Castanets far and wide
Enrique El Extremeño, Rafael de Carmen, El Torombo, Concha Jareño — “in Spain, these people are superstars,” said Eva Encinias Sandoval, founder of the Festival Flamenco Internacional de Albuquerque. “But here, they get treated like normal people. They like that.”
Last year’s festival was canceled for financial reasons, but Encinias Sandoval was able to resurrect this New Mexico tradition, shortening the length from eight to five days this year, but not, she said, compromising the quality of talent being imported from Spain to perform and teach workshops. “We take a loss every year, and this year, a lot of our funding was cut, but our community loves the festival, and they deserve to see flamenco at its best.” The festival runs from Wednesday, June 9, to Sunday, June 13.
Encinias Sandoval, who is a professor of dance at The University of New Mexico and established and now runs the National Institute of Flamenco, met with Pasatiempo at the Institute’s studios. A tiny dance student greeted her with a ferocious series of stomps and a smile. “She’s got her llamada down,” Encinias Sandoval said to the student’s mother. “The llamada is the signal given by the dancer to the musicians to say, ‘ Here I am. Let’s do it,’” she explained.
Encinias Sandoval started the festival in 1987, as a way to nurture her students. “They needed exposure to other flamenco dancers. Otherwise, they wouldn’t understand how each dancer’s interpretation could be so completely different.”
According to Encinias Sandoval, flamenco began as an expression of Gypsy struggle centuries ago in the Andalucía region of Spain, and is a highly structured art form. For one thing, there is the inextricable relationship between guitarra (guitar), cante (song), and baile (dance). And then there is duende (soul or passion). These aspects come together in the theater in a way that communicates, as Encinias Sandoval put it, “deep power.”
The art and “constant evolution” of flamenco, then, is in the subtleties. Encinias Sandoval spoke of how different artists approach the form. “The interpretation is dramatically different. [The artists] find a way of creating visual and musical interpretations that are very individually driven. Take Manuela Carrasco, for example. She will have long, drawn-out silences, then slowly start to simmer and then boil, and then explode in these short sequences of movement that just blow an audience away. Then she stops. And then she begins the whole process over again. She’s like a volcano.”
Not only are the flamenco artists different, but the dance has a different flavor depending on the region of Spain the performers are from, Encinias Sandoval said. The performers booked at this year’s festival come from all over the country. “Manuela Carrasco and her company are from Seville. Their show is called Suspiro [Sigh]. Their style is very powerful but charming. It has an antiquated feel to it.
“Manuel Liñan is from Granada, a part of Spain that is very Gypsy. There are Gypsy neighborhoods in Granada. They used to live in caves there. The dance is earthy, old-style flamenco. Andres Peña and Pilar Ogalla are from Jerez de la Frontera, which is known for the bulerías (a fast, 12-beat rhythm). Their dance is very ‘rhythmy,’ and that style seems to feed into everything they do. It has a wonderful swing to it. It’s playful, somewhat sarcastic, very different.” From Madrid comes Concha Jareño, who is appearing with the well-known concert guitarist Juan Antonio Suarez. “The style is more urban, edgy, sophisticated,” Encinias Sandoval said. “It’s fast-paced and not as colloquial as in some of the smaller cities.”
Peña spoke to Pasatiempo from his home in Spain. He used the word “spectacle” to describe the performance he is planning with Pilar Ogalla, his partner in life and in dance. He is 34 and has been traveling as a dancer for more than 10 years. Soleá is his favorite flamenco style, he said.
Manuela Carrasco y Compañia