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.


Celebrated Spanish flamenco artists, Doña and Martín are in residence at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. The city has become home to the most vibrant flamenco community outside of Spain as flamenco itself has become increasingly popular in the U.S. Festival Flamenco Albuquerque, which takes place every June, draws leading international flamenco artists, and UNM offers the only accredited flamenco concentration in the country. Yet as flamenco evolves beyond its traditional roots, the concentration has become an incubator as well as a wellspring of dance excellence.

UNM's dance program offers staples such as ballet and modern technique classes, kinesiology and dance writing, but by their junior year, undergraduate dance majors must choose between a contemporary or a flamenco concentration. Flamenco students will then take classes in the history, structure, improvisational forms, techniques and choreography of their chosen pursuit.

There are currently 25 undergraduates pursuing a BA within the flamenco concentration. "These numbers have grown substantially in the past five years," says Donna Jewell, chair of the UNM dance and theater department. "We have tripled the number of students auditioning to be in the flamenco concentration. We also are attracting more MFA graduate students interested in the flamenco discipline."

Two of the program's biggest draws are Eva Encinias-Sandoval, a leading flamenco artist who launched the festival 32 years ago and has taught flamenco at the university for 45 years, and her daughter Marisol Encinias, who currently directs the UNM flamenco concentration as well as the festival. Like the UNM flamenco program, the festival has grown. As its budget has increased, it has allowed Encinias to bring more artists each year—from traditional Gypsy family troupes to performers like Doña who push the boundaries of how flamenco is understood, incorporating other forms such as classical Spanish dance and folklórico. The festival now includes performances, classes, history colloquia and workshops—most taking place at the university.

Many of the artists who perform in the festival also hold choreography residencies for the flamenco concentration during the academic year, working with the students for weeks, teaching technique and setting works. The resident-artist program is separate from the festival. "I always try to bring people who will teach," says Encinias. "As well as artistry, expression and musicality, I want the students to work with dancers who will be very clear in how they interpret technique."

The Encinias family's artistic influences feel like a microcosm of both flamenco and New Mexico culture. The state's history is old, diverse and sometimes challenging to reckon as Spanish, Native American, Mexican and U.S. cultures clashed and blended. "My grandmother was a dancer and singer. Her mother was a singer of traditional New Mexican music," says Encinias. "My mother would do flamenco, Spanish classical dance, ballet—it was all-encompassing. I grew up dancing with my family. There was no distinction, no 'Now my mother is dancing modern' and 'Now she's doing flamenco.' My mother loves dancing. To me, that is important." This perspective has helped Encinias establish a broad and celebratory view of flamenco in both the UNM program and the festival.

The festival exposes the students to a level of flamenco rarely seen outside of Spain, both in formal performances and in postperformance tablao, an informal flamenco setting, like a tavern, where flamenco is improvised communally. "The festival has been one of the peak experiences of my life," says Samantha Martinez, a fourth-year undergraduate double-majoring in flamenco and psychology. "All of the top flamenco artists are here under our roof. As students, we do work-study to pay for classes and tickets. All of us—these amazing dancers and the students—are with each other all week long. We're taking classes all day, seeing shows every evening and ending each night at the tablao for seven days. You get to know the artists from all around the world and see what drives them."

Many of the performers at the festival challenge the idea of what flamenco can be. Israel Galván, for one, comes from a long line of traditional flamenco dancers. Yet he creates stunningly innovative works that both tap and expand traditional flamenco, including a collaboration with Akram Khan set to Gregorian chants and a flamenco interpretation of Kafka's Metamorphosis. Some of Galván's pieces have raised questions among traditionalists about how far the artform's limits can be pushed.

This push and pull between tradition and freedom is a pervasive theme in discussions about flamenco, and not merely in academic settings. In Spain, there are skeptics as to whether non-Spaniards or even non-Gypsy Spanish dancers can perform flamenco. Encinias, however, takes a different view. "It's like saying Misty Copeland can't do ballet," she says. "That idea is alive and well in Spain among certain people. But there are amazing dancers doing flamenco everywhere now."

Third-year MFA student Justice Miles is studying choreography and has focused on flamenco as her path to self-expression. She has created a contemporary dance to flamenco music, constraining the choreography to the rhythms and patterns of flamenco dance. "I'm a choreography major, and I am an African-American and Norwegian-American young woman," she says. "I always felt racially and stylistically in-between. I view myself as an intermediary between people and different cultures. My work puts these into conversation."

Encinias wants the program's students to grapple with the conflict between tradition and exploration. "There is a struggle for power, authenticity, the right to be able to do flamenco," she says. "People are challenging everything within this artform—gender roles, norms, prescribed ways of being. It's perfect that we can study flamenco in a university setting, because this is the place where students are supposed to think about these historical and political issues. It's important for my students to understand the tensions implicit in the artform and to understand how this challenges them as dancers and people. Flamenco can be such a powerful learning tool when you challenge yourself not to look at it superficially."

Concha Jareño. Courtesy of National Institute of Flamenco


Workshop with batas de cola—the flamenco long-tailed skirt. Courtesy of National Institute of Flamenco

Dancer Health
Courtesy of Susan Jaffe

Throughout Susan Jaffe's performance career at American Ballet Theatre, there was something special, even magical, about her dancing. Lauded as "America's quintessential American ballerina" by The New York Times, Jaffe has continued to shine in her postperformance career, most recently as the dean of dance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. She credits the "magic" to her meditation practice, which she began in the 1990s at the height of her career. We sat down with Jaffe to learn more about her practice and how it has helped her both on and off the stage.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix, has been called the Queen of Fundraising by colleagues. A studio owner and high school dance coach with over four decades of experience, Clough is known for her smart and successful fundraising ideas.

