The blank page for a writer is like walking into any dance rehearsal space for a dancer, stepping onto an empty stage for an actor or a setting a blank canvas on an easel for a painter. All they bring with them is their past experience and all that is front of them is potential. For the members of Yjastros: The American Flamenco Repertory Company based in Albuquerque, the past is rooted in traditional flamenco and the potential is to create something that not only shows the range of the company, but takes the form in a new direction. This is contemporary flamenco.
“We are keeping the craft alive,” says dancer Carlos Menchaca. All the members of Yjastros are quick to speak to their reliance on traditional flamenco as their base, but of strictly sticking with that tradition as time goes on, Menchaca says, “less and less we care.” It becomes clear in conversation that the company sees traditional flamenco as their foundation for experimentation. In practice, their hard work is evident. What the group is hoping the audience gets from their performance is not some radical departure, but is rather simple and elegant. “I hope they are excited,” says fellow dancer Olivia Marín. She hopes “the choreography captures something beautiful.”
Within the 32nd Annual Festival Flamenco that begins this Saturday, Yjastros is one company among many. Boasting seven symposiums, eight performances and 38 workshops covering flamenco dance, costuming and music that incorporate visitors from 10 countries, the festival itself is a monster of practice, performance and scholarship. For locals, it is a chance to see world-class performances that would rarely come here otherwise. For visitors, it is an opportunity to see the level of performance that the National Institute of Flamenco can produce. For all, it is a moment to collaborate and cross-pollinate the craft with new ideas.
Audiences familiar with flamenco can expect no finer varity of performances outside of Spain this year at the 32nd Annual Festival Flamenco. Those unfamiliar with flamenco, especial those with children that rarely find their entertainment outside of a box, should pay special notice to this festival. Flamenco is not ballet. Flamenco is a spirited, emotional and often boisterous combination of music and dance that is accessible and easily enjoyed when met at any level. Do yourself and a young person a favor and make that introduction.