The Colorful Albuquerque Festival You'll Love This June

The Festival Flamenco Alburquerque is celebrating its 35th year from June 11 to 18, 2022. The thrilling week-long event, sponsored by the National Institute of Flamenco and the University of New Mexico, is the most significant flamenco event outside of Spain.

The festival takes place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and uses the original Spanish spelling of the city’s name: Alburquerque.

Flamenco dancers on a tablao stage

(Photo Credit: New Mexico True)

Above all, the Festival Flamenco Alburquerque manifests the power and legacy of flamenco. More than 75 of the finest flamenco artists from the U.S. and Spain perform here. They also teach over 40 workshops and classes in dance, music, and related flamenco topics. This year, the festival sponsors more than 20 performances on mainstage theater, late-night tablao, and black box theater, as well as outdoor renditions and free family-oriented programming.

La Emi And Her Flamenco Entourage

Last December, I saw my first flamenco performance in Taos, New Mexico. La Emi and her entourage of musicians and dancers put on a show at El Monte Sagrado Resort. The concert was captivating, artistic, and alluring, leaving me wondering about the history, artistry, and the culture of the dance. 

Emmy Grimm, known professionally as La Emi, has danced and toured across the world, training under Carmela Greco of Spain and is the protégé of renowned dancer Maria Benitez. Based in Santa Fe, La Emi leads her professional company EmiArte Flamenco, her school, EmiArte Flamenco Academy, and a youth company, Flamenco Youth de Santa Fe. 

Flamenco Youth de Santa Fe will perform at the Festival Flamenco Alburquerque during a free afternoon of family-friendly programming featuring student companies from around New Mexico. EmiArte Flamenco regularly performs at the Maria Benitez Cabaret Theatre at the Lodge at Santa Fe.

Flamenco “preserves and promotes the flamenco communities’ artistry, culture, and history.”

(Photo Credit: New Mexico True)

An Interview With National Institute Of Flamenco’s Operations Director

Flamenco explores the “full range of human emotion,” Annie d’Orazio, Ph.D., operations director of the National Institute of Flamenco, told me. It preserves and promotes the flamenco communities’ artistry, culture, and history. This premier, one-of-a-kind event attracts thousands of students and patrons with its quality and scope of programming.

Dr. d’Orazio kindly answered my questions about flamenco. We discussed the diverse origins of flamenco, the basic steps of the dance, the role of cante flamenco (the singing that accompanies the dance) in the art form, and more.

Cante singing is “essential and has many different structures, melodies, and points of origin.”

(Photo Credit: Pat Berrett)

Flamenco And Cante

Janie Pace: Has flamenco always been teamed with a singer and Spanish guitar? What is the significance of the singer? It seems Vicente Griego, the cante flamenco performer with La Emi, has a significant following, watching the audience’s reactions that evening.

Annie d’Orazio, Ph.D.: Flamenco stems from cante, the flamenco song. Cante flamenco … has many different structures, melodies, and points of origin. It’s a vast topic that I couldn’t do justice to here, but there are some great resources for learning about cante. Not all cante can be danced to – some cante is unaccompanied by guitar or dance, some is accompanied by music only, and some are accompanied by [only] dance. Cante itself is not an accompaniment or a decoration. The guitar became a part of flamenco later in the art form’s development.

Often the content of the text or lyrics is metaphoric and inspires the guitarist and the dancer, giving them the impetus to create and express themselves within sets of shared musical and movement conventions.

The Culture Of Flamenco

Pace: From what cultures does flamenco originate?

d’Orazio: Flamenco originates from many cultures and has a long, complex history. It contains Arabic, African, European, Roma, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian cultural influences. [But] the influence of Gitanos — Spanish Roma people — on flamenco is enormous.

The Flamenco Dance

Pace: Can you describe the basic steps of the dance and how they are combined?

d’Orazio: There are various steps and gestures: marcajes, footwork variations, escobillas, and falsetas, all used in different parts of the [dance].

There are generally conventional structures in each dance, but dancers have a creative license within those traditional structures to incorporate the steps. Flamenco dance is intrinsically linked to music; dancers must understand and pay attention to the cante and the guitar.

Pace: What part does the University of New Mexico play in developing the dancers, guitarists, and singers?

d’Orazio: The University of New Mexico has a unique program that offers the Flamenco concentration within the Dance Program. Festival Flamenco Alburquerque and National Institute of Flamenco Founding Director Eva Encinias established the Flamenco Concentration at the university and retired in the fall of 2021. Marisol Encinias, her daughter, is [an] assistant professor in the department.

Undergraduate students can get a Bachelor’s in Dance with a concentration in flamenco. Graduate students can get an MFA in Choreography and choose to focus on flamenco or a Master of Arts in Dance History and Criticism. The investigation of the process is very in-depth, and students have the opportunity to work with incredible faculty and visiting guest professors in flamenco and Spanish dance.

Two pairs of flamenco dancers wow the audience

(Photo Credit: New Mexico True)

The Evolution Of Festival Flamenco Alburquerque

Pace: How has the festival evolved over the past 35 years?

d’Orazio: The festival began in 1987 when the College of Fine Arts approached Eva Encinias to produce an event celebrating the college’s 50th Anniversary. 

The first Festival Flamenco Alburquerque was a 2-day event. As the event grew, Eva Encinias saw the need to bring guest artists from Spain to give students and the community other reference points for flamenco, expanding their understanding of the art form. Eva Encinias and her daughter Marisol and son Joaquin have ensured the artistic excellence, relevance, and accessibility of Festival Flamenco Alburquerque for decades. 

Festival Flamenco Workshops

During the festival, you’ll find dance workshops at levels from beginning to advanced, and music workshops, too, including cante, guitar, and percussion, plus a flamenco appreciation workshop. Be sure to learn the Bata de Cola Technique, the back catch.   

Festival Flamenco Performances

Purchase tickets for flamenco performances at Tablao Flamenco Albuquerque theater at Hotel Albuquerque in Old Town, the Albuquerque Journal Theatre in the National Hispanic Cultural Center, the Rodey Theatre, and The X inside the UNM Center for the Arts Building. Ticket packages for Festival Flamenco Alburquerque provide a ticket to seven nightly mainstage performances.

Flamenco. Ole!

Pro Tip: Stay at one of the Heritage Hotels & Resorts, a partner with Festival Flamenco Alburquerque.

“Flamenco is so much more than a dance and music form — it is a profound emotional expression, it is culture, it is a way of life.”

Eva Encinias

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