Seven of the most beautiful flamenco dancers traveling from Spain for the 32nd annual Festival Flamenco (Saturday, June 15, to June 22) are men. Manuel Liñán’s all-male company from Madrid wears long, traditional gowns, shawls, and bata de cola — the long, ruffled trains on garments — which dancers whip around themselves, letting the dress wrap around them like a cocoon.
“I like pants, and I like dresses,” Liñán said. “I like masculine and feminine. I’m a person.” In classical flamenco, the men are somewhat subservient to the women, at least in terms of the glamour and glory centered around the costumes, movements, and dances traditionally performed by females. “The man doesn’t get to move his hands,”Liñán said. “He stays upright. The woman gets to move every part of her body. She’s free.
“I decided I wanted to be free. I don’t want to dance in pants anymore.”
“All seven of his dancers are world-class,” said Marisol Encinias, of Liñán and his group. Encinias directs the festival along with her mother and festival founder, Eva Encinias-Sandoval, and her brother, Joaquín Encinias. They’re part of a five-generation flamenco family that arrived in New Mexico after fleeing Spain during the civil war there in the late 1930s. Encinias-Sandoval not only started the international festival in 1992 — she also initiated the country’s only degree-granting flamenco program at the University of New Mexico and founded the National Institute of Flamenco, a conservatory that teaches the art form to children and adults alike. (Marisol is the institute’s general director; Joaquín is its artistic director.) The Encinias family members somehow also find time to advise Tierra Adentro, a public charter school in Albuquerque that focuses on Spanish language arts, flamenco dancing, and music for children grades 6 to 12.
Over the years, the Encinias family has created relationships with some of the best-known flamenco artists in Spain. That means dancers, and also singers and guitarists. In this art form, dance exists in tight communion with the music, the guitar, the emotions of the poetry being sung, the clapping of hands, the rhythms of the feet, the dancer’s castanets, and the cajón, a wooden box played like a drum.
In addition to Liñán, other renowned artists — who were chosen to represent a wide range of flamenco styles — are traveling to the festival with their musicians. An academic conference dedicated to the history and scholarly approach to the art form runs simultaneously at UNM.
Festival Flamenco Alburquerque features more than 30 workshops for students and professionals, some of whom travel from all over the country to study with the masters. The event includes two pre-performance lectures and five U.S. premieres, and it showcases six companies that represent the wide range and expressive nature of flamenco — from its most traditional to its most avant-garde. Audiences will not only glimpse flamenco as it is presented every night in Spain but will see an authoritative sampling of current styles and trends in the form.
Liñán’s show, ¡VIVA! celebrates freedom from traditional gender roles. “They’re all outrageous beasts in his company — all with different styles. It’s a statement he’s making, pushing against stereotypes. Flamenco can be very conservative and rigid. There are a lot of rules. This is his manifesto, with all these incredible artists. He’s playing with ideas, weaving a vision. He’s saying, ‘This is who I want to be.’ Also, he’s a master of the use of the shawl and the bata de cola.”
Liñán’s show is one of the U.S. premieres.
He has had a traditional career as a dancer in Spain, winning awards for performing and choreography at many of the major flamenco festivals in Spain and around the world. Liñán was not the first male artist to begin experimenting with costume elements of the female dancer, but his dancing stood out to critics, as he often performed with an attack that was all male.
“I knew all the dancers in my company previously,” he said. “I picked them because each had a feminine side. They represent a range of styles. For this project, I invited each one to discover su mujer (his woman) — the face, form, body, costume — to give it a character, a persona.” The dancers also worked with costume designers to develop dresses that represented their dance style and personality.
“Each of the dancers presents a solo representing a different palo,”Liñán said. A palo, in flamenco, literally means a branch of the tree, one of the many styles of song, music, and dance presented in the art form. The performance includes lively alegrías; sad, intense siguiriyas; and folk dance forms like the sevillanas, Liñan said. “Some of the men are doing traditional Spanish dance, some the more sensual palos, some, very stylized forms. In finding our inner woman, we didn’t invent some other person. We were just ourselves. It’s a mood of liberation.”
The company first performed the show last winter in Madrid. “The theater was sold out. The response was overwhelmingly positive. It was emotional; there were a lot of tears. There was a feeling that something so natural, which had been hidden, was finally opened. We all felt a great release.
“There is no travesty here, no satire,” he said. “We’re just being brave. And true.” ◀
▼ Festival Flamenco Alburquerque
8:00 p.m. Saturday, June 15, to Tuesday, June 18
Rodey Theatre, University of New Mexico Center
for the Arts, 203 Cornell Dr. NE, Albuquerque
Tickets $30-$75, 505-925-5858, unmtickets.com
For more information, call 505-242-7600 or go
▼ 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 19 to June 22
Albuquerque Journal Theater, National
Hispanic Cultural Center, 1701 4th Street SW,
Tickets $40-$95, 505-724-4771, nhccnm.org
▼ 10:30 p.m. Monday, June 17 to Thurs. June 20
Hotel Albuquerque, 800 Rio Grande Blvd. NW,
Tickets $30-$60, 505-222-8797, tablaoflamenco.org