Text: Estela Zatania
RETURN OF THE ALBUQUERQUE FLAMENCO FESTIVAL
In the current economic atmosphere, flamenco is going through the hard times that typically fall hardest upon the cultural sector, and some important festivals have seen their budgets dramatically reduced, while others have unceremoniously and indefinitely been suspended.
But Eva Encinias Sandoval, founder in 1982 of the National Institute of Flamenco which organizes the Festival Flamenco Internacional de Alburquerque, doesn’t give up so easily. Last year, when the event she created twenty-three years ago, one of the most important of its kind outside of Spain, could not take place due to insufficient funding, she fought tirelessly in order to prevent its permanent demise, and as she exclaimed at the presentation of one of this year’s gala shows: “We’re baaack!” The feisty lady, who is also responsible for setting up the only accredited university program for flamenco dance in the United States, and presides over a busy dance school in downtown Albuquerque, is the matriarch of a veritable dynasty of artists, with children and grandchildren getting into the act, on both the artistic and administrative levels.
Held on the premises of the University of New Mexico and the National Hispanic Cultural Center, the festival includes shows by the biggest Spanish stars – one wall at the dance school is full of signatures of the most popular flamenco artists of the last two decades – a program of more than 30 workshops in dance, guitar, cante and percussion and a complete series of conferences by guest speakers, this year devoted to “New Perspectives in Flamenco”. José María Velázquez-Gaztelu headed the program of speakers that also included Sir Brook Zern, William Washabaugh, Estela Zatania, Ninotchka Bennahum, Gretchen Williams, Joaquín Encinias and Eva Encinias herself. Velázquez-Gaztelu, so well-known for his brilliant TV series Rito y Geografía del Cante, gave the conference “Flamenco, the Music of Life”, a broad overview of various styles of cante and verses, with the extra added attraction of Luis Moneo illustrating with his cante, and the guitar accompaniment of Juan Antonio Suárez “Cano”.
According to the organization, about half of those attending the festival come from outside New Mexico, including from abroad, and without a doubt the program of performances, although somewhat cut back for this edition, is the biggest draw. The major star this year was veteran dancer Manuela Carrasco. With her wonderful group, which included dancers Torombo and Rafael del Carmen, singers Enrique el Extremeño, Tañé and Samara Amador and the guitars of Joaquín Amador and Paco Iglesias, Manuela handily won over the audience at the spacious Journal Theatre of the National Hispanic Cultural Center.
Granada dancer Manuel Liñán already had a following at Albuquerque, and this year, with a group made up of Ana Romero and la Tacha in dance, Luis Mariano and Arcadio Marín on guitar and singers Emilio Florido and Inmaculada Rivero, he received a warm standing ovation from the grateful and diverse audience. On Thursday night, after Liñán’s performance, and within the framework of the festival, the 7th National Flamenco Contest was celebrated at the Rodey Theater.
It was the first time Andrés Peña and Pilar Ogalla had come to Albuquerque as a dance team, and they were extremely well-received, both in the classes and the performances. Their show “A Fuego Lento”, was supported by guitarists Luis Mariano and Keko Baldomero, and the singing of Luis Moneo.
Another spectacular evening was provided by guitarist Juan Antonio Suárez “Cano”, with the collaboration of Madrid dancer Concha Jareño. “Seis Cuerdas Para Dos Tacones” is the name of this show based on contemporary experimental flamenco that was warmly received and applauded by the audience at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.
As happens with other big festivals held in relatively small places, the city of Albuquerque cultivates an atmosphere which encourages communication and shared experiences between performers, students and audience. If, for example, on Saturday night there was no Tío Pepe sherry and no cured ham, the Coronitas and Mexican food filled the same function, and the voices of Enrique Extremeño and Luis Moneo filled the large open-air terrace along one of the city’s busy thoroughfares.
A round-table discussion kicked off the last day’s activities with the principal speakers who wrestled with the topic “Flamenco at the Crossroads, Flamenco for the 21st Century”, with the additional participation of Torombo and Juan Antonio Suárez “Cano”. At night the closing show began with the performance of the company Yjastros under the direction of Joaquín Encinias, and then brought together all the artists who had appeared on previous days for an unforgettable “adios” to this unique festival.