Festival Flamenco Internacional de Alburquerque Rides a Magical Edge


In 2007, I saw the Kirov perform Don Quixote in St. Petersburg, Russia. I was enthralled. I felt I’d seen the epitome of bravura. That is, until this past Saturday the 14th when I went to the closing night of the Festival Flamenco Internacional de Alburquerque. Now I know for sure; while the Kirov’s Don Q is surely up there on the bravura yardstick, the reigning bravura monarchs are cream of the crop flamenco dancers.

Festival Flamenco Internacional 2014 Photos by Pat Berrett_4

It is pleasing to watch someone who is proficient at their craft. But perhaps it’s even more pleasing to watch someone who is technically proficient at their craft take it to the next level. These flamenco dancers, many straight from Spain – Yjastros, Vanesa Coloma, Jesus Carmona, Alfonso Losa, Nino de los Reyes, La Lupi and Farruquito – were riding the edge of their craft. Though I don’t pretend to be a flamenco expert, even I in my bunhead-contemporary purview could appreciate that these dancers were not only damn good at flamenco but were pushing the limits of their art form.

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And of course they did it with swag. La Lupi’s dress had a train that she not only seamlessly evaded with her footwork, but managed to make another appendage. The men – Jesus Carmona, Nino de los Reyes, Alfonso Losa and Farruquito – sauntered onto stage with no trepidation. It reminded me of Basilio in Don Q, ready to show off his stuff without a doubt in his mind of his abilities. There’s really something to be said for bringing a healthy level of conceit to the stage.

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But of course conceit, bravura, technique, tricks… it doesn’t stop there. The boundaries between impressive footwork, arched port de bras, vocals, guitar and rhythms melted into a performance in the truest sense of the word. It wasn’t a staged “presentation.” It was living and breathing and evolving minute to minute with all the gall it takes to make magic happen onstage.

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I am reminded of this quote by Tom Robbins: “It doesn’t matter what activity anyone chooses. If you take any activity, any art, any discipline, any skill, take it and push it as far as it will go, push it beyond where it has ever been before, push it to the wildest edge of edges, then you force it into the realm of magic.”

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Onstage magic doesn’t just happen; performers make it happen. These flamenco dancers were cognizant of what they were doing. It wasn’t just how well they executed the steps or how fancy the steps were; they were riding an edge. They were pushing flamenco as far as it would go. They were playing with fire. And the result: pure magic.

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Look them up on YouTube. Or better yet, if you find yourself in the great city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, there’s a great little flamenco festival put on every summer by the National Institute of Flamenco. You can join the local audiences in crying out “Olé” and getting exercise from giving standing ovations. As far as the magic, bravura, conceit, gall and revelry in a damn good time…endless.

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Photos by Pat Berrett