Karime Amaya. Photo: LuisCastillaFotografia.

Albuquerque International Flamenco Festival 2024

Written by:
Michael Wade Simpson
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The 37th Albuquerque International Flamenco Festival once again brings the cream of the crop of Spanish (and non-Spanish) flamenco artists to New Mexico for a nine-day extravaganza. In addition to several nightly performances (including late-night tablaos for a truly Spanish touch) there is a vast array of workshops for flamenco students of all levels, special programs for kids, a film festival, and lectures by visiting scholars. It’s the kind of program that audiences are willing to travel for—there is no other festival in the US with the same breadth of talent and programming.

I spoke with Marisol Encinias, Executive Director of the National Institute of Flamenco, who is also an Assistant Professor of Dance at the University of New Mexico, and part of a multi-generational flamenco dynasty in New Mexico. Her mother, Eva, founded the festival in 1982. Encinias travels every year on scouting missions to Spain, and through her connection with the top artists in the field, always has her ear to the ground—bringing in up-and-coming artists as well as some of the most renowned veterans.

Here is a list of this year’s performances, along with brief descriptions thanks to Encinias. All of the headliners travel with their own dancers, musicians.

June 21: Maria Moreno. She’s a really good dancer from Cadíz. She’s a little quirky. A solo show.

June 22: Yinka Esi Graves. African descent lives in London and Sevilla. An interesting work that incorporates ideas from Africa. It’s an opportunity to reconsider flamenco history in light of the influence of rhythms from Africa. Flamenco began to emerge in the early 1800’s after a 300-year period of Spanish colonialism. There were a lot of cultures in the mix. Not everyone in flamenco embraces that.

June 22: Karime Amaya. She is the great niece of the famous Carmen Amaya, who left Spain during the Civil War and lived in Argentina and Mexico City, where she basically founded a school, and the flamenco community that still exists. “Carmen changed flamenco forever, especially for women. Her style, the way she moved, the speed and precision. She was the first virtuosic performer. Karime follows in that tradition. She can execute footwork that nobody else in the festival can compare with.

June 23: Maui de Utrera. A music concert. She’s from Sevilla. It’s almost like a comedy show. She she makes a stew and drinks vermouth (a very Spanish thing). She’s telling stories. It’s a musical theater piece and it’s hilarious.

June 23: Adela Campallo. She’s from Seville, part of a flamenco family. Her brother Raphael is a top dancer, and another brother, Juan, a “monster” guitarist, will accompany her. She has a very lyrical yet very emotional and dramatic interpretation.

June 24: Estévez/Paños. These guys won a national award a couple of years ago in choreography. There is no music. They sing and create percussion with their mouths. It’s a more experimental show. They have five men on stage and they are all freaks. It’s cool.

June 24: Eduardo Guerrero. He’s a super showman from Cadíz. I’d seen him wear sequins and stuff like that. I never really liked anything that he did that much. But last year I saw him at a Festival, and his show was such a raw and incredibly executed performance. Flashy but in a real way. Jaw-dropping.

June 25: El Pele. A singer. From Cordova. Many consider him the best living singer for flamenco. As pure flamenco as you can get.

June 25: Mercedes de Córdoba. From Granada. She’s known for her choreography. She’ll be putting on a show with four other women, and it’s more of a dance theater production.

June 26: Vanesa Coloma. From Madrid. If Sevillian flamenco is like country music—traditional. You could say flamenco from Madrid is more urban. Seville is Nashville, Madrid is New York.
The National Ballet of Spain is in Madrid. There is a classical influence.

June 26: Manuel Liñán. In drag again. With six other male flamenco dancers in drag. Exploring Spanish “copla” form. He likes to play around with different conceptual ideas. He comes from a different school. He’s from Granada. He grew up dancing in the caves.

June 27: Águeda Saavedra. A dancer from Málaga. She dances I the company of Mercedes de Córdova. She’s in her 20’s and this is her first solo show. In 15-20 years, she’s going to be considered one of the best female dancers I the world. She is a prodigy. I She’s drop-dead gorgeous and pretty freakish in her ability. I thought it would be interesting to present her early on in her career.

June 27: Farruquito. From the Farruco flamenco family from Sevilla. Considered by many right now the best male flamenco dancer alive. His son is also a dancer, and he’ll be dancing in the show as well.

A great way to sample the variety of artists and offerings at the festival is to attend the final two performances, where various headliners come out to perform one piece. On June 28, the soloists will be joined by Yjastros, the resident flamenco company at the University of New Mexico. They are known for combining choreographic ideas from modern dance, such as the use of space and group dynamics. Last year, they were the first American group to ever perform at the prestigious Festival de Flamenco in Jerez.

June 28: Fiesta Flamenca
with Adela Campallo, Rafael Campallo, Eduardo Guerrero, María Moreno, & Yjastros.
June 29: Fiesta Flamenca with Karime Amaya, Mercedes de Córdoba, Estévez/Paños, Farruquito, & Manuel Liñán.

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