The Spanish flamenco world seems permanently obsessed with the tension between maintaining its genre’s powerful traditions and adapting to modern culture. One of the latest efforts to reconcile the two comes to Miami this week, when Spain’s Ballet Flamenco de Andalucia brings Metafora to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts for the sixth annual Flamenco Festival Miami.
The director of the troupe is Ruben Olmo, 33, a hot and relatively young talent whose predecessors at the nearly two-decade-old company include celebrated flamenco artists Mario Maya, Maria Pages and Jose Antonio. The company, from the region of Spain regarded as the historic heartland of flamenco, will perform Olmo’s evening-length work Metafora.
The first half is a kind of tour of traditional Andalusian flamenco, which Olmo says also pays tribute to the breadth and richness of the region’s dance.
“It’s kind of a journey through Andalucia,” Olmo says from New York, where his troupe performed earlier this month.
His own training includes classical Spanish dance as well as flamenco.
“In Seville everyone lives together — there’s everything from traditional dancers to those who are more avant-garde and contemporary,” he says.
There are lavish traditional costumes, notably the long, swirling, ruffled bata de cola dresses, and live musicians. The first half is highlighted by a solo from guest artist Pastora Galvan, sister to Israel Galvan, one of Spain’s most admired experimental flamenco dancers.
Olmo, who trained in the same schools with Pastora from age 8, says she is “like a sister”. He calls her “a great flamenco purist, something explosive … but she is also in the vanguard.”
In the second half, set to recorded music, Olmo ventures into more experimental and contemporary territory, but also incorporates folkloric Spanish dance. He says his idea of contemporary has more to do with concept than with using actual modern dance styles.
I think the contemporary is new tendencies, new forms, new concepts,” Olmo says. “We move with more freedom. We don’t go too far … but we do offer a new form to the audience and show that flamenco has the capacity to immerse itself in many situations and to work with many things.”
The guest here is Rocio Molina, memorable at the first Miami flamenco festival in 2008, whose formidable technique and fiery presence have made her one of the stars of the younger generation of dancers.
“As a dancer she’s a genius,” Olmo says. “I told her, you have to do your own choreography, the essence of Rocio.”