Exhausted, inspired, challenged and excited…this was how I felt during my stay in Albuquerque, NM last week for the 25th anniversary of this popular local festival. Participants that I met traveled from everywhere in the U.S. and Mexico and all have a deep passion for learning more about this beautiful art form. This was my third year at the festival and my second year taking classes. I really wish more people I knew would finally listen to me and GO! It is a unique opportunity to take classes with some of the most popular talent in flamenco today, attend shows and free lectures, meet new people and learn a lot!
My instructors were Pastora Galván, teaching Tangos and Adela Campallo teaching Siguirillas. I wanted to study with Galván for years but never had the chance so I signed up right away. Campallo’s class was my “second” choice and it was my favorite class of the two simply because I felt she truly instructed rather than just taught a choreography. Unfortunately, I missed the first day because I had a job performing at the famed Versace Mansion on Miami Beach the night before…I could not pass up that opportunity either! A note to everyone: Don’t ever miss the first day of class. The rest of the week was a huge challenge trying to catch up as the classes (of 40+ people) learned so, so much that first day. Unfortunately another challenge was trying to see the instructors while behind what I semi-affectionately call the “Great Wall of Albuquerque”. Another note to all: Step back and please share the classroom. There were so many wonderful workshops it was hard to choose. Some very ambitious people were taking 5 classes. I have done that before but that’s a lot of information to absorb in one week. If you do challenge yourself to a schedule like that I suggest that you take a variety of classes. Try mixing it up with technique class, choreography class, cante, palmas, cajón or castanets.
Okay, okay…so maybe you’re not a dancer, you only sing in the shower, you’ve never touched a castanet or a bata de cola and you can’t clap or step in rhythm to save your life but you LOVE watching flamenco. Then you must attend simply to witness 7 fabulous shows that happen every night of the festival. Typically 3 shows are on the University of New Mexico campus with in-your-face, up close and personal seating and 4 shows are at the National Hispanic Cultural Center with a variety of seating options and prices.
Here is an extremely condensed personal observation/report/recap of highlights of each show:
June 10 Adela & Rafael Campallo – Clean lines, incredibly tight choreo/musical compositions. Rafael was all hips, fast feet and lots of charisma. Adela was pure femininity and drama mixed with the utmost beauty mixed with old soul flamenco dancing.
June 11 Alfonso Losa y Compañia – Losa delivers powerhouse patadas with intense sensitivity to the cante. Cantaores Manuel Tañe and Juan Carrasco traded killer vocals the whole night.
June 12 Olga Pericet – Extremely strong and versatile dancer showing off all her talents in classical Spanish dance, flamenco and modern concepts and choreographies. Look out for female guitarist Antonia Jimenez from Cadiz, she has beautiful compositions.
June 13 Yastros American Flamenco Repertory Company – Impressive dance company based in Albuquerque. Carefully crafted choreographies and staging by director Joaquin Encinias.
June 14 Pastora Galván – Conceptual, modern and traditional and no doubt a seasoned life-long performer with huge stage presence. Forced audience to absorb flamenco from a different perspective, pushed boundries. Audience had a hard time, I loved it….
June 15- 16 Fiesta Flamenca – Featured teachers/soloists/groups each did one choreography. It was amazing. At the end there were about 40 + performers for bows, a huge line of very talented people all on the same stage together for a very cool “fin de fiesta”.
Hopefully by now you see what a fun and educational experience this can be and if you cannot afford to leave your home for an extended period of time or spare the expense of traveling to Spain, this is a great option right here in the U.S. To learn more about the organization go here.