Now, Just For Kix has created a new online tool to help everyone tackle their fundraising goals, whether you're raising money for uniforms, extra classes, or to cover the cost of travel for your dance team's next convention.

Clough shared a few of her best fundraising tips, including everything you need to know about the new tool:

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network
Stella Abrera in Alexei Ratmansky's The Seasons. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy of ABT

Yesterday, Kaatsbaan, the Tivoli, NY–based cultural park for dance, announced that Stella Abrera will join the organization as its new artistic director, effective January 1, 2020. This news come just weeks after we learned that Abrera will be taking her final bow with American Ballet Theatre in June.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by NYCDA
Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.

"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."

Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
From The Rock School 2019 Showcase. Photo by Catherine Park, courtesy of The Rock School

Your year-end recital is your studio's pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Not only is it the time for your dancers to celebrate what they've accomplished during the year, it's your opportunity to demonstrate to parents firsthand the value of a dance education. A successful recital can also grant your school an influential role in the local community. Whether a prominent conservatory or a small-town studio, and whether your dancers win competitions or take classes once a week, your year-end recital is the chance for your dancers—and your program—to shine.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Kyle Froman

Darla Hoover was at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet's studios running a rehearsal in 2014 with director Marcia Dale Weary. Hoover had just returned the day before from staging a ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia. Jet-lagged, she mixed up her words when giving a correction.

Weary took Hoover's hand and gently said, "Honey, you work too hard."

Hoover, and the students, had a good laugh.

"Are you kidding me?" Hoover replied. "You're the one who made this monster. There is no off switch!"

Weary founded CPYB in 1955, and it quickly became an internationally known school that has produced countless principal dancers. Famous for her high standards and tough work ethic, Weary instilled those qualities in Hoover, who served as associate artistic director at CPYB under Weary, as artistic director at Ballet Academy East's pre-professional division in New York City and as a répétiteur for the Balanchine Trust.

Hoover took over as artistic director at CPYB in the spring this year after Weary died suddenly, and while she's committed to continuing Weary's legacy, students have begun to see some of Hoover's vision as well.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Jessica Kubat (center) with her studio staff. Photo by Vincent Alongi, courtesy of Kubat

Jessica Kubat's path to becoming a studio owner wasn't typical or glamorous or the product of a family business, handed down. When she opened MJ's House of Dance in Lindenhurst, New York, this past summer, she had just turned 40, was a mom of three, and had worked at two different studios long-term. Over the last two and a half years, she'd painstakingly saved up $25,000 and had gone to the Small Business Development Center at a local college on Long Island for help creating her business plan. Her area was moderately saturated with studios, so she spent considerable time planning what would set her school apart—live musical accompaniment, for one—and hired a marketing director nine months before the business even opened. It was a methodical, careful approach—Kubat calls it "the old-fashioned way"—to opening a studio, and it's paid off: She started summer classes with 75 students and is well on her way to reaching her first-year enrollment goal of 250 dancers. "When I turned 40, I decided that it was time to do something bigger," says Kubat. "I always wanted to own a studio—it was just never financially available to me."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
From left: Daniel Novikov, Alla Novikova and Mishella Vishnevskiy at Blackpool 2018. Photo by NYC Digital Media, courtesy of Alla Novikova

Alla Novikova began her dance training at a ballroom studio called Edelweiss in Saratov, Russia, when she was 9 years old. She was immediately recognized for her natural talent and work ethic, placing third at the Russian Open just three months after beginning ballroom lessons. The lessons she learned at Edelweiss shaped her career and provided the foundation she needed to open her own ballroom studio: Work hard to prove that you're good enough to be here, and give honor to the experiences that brought you to where you are today.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Professions across the globe hold yearly conferences, and the dance industry is certainly no exception. Annual conferences exist for dance teachers, dance medicine professionals, dance educators and more. Taking the time out to attend them can be well worth your while for a number of different reasons. Let's take a closer look at four of them.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Father-daughter dance. Photo by Lisa Lee, courtesy of Dance Academy USA

Your year-end recital is your studio's pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Not only is it the time for your dancers to celebrate what they've accomplished during the year, it's your opportunity to demonstrate to parents firsthand the value of a dance education. A successful recital can also grant your school an influential role in the local community. Whether a prominent conservatory or a small-town studio, and whether your dancers win competitions or take classes once a week, your year-end recital is the chance for your dancers—and your program—to shine.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Q: How do you approach gender when teaching in 2019? When I was training, male dancers were encouraged to make their movement masculine, while female dancers were encouraged to keep their movement feminine. Today, gender has become much more fluid, and the line between masculine and feminine performance has blurred. How does that impact the way we should be teaching?

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Photo courtesy of Z Artists Group

New York City–based pre-professional training troupe Z Artists Group, along with dancers from eight professional companies in the city, are joining together to combat gun violence with, "DANCERS DEMAND ACTION," a performance aligning art with activism at The Joyce Theater, this Monday, November 11, at 7:30 pm.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox