Dance News
Olga Pericet of Madrid. Photo by Paco Villalta, courtesy of National Institute of Flamenco

A fierce concentration fills the studio as a group of flamenco students—male and female, undergraduate and graduate—rehearse under the watchful gaze of Daniel Doña and Cristian Martín. The young men stretch their bodies in taut, elegant lines. The young women move their arms in fluid contrast to the brisk, rhythmic staccato of their feet. Long, ruffled skirts, called batas de cola, are draped carefully over the audience seats for the women to wear during sections that involve manipulating them like dramatic mermaid tails. When the passage is finished, Doña gives corrections about spacing, while Martín quietly takes one of the men aside to demonstrate how to perform an airborne renversé-esque move with more attack. Martín's legs slice swiftly like a blade, yet it takes a magically long time for him to land from the jump.

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Dance News
Flamenco students at Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba. Photo by Toba Singer

Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba's downtown Havana studios are on a plaza where you see few tourists. A historic landmark, the building is now where 1,300 dance students learn the Cubanismo style, 30 of them in its academic program. Artistic director Lizt Alfonso trained in classical ballet at Cuba's National School of the Arts, but not endowed with what Cubans call condiciones, a "ballet body," she dreamed of putting all Cuban dance styles onstage in one evening. To critics, her project was overreaching, but Alfonso turned a deaf ear to the word "can't."

Laura Alonso, respected teacher and daughter of eponymous ballet figures Alicia and Fernando Alonso, liked her idea. Having hired Alfonso to teach, Alonso also provided her rehearsal space. Cuba's then-President Fidel Castro saw a performance, and enthusiastic, intervened to remodel the building Alfonso wanted. Besides studios, the building, with its brightly painted walls, has a costume shop, classrooms, a cafeteria, gym, recording studio and offices, and a terrace café. From LADC, specialists in dance, music, costume and stagecraft send company tours to New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Las Vegas and Tel Aviv.

I asked Alfonso how the school is organized.

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Dance News
Ballet Hispánico students in a flamenco class, a signature technique of the school.

If you've never taken a flamenco class or had the pleasure of watching one, now's your chance.

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Dance News
The Alborada Spanish Dance Theatre at the Feria 2014 Festival. Photo courtesy of Alborada's Facebook page

Alborada Spanish Dance Theatre, flamenco and Spanish dance company and nonprofit organization, presents its free-admission Feria de Sevilla Festival this Sunday, June 11, 2–5 pm, at Parker Press Park, in Woodbrige, New Jersey.

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Jesús Carmona

The best flamenco dancers in Spain have gathered in New York City this weekend as New York City Center hosts the 2017 Flamenco Festival, March 9–12. For the first three days, participants can see world-class dancers and musicians perform classic flamenco in Gala Flamenca. On March 12, avant-garde flamenco dancer Olga Pericet, known for her contemporary approach to Spanish dance, performs a world premiere, Pisadas.

Here are 3 reasons why you don't want to miss it:

  1. Jesús Carmona: As the only male flamenco dancer in the show, Carmona ignites the stage with technical precision and Baryshnikov-like charisma. I couldn't take my eyes off him.
  2. Olga Pericet and her castanets: Petite powerhouse Olga Pericet proves that her fingers are just as adept as her feet in a mindboggling musical solo with castanets.
  3. The music: The four singers, two guitarists and one drummer who accompany the dancers take passion to new heights, providing the perfect give-and-take with the dancers' stomps, scuffs and claps.

For more info, visit: nycitycenter.org.

Olga Pericet premieres Pisadas on March 12.

Photos (from top): by Marcos Punto; by Javier Fergo, both courtesy of New York City Center

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Dance News

Last night’s Dance Magazine Awards honored five remarkable artists: flamenco dancer Soledad Barrio, National Ballet of Canada artistic director Karen Kain, American Ballet Theatre principal Marcelo Gomes, dance archivist David Vaughan and Urban Bush Women artistic director Jawole Willa Jo Zollar. Held at The Ailey Citigroup Theater, the awards ceremony consisted of heartfelt speeches by presenters and awardees, memorable dance performances and a whole lot of love. Here are a few highlights from the event.

Karen Kain receives her Dance Magazine Award from Mikhail Baryshnikov.

One word: Baryshnikov. You know you’ve made it when the legendary Mikhail Baryshnikov presents you with a Dance Magazine Award. Karen Kain had that lucky honor last night, and it was well-deserved. When accepting her award, Kain thanked “Misha” for inspiring her.

Soledad Barrio danced with spirit and intensity.

Soledad Barrio gave new meaning to the word passion as she danced Solea, a fiery solo performed to the accompaniment of a guitarist and two singers. With her quicksilver footwork, snake-like arms and laser focus, she completely owned the stage.

The affection between Marcelo Gomes and Juliet Kent was palpable.

When accepting his award, Marcelo Gomes humbly stated, “Thank you for my beautiful partners that I've danced with in my life. I am nothing without them, nothing onstage without my beautiful ballerinas,” to which, Julie Kent, his longtime partner, close friend and presenter of his award chimed in with, “That’s not true,” to the delight of the audience. Gomes was near tears as he graciously thanked his family, friends and dance partners over the years.

At 91 years old, David Vaughan looked back fondly on his career as the Merce Cunningham Dance Company's archivist.

“'Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, you are a badass!'” Zollar concluded, after her inspirational acceptance speech. After 30 years of running Urban Bush Women, she was able to look back and cherish both the high points and the low, comparing them to a heart monitor. It’s when things aren’t static that you know you’re alive.

After dancing Walking With 'Trane: Side B, Freed(om), Urban Bush Woman clapped for their leader of 30 years.

Since 1954, the Dance Magazine Awards have honored choreographers, educators, performers, writers and organizations whose contributions to the field of dance have made a lasting impact. Past awardees include: Susan Jaffe (DT, August 2010), Gelsey Kirkland (DT, November 2014) and Jenifer Ringer (DT, July 2015).

Check out the highlight reel!

Photos by: Christopher Duggan

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Dance News

New York is taking its flamenco scene to the next level with a brand-new competition for pre-professional dancers. This fall, Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana and the Center for Flamenco Arts will host the first ever New York State Flamenco Certamen. Designed to emulate regional dance competitions in Spain, the event is open to students 18 and older, who live, work or study in the state of New York.

After the August 1 application deadline, 10 finalists will be chosen to receive eight hours of free studio time in NYC, as well as coaching from a flamenco professional and one dress rehearsal with a live guitarist and singer.

October 10, each finalist and their assigned musicians will perform for a panel of judges in Lincoln Center's Bruno Walter Auditorium at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts in New York City. Winners will receive cash prizes and additional practice time at the Center for Flamenco Arts to continue working on their craft. The competition will be open to the public.

Dance News

On Wednesday, March 13, America’s first Flamenco exhibit opens at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. Presented in partnership with NYC-based Flamenco company Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana, “100 Years of Flamenco in NYC” celebrates the history of Spanish music and dance in New York since its rise to mainstream popularity in the early 20th century.

The exhibit runs throughout the summer and includes costumes, castanets, performance photos and music to set the mood. Visitors can also attend showings of rare documentaries from the library’s Jerome Robbins Dance Division, seminars, lectures and, of course, performances by Flamenco Vivo. There are even rumors of onsite Flamenco lessons!

In celebration of its 30th anniversary, Flamenco Vivo will also perform at The Joyce Theater, May 29–June 2.

Photo by Richard Noble, 1964, Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

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