancers have an opportunity to position themselves for a multifaceted career on- or offstage—and to bring their unique perspective as artists to administrative work.
While Solange was busy helping big sis Beyoncé give Coachella its best performances of all time, an equally compelling project was quietly circulating on Instagram:
New York City Ballet continues its first year without Peter Martins at the helm as our spring season opens tonight.
When he retired at the start of the new year, we plunged headfirst into unknown, murky waters. Who would the new director be? When would we know? Would we dancers get some say in the decision? Who would oversee the Balanchine ballets? Who would be in charge of casting? Would a new director bring along huge upheaval? Could some of us be out of a job?