Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana

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A decade after its debut, Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana updates “Bailoar/Bailoara;”

Trio of shows at Peter Norton Symphony Space set for October 7, 8 & 9;

NYC’s acclaimed flamenco dance company adds American edge to Andalusian traditions

"…the dancers combined meticulous attention to choreographic details with outpourings of passionate feelings" New York Times

Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana has had a long, unprecedented run: over 25 years of consummating a seemingly impossible marriage between tradition and the contemporary currents that have helped cast flamenco as a theatrical, contemporary dance. Recognized as the oldest and most prestigious flamenco dance company in the United States, and attracting top-level dancers from Manhattan to Sevilla, Flamenco Vivo has bridged many divides.

Carlota Santana, the company’s founder, sees the age-old dichotomy between old and new, tradition and innovation, purism and multiculturalism as the flame that keeps the art form alive and relevant for future audiences. “Otherwise we would be constantly repeating what’s been done for the past 200 years,” Santana asserts.

Now, more than 10 years after Flamenco Vivo debuted Antonio Hidalgo’s groundbreaking choreography, Bailaor/Bailaora, the critically acclaimed New York City-based company offers a 21st century revision of this work on October 7, 8 & 9 at Peter Norton Symphony Space. The program will feature special guest dancers Angel Muñoz and Charo Espina from Paco Peña’s Flamenco Dance Company.

The new performances fuse and re-wire Hidalgo’s acclaimed work, re-inventing the pieces in light of the transformations that have shaped contemporary flamenco. The New York Times called the original Bailaor/Bailaora an “ingenious production” and has commended Santana’s company for its “committed dancers” and “vibrant communication with an enthusiastic audience.” In this revised program, audiences will see the impact of the last ten years of flamenco, a decade that has seen its popularity soar to new heights around the world.

Bailaor/Bailaora is a flamenco dance production that, at its core, follows the evolution of flamenco over the past 200 years, contrasting the masculinity and femininity between the male dancer (bailaor) and female (bailaora), as well as the opposing forces between tradition and innovation. It seamlessly incorporates the looser elements of contemporary dance, the ebb and flow of ballet, and the freedom of jazz to the strict forms and impassioned, staccato heelwork of flamenco. The broad array of movements eschews the austere, straight-backed flamenco dancer for the more forward-looking sketches embodied in dropped elbows and broken upper backs.

New sections were added to both the male and female parts for these new performances at Symphony Space: the resulting Bailaora reflects the unconventional and liberated role of the female flamenco dancer, while in Bailaor, the choreography moves ingeniously from traditional rigidity in movement and dress to a jazz-infused quartet for men in t-shirts and jeans.

By contrast, the piece that follows, Estilos Flamencos, is an unstructured set of duets, solos, and spontaneous group interactions. “It’s where everybody can just let loose,” Santana says. “Even if it’s a group number in flamenco, you’re still kind of doing your own thing. Flamenco is so expressive that you’re free to explore whatever you feel.”

Santana, who is recognized as “The Keeper of Flamenco” by Dance Magazine, co-founded the company in New York with the late Roberto Lorca in 1983. “I think the mission at the beginning really was to take flamenco out of the tablaos, out of the nightclubs, and make it a theater art, so we could be respected for our art just as any other art or dance form,” Santana explained.

Since Lorca’s untimely death in 1987, Flamenco Vivo has continued to grow and flourish under Santana’s direction, performing at such venues as Lincoln Center, The Joyce Theater, The New Victory Theater, Summerdance Santa Barbara, Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh, The Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach, The Van Wezel Performing Arts Center in Sarasota, Florida, Universidad Bucaramanga in Colombia, the Palacio de Congresos in Granada, Spain, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art, among many others.

The company’s rare mix of American edge and Andalusian tradition is a lure to dancers from diverse backgrounds. Leslie Roybal, an ensemble dancer performing various roles in Bailaor/Bailaora, is a New Mexico native with a background in Mexican folkloric and modern dance. She sees Flamenco Vivo’s contemporary flamenco as an artistic vehicle of infinite possibilities. “Everyone can relate to flamenco. It is moving and theatrical; it conveys the range of human emotions; it is exciting, passionate and dynamic.” Flamenco Vivo may have its roots firmly planted in Spain, but the company’s New York City state of mind is what has made it truly unique, allowing it to bring both sides of the Atlantic a little closer together. “Flamenco is loud and noisy sometimes, it’s just out there, physically and emotionally, and so is New York City,” Santana asserts. “You can be as uninhibited walking down the streets in New York as any dancer would be on a flamenco stage.”

Even now, many flamenco aficionados dismiss any dance performance that cannot boast it is “direct from Spain.” Flamenco Vivo has absorbed the challenge. Under Carlota Santana’s tough and steady hand, this New York company has shown that it can artfully channel this eloquent and complex dance form to a level that attracts guest performers from Spain – truly the best of both worlds.

“first-rate dancers.... Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana is hot....” Newsday

FLAMENCO VIVO CARLOTA SANTANA “Bailaor/Bailaora” + “Estilos Flamencos”
GUEST DANCERS: Angel Muñoz and Charo Espina (from Paco Peña Flamenco Company)
Peter Norton Symphony Space Thurs/Fri Oct 7, 8, 9 at 7:30pm
Ticket info: http://www.symphonyspace.org/calendar/2010/10
Website: www.flamenco-vivo.org