Watching Concha Jareño dance is like taking a journey into the ancient and modern legacy of flamenco. Her blend of retro classic technique with contemporary geometric shaping has influenced the form's aesthetic. She has stewarded the return of brighter variations, re-popularizing dances that seemed to be lost to the history books.
Her signature "shape-shifter" skill with the traditional long-trained dress (bata de cola) and large shawl (mantón) is a creative wonder: She forms the large shawl into squares and triangles, clothing and wraps, while also manipulating the skirt in motions that twist, flip and turn.
Dame Libby Komaiko, one of the most important female figures in Spanish dance in the United States passed away on February 2, 2019. A trailblazer for Spanish and Flamenco dance in the United States, she leaves behind a strong and flourishing legacy which includes the Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater, The Ensemble Español Center for Spanish Dance and Music, the Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Youth Company, the Northeastern Illinois University Spanish Dance Program and the annual American Spanish Dance and Music Festival.
A national festival features form-changing artists.
Rocío Molina. Photo by Felix Vazquez, Courtesy U.S Flamenco Festival
The 13th annual U.S. Flamenco Festival will visit seven cities, February 27 through March 19—and with it will come Spain’s world-renowned, avant-garde flamenco choreographers: Manuel Liñán, Israel Galván, Rocío Molina, Rafaela Carrasco and improvisational master Farruquito. These performers are stepping away from the stereotypes often associated with flamenco as the style grows beyond a folk expression and regains a strong presence on the concert dance stage.
Flamenco’s renewal is being driven by a young generation trained in multiple styles of dance, and also in theater and philosophy. It’s being redefined by the fusion of contemporary movement, particularly in the upper body; a return to the classical styles of Spanish dance, such as escuela bolera; and collaborative experimental performances with forms such as kathak and hip hop. In this year’s festival, Liñán will dance in a bata de cola (a long-trained dress) and a mantón (a large shawl), in a solo that explores male gender roles. “I like to move between the masculine and the feminine styles, between old-fashioned and modern,” says Liñán.
Truthfully, since its inception, flamenco has developed from a disobedient blending of other styles. Over time, those influences have changed, but its rebellious borrowing of other techniques is stronger than ever. For more information, see flamencofestival.org.