The passion and the fire: The 14th Flamenco Arts Festival promises performance, talks and workshops

Flamenco is part of everybody in Spain," says organizer Vibiana Pizano. Paco Villalta photo
Flamenco is part of everybody in Spain,” says organizer Vibiana Pizano.
Paco Villalta photo

If your only experience of flamenco is watching it every Fiesta on the steps of either the Courthouse or the Mission, well, the Flamenco Arts Festival has some news: that’s only the beginning. For three days the Festival brings in some of the most daring artists in the world of flamenco not just to perform, but to hold master classes in the art form, from dancing to guitar playing. It’s only three days, but the Festival hopes that for some it will stoke the flames of flamenco passion.

“This is a very high level professional production,” says owner and organizer Vibiana Pizano. “These are the people who have made flamenco what it is. These are the people who are the masters, who the kids in town learning flamenco aspire to be. We’re really fortunate that we can bring them here and inspire the kids who are learning flamenco now.”

Manuel Liñán and his company mix traditional dance with modern experimentalism. Celia de Coca photo
Manuel Liñán and his company mix traditional dance with modern experimentalism.
Celia de Coca photo
The festival starts tonight with two workshops for advanced and intermediary dancers, led by Manuel Liñ·n and Ricardo LÛpez, respectively. These workshops continue Sunday in the morning as well, including one guitar class led by Victor Marquez, also known as “El Tomate” (The Tomato). Saturday’s centerpiece at the Granada Theatre is the U.S. premiere of “NÛmada” performed by Manuel Liñ·n and his company. In a mixture of traditional dance and modern experimentalism, the show doubles and triples dancers performing in unison, bends gender roles, and plays with the authority of the cantates. This is your idea of a classic flamenco number seen in a funhouse mirror.

“If you are into flamenco, this is one show you should not miss,” Ms. Pizano says. “And if it’s your first time, you’ll be hooked.” Liñ·n is both a traditionalist and pushing the boundaries, full of ideas of how to mix the two.

Roberto Amaral and Ricardo LÛpez will give a talk right before this show as well (at 6:45 p.m.), covering flamenco in general; what’s happening in California and in Spain regarding the art form; the history of the artists in the show and the concept of “NÛmada.” (The talk is free for those with tickets for the performance.)

After the performance, there will be a free-to-attend after-party at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, where one can meet the artists, check out the Museum’s Fiesta exhibit and enjoy the music of the Martinez Brothers.

“That’s always an easy party to throw,” Ms. Pizano says.

Originally a folklorico dancer in her youth, Ms. Pizano changed direction at 16 when she was introduced to Flamenco in Los Angeles. In 1994 she went to Spain to attend one of the country’s biggest flamenco workshops, a month-long event. She studied with teachers and saw every performance.

“Flamenco is part of everybody in Spain,” she says. “Everybody in Spain can probably dance it on some level: parents, grandparents, children. When I was there I could go anywhere and see flamenco, from small clubs to big theaters. I’ve seen people dancing in the street, too.”

She returned to Santa Barbara and realized that the only way to have a flamenco festival in this town was to start one herself. “It’s such a perfect venue for flamenco.”

Her first incarnation of the festival, 14 years ago, was five days long, but after 2008, the days had to be cut back. Now, Ms. Pizano hopes to bring future festivals back to that intensive number of days.

“Flamenco has really grown over the years in California. And exposing more people to it is the goal of this festival. We want to show them the beauty of the art form, not just in the dance but in the music and the singing.”

Flamenco Arts Festival
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Sunday, 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Santa Barbara Dance Arts, 531 E. Cota St. (Friday and Sunday); Granada Theatre, 1214 State St.(Saturday)
Cost: $15 (Friday and Sunday), $28-$88 (Saturday)
Information: (805) 967-4164, www.flamencoarts.org

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