Alibi V.24 No.15 • April 9-15, 2015 

Art Scenester

The Warrior in the Dancer

Yjastros
Yjastros
Photo courtesy NIF
Standing in the corner of the space where the Yjastros dance company is rehearsing, beads of sweat begin to dot my hairline. By my calculations, the thermostat must be somewhere in the 180s, but Joaquin Encinias looks as cool as a cucumber. He is a cannonball of contained energy, silently watching the dancers work through their number for a moment, then suddenly shooting to his feet and clapping his hands. “Yes!”

Encinias is Yjastros' art director and one of the choreographers for their upcoming performance, XXIXth Season. Yjastros is the only dedicated touring flamenco repertory company in America. It boasts some of the greatest talents in the country and has become inextricably linked with Albuquerque's emergence as a flamenco capital. Encinias is a world-class flamenco dancer, and though I am at least a head taller than him, I get the feeling he could take me down without blinking and then dance on my head with graceful ease.

Next to [Joaquin Encinias], I feel like I have two left feet shoved into one right shoe. I trip over my laces at least once and bump into a doorjamb hard enough to dislocate my ego.

Flamenco takes practice: “Jaleos 5J” choreographed by Barcelona’s Pedro Córdoba.
It's not a thought that usually rides alongside images of dancers, but flamenco is something of a warrior's dance. The zapateado (stomping). The jaleo (claps and hollers that often come from the audience as well as performers—sometimes roughly translated as “hell-raising”). There's an element of stylized violence and a martial arts sensibility that separates it from other forms of dance. At its core thrums a celebration of the animal nature hidden within us.

Encinias describes it as a way of life. “Flamenco is a philosophy of dedication. And pure emotion. It seems like just this crazy spurt of energy, but really it is a lot of very focused energy. You need to have that laser focus, and that's true in anything. These are people who are passionate about what they do, and they fuse everything they have into it, and you can feel that energy. Flamenco demands that, and it pulls it out of people.”

Next to him, I feel like I have two left feet shoved into one right shoe. I trip over my laces at least once and bump into a doorjamb hard enough to dislocate my ego. Encinias is nice enough to pretend he doesn't notice.

“Focused energy” indeed.
“Focused energy” indeed.
Photo courtesy NIF
Instead, he goes on to explain how this art form, so popular throughout the rest of the world, has had comparatively little attention here in the states, and how our very own National Institute of Flamenco is fixing the problem by turning our city into one of the great centers of American flamenco. It pulls first-rate talent into Albuquerque's orbit by hosting top-notch teachers-in-residence, who then add to the growing body of knowledge crystallizing within the city.

The Institute's director of philanthropy Marisa Magallanez characterizes Yjastros as “a living archive,” housing a number of classic and modern pieces that are constantly revisited and passed on to new members. She also calls it a “canvas” where choreographers can create new works that will become part of the cultural landscape.

Yjastros will be lending their canvas to two new pieces at this weekend's XXIXth Season: “Jaleos 5J” by Pedro Córdoba and “De Azúcar Blanca y Almendras” by Manuela Rios, which will debut next to a number of the company's existing repertory. Performances of XXIXth Season will take place at the National Hispanic Cultural Center (1701 Fourth Street SW) starting Thursday at 7pm, and continuing Friday and Saturday at 8pm. Tickets are on sale now at the NHCC box office and at nhccnm.org. For more info visit nifnm.org.

Yjastros XXIXth Season

Thursday, April 9, at 7pm, and Friday and Saturday, April 10 and 11, at 8pm

National Hispanic Cultural Center
1701 Fourth Street SW

Tickets: $15-$45
nifnm.org, nhccnm.org, 724-4771
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