“Precise” doesn’t begin to describe up-and-coming flamenco sensation Karen Lugo’s dancing. Every line and pose she strikes seem as carefully calibrated as the inner mechanisms of a Philippe Patek watch. Every arch of the back, every turn of the wrist appears set to the centimeter, each posture carefully considered and fully embraced, even if only for a millisecond.
This precision will be on stage for Miami to see when Lugo, 29, performs at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium on Sunday as part of FUNDarte’s No Borders series. Direct from performances at Madrid’s famed Casa Patas, she will present her new concert-length work, Flamenco Frequencies, with male dancer Ricardo Moro, guitarist José Manuel León, percussionist Miguel Hiroshi and singers El Trini and Alicia Carrasco.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that Lugo looks the part of the quintessential female flamenco dancer. With her exquisite neck, long limbs and black eyes, she is a prototypical Andalusian beauty. That she is not Spanish, but Mexican, only adds to her exotic allure. Noted choreographer Javier Latorre, with whom she worked in the Carlos Saura film Flamenco, Flamenco, once said of Lugo that “she has all of the volcanic power of her native land, the necessary force to cross the planet in search of what she most desires. She’s Mexican and she’s the most ‘flamenca’ of any artist in the world.”
This will be Lugo’s first appearance in South Florida, an increasingly important hub on the world flamenco scene. Three years ago, on her first U.S. tour, she played to sold-out houses and nightly standing ovations. “We had a great response from the audience,” she said. “People really gave themselves over to the work.”
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With one foot firmly planted in flamenco’s rich traditions and the other in modernity, Lugo is comfortable straddling the gap between two worlds. Of Flamenco Frequencies, she said, “We touch on some points that are very traditional; at another point we touch on experimentation … and later we go into more fusion, let’s say, something more contemporary.”
Lugo is intensely focused on searching out new ways of expanding the dance’s boundaries. “She is somebody who is constantly searching for common roots and how we create dialogue,” said fellow flamenco dancer and FUNDarte cofounder Niurca Márquez, who is also impressed by Lugo’s authenticity. “She has a clear sense of artistic purpose that is unusual in someone so young,” Marquez said. “She knows who she is and is chipping out a space for that person in the world of flamenco.”
Flamenco has been part of Lugo’s life since childhood, but she turns to many different sources to nurture her work. Her strong classical ballet background is readily apparent in her technique. The stamp of contemporary dance can be seen in the unconventional angles of the head and twists of the body one sees in her choreography. She also loves the martial arts and their sharp, powerful gestures. Finally, flamenco’s deepest roots in Indian classical dance can be found in the expressiveness of Lugo’s eyes and hands: “The hands tell stories,” she said.
Founded 15 years ago in Madrid, the Casa Patas Foundation is dedicated to bringing the best new flamenco artists out of Spain and onto the world stage. As for Miami’s FUNDarte, it has an impressive record of presenting some of the most compelling and challenging performers working in the genre today, from Juan Carlos Lérida’s groundbreaking ToCaBa to last year’s presentation of the unpretentious, irrepressible Mariana Collado and her partner Carlos Chamorro in Flamenco de plomo y cobre.
Like any living art form, flamenco is constantly changing, and gutsy artists like Lugo are at the vanguard of that shift. “Flamenco will continue evolving in an endless series of possibilities,” Lugo said. “I love to see that it is expanding. I love seeing the different possibilities that this offers. Things will happen that we cannot even imagine. … If you truly feel it and if you do it with respect, then everything will turn out well.”
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If You Go
What: “Flamenco Frequencies” by Karen Lugo and the Casa Patas Foundation
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: Mid Stage at Miami-Dade County Auditorium, 2901 W. Flagler St. Miami