Whether your interest in flamenco gravitates toward the folkloric, the funky or the just plain fun, Miami’s Centro Cultural Español’s (CCEMiami) spunky FlamenGO series is out to pull you in. The Center celebrates its 20th anniversary this season. FlamenGO is another indicator that this popular outpost for all things Spanish is not slowing down.
CCE project director Mayte De la Torre said that FlamenGO, now in its second season, aims to challenge conventional views of Spain’s traditional art form.
“What we want is not to bring people that are very famous, but to bring young people who are starting to do great things related with flamenco … modern things,” Torre says.
Educational workshops, inexpensive or free performances and CCE’s laid-back vibe give aficionados the chance to mingle and connect with artists on a more personal level. With a loyal fan base and a 200-seat venue in downtown Miami, the CCE can take risks that larger theaters can’t, showcasing artists unknown in the U.S. and the quirky, cutting-edge performers at flamenco’s fringe. This year, FlamenGO brings theater and film into the mix of performance offerings.
The series begins Tuesday with a documentary on the gypsies of the famed Sacromonte caves above Granada. In Sacromonte: Los Sabios de la Tribu, director Chus Gutierrez examines this quintessential gypsy neighborhood through the eyes of the musicians and dancers who grew up there before the floods of 1963 left it mostly uninhabitable. Theirs was a hardscrabble existence, where a marginalized people forged bonds through common hardship, found humor in the face of adversity and made life into art. In this generous, nostalgic film, colorful members of the old guard dance, sing and tell their stories in charming, inimitable fashion.
After that look back at flamenco’s origins, the rest of the programming plunges headlong into the future. Thursday’s bill features Flamencógrafo, which globe-trotting avant-garde choreographer Juan Carlos Lérida created in a weeklong lab with local dancers. Noted Miami experimental flamenco performer Niurca Márquez, who has worked with Lérida in Barcelona, Vienna and Miami, said he uses an unconventional approach and digs deep to get the best out of dancers.
“Each group is like new territory to explore … each of us has a separate tool kit, a different bag of ingredients to work with,” she says. “He’s applying many techniques from contemporary choreography and composition to a flamenco space.” (Lérida himself will perform later this summer during Fundarte’s Out in the Tropics festival.)
Márquez will also present a work directed and designed by Lérida for “Sesión Golfa,” after-hours performances running Thursday to Saturday in the shipping containers on the CCE’s back patio that house the popular Microteatro series. Her solo jumps off from her first trip to Spain over 20 years ago.
“That’s the excavation site,” Márquez said, explaining that Lérida gave her a “list of ingredients” she would need to dig up for the piece that included everything from a gazpacho recipe to flamenco music from the ’90s to news items from the period. It’s a dance-theater piece, focused on the unique contributions foreign artists bring to flamenco, a subject Lérida has been exploring long-term in his work with international dancers such as Márquez, who is Cuban-American and whose own work draws from her roots.
Also Thursday to Saturday, the Microteatro series, where local actors, writers and directors present original 15-minute plays in Spanish, will present a flamenco-themed program, “Microteatro y Olé.” The performers, who are not flamenco artists, were skeptical at first, De la Torre said. She advised them to “imagine that the container is like a tablao (flamenco stage), and you can express stories about revenge and love, deception, falling out of love … the stories that you hear in flamenco songs.’”
The real flamenco singing will take place on Friday evening when singer La Flaka (Jessica Cánovas), accompanied by Junior Miguez, takes the stage at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium. They represent an unexpected fusion of elements, blending modern flamenco Camarón de la Isla with rap, a combination that speaks the language of Spain’s urban youth culture.
La Flaka, who gained fame on Spain’s version of The Voice, is “very, very, very flamenca,” De la Torre said. “She has a super flamenca voice, but she’s mixing her music with hip-hop, soul, jazz … which makes her very interesting.”
Her husband and partner, Miguez, on the other hand, is a tightly wound hip-hop artist who spills rivers of words so quickly that your ears can’t always keep up. Together, they weave in and out of each other’s styles, convincing with their comfortable and compelling delivery.
In keeping with FlamenGO’s mission to bring flamenco performers closer to the people, local artists can try their hands at flamenco fusion in Saturday afternoon workshops at the CCE with Cánovas, Miguez and guitarist Pepe Pulido.
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If you go
What: FlamenGO festival
When: May 17-21
Where: CCEMiami, 1490 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; and Miami-Dade County Auditorium, 2901 W. Flagler St., Miami.
Info: Free to $30; ccemiami.org/es/flamengo-2016 or 305-448-9676.