No one can make the mistake of calling New York the home of flamenco, but ever since the Great White Way crowned Jose Greco “New Broadway Personality of the Year” in 1952, the city has made flamenco its own. Aficionados make daily pilgrimages to Lincoln Center’s Performing Arts Library to study some of the greatest flamenco legends who ever lived: Farruco, Fernanda de Utrera, Chocolate, captured for the Jerome Robbins Archive in the incomparable 1986 Broadway show Flamenco Puro. And, if flamenco historian Brook Zern can be believed (and he always can), Paco de Lucia found his calling in New York when guitar friends led him to Sabicas, who was in the city with Carmen Amaya, and Sabicas charged the young hotshot with finding a new approach to flamenco.
This fall, New York continues venerating the art of flamenco by importing the best of the best. Festivities commence at the Joyce, where the season opens with Noche Flamenca. Hailed as one of the most authentic touring flamenco companies today, Noche presents an extended two-week engagement of Flores para los Muertos (Sept. 18-30), mounting two world premieres. Fans of leading lady Soledad Barrio will be thrilled to learn that she’s opening a flamenco dance studio on the Upper West Side.*
Drom’s New York Gypsy Festival presents dancer/singer Elena Andujar on Sept 28. Some may recognize Elena as the flamenco dancer in the film Devil’s Advocate; some may recognize her portrait in Richard Avedon’s bookAn Autobiography. Everyone will recognize this talent for what she is—a spontaneous voice with native-born instinct and intense rhythmical response. With a deep knowledge of the traditional repertoire, she incorporates the rhythms of rap as she reworks ancient lyrics with a sense of humor.
Giving Gypsies their due as the incomparable practitioners and most likely originators of flamenco, the World Music Institute offers Festival Flamenco Gitano, a sensational four-concert ticket. To appreciate the importance of this series, it’s necessary to know that flamenco has traditionally been transmitted generation to generation within a few great Gypsy families.
The series kicks off Oct. 5 with recording legend José Mercé, who learned flamenco at the feet of his uncle, the illustrious singer Manuel Soto de Sordera. Mercé will be accompanied by Diego del Morao, whose incredible technique can be traced back to his father, the incomparable Moraito. On Oct. 6, a 12-member multigenerational company presents Fiesta Jerez—flamenco puro straight from its Andalusian birthplace. Perhaps the greatest flamenco dynasty takes the stage on Oct. 7, with Farruco’s daughter, La Farruca, and grandson, El Carpeta, so named because he remembers even the most difficult dance steps after seeing them only once. Finally, Diego El Cigala returns to his flamenco roots on Nov. 3, accompanied as he was last year by Diego del Morao.
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