ARTIST: María Benítez, director ,Fl amenco’s Next Generation; director ,I nstitute for Spanish Arts; co-founder ,M aría Benítez Teatro Flamenco PALOS: Taranto and Siguiriya
Tarantos have an expressive rhythm for my character and personality. It’s in a four-count. The song is beautiful; it’s very profound. You can sink your teeth into the rhythm. We brought the great Gypsy artist Mario Maya to New York when he was in his late eighties. He set pieces on our company. We figured that he must have watched a lot of Cyd Charisse, because he had me start the taranto with my foot on a chair. I like the way he moved. He had an interesting personal style. He made his dancing look spontaneous even though it was choreographed down to the finger snap.”
One of the most intense palos, the siguiriya, is a Benítez trademark. “I lived my entire life in the siguiriya — the anger, sexuality, brute force, delicacy, earthiness, elegance. I let the music and song carry me away. I don’t do terribly well with the light coquettish palos. I like the black, profound numbers.
“I put flamenco on the New Mexico map. I built an audience. You can’t depend on the summer season to exist, though. You have got to tour. The population triples in the summer, but what happens the other nine months? I don’t know how all the groups here are going to survive. It’s going to be tough. It’s a testing time.”
Her Flamenco’s Next Generation company was begun with a group of eight- to ten-year-olds who auditioned to be in a performing branch of Benítez’s Institute for Spanish Arts, where they were studying. Ten girls signed up, and 14 years later, half of the girls are still performing, several of them (including Emmy Grimm and Miquela Wiegel) professionally. They all grew up together. But Benítez is focused on the future. “I don’t know about mentorship. I just want to keep the dance going.”