For going on 14 years, World Music/CRASHarts has been warming up cold nights with the heat of flamenco. Flamenco Festival 2014 brings two concerts from Spain that embrace the range of the art form.
“Stars of Flamenco” March 8-9 features six dancers and seven musicians, showcasing the contrasting dance styles of veteran powerhouse Antonio Canales, Carlos Rodríguez (Nuevo Ballet Español), Karime Amaya (grandniece of Carmen Amaya), and young dynamo Jesús Carmona.
A March 16 concert by the Tomatito Sextet marks the Boston debut of José Fernández Torres (Tomatito), one of the world’s top flamenco guitarists, along with his musicians and dancer Paloma Fantova.
Both productions are curated by Miguel Marin, artistic director of the Flamenco Festival, an organization that tracks the pulse of the art form in Spain and packages groups of Spanish artists to tour internationally. He has been involved with World Music/CRASHarts’s annual flamenco celebrations since the very beginning. He is especially excited by the opportunity with “Stars of Flamenco,” directed by Ángel Rojas, to present a diverse slate of flamenco artists from different generations. Marin spoke with the Globe recently via phone.
Q. Antonio Canales is really the star and anchor of the gala, isn’t he? Why has he been so influential?
A. He is one of the artists who has innovated a lot in flamenco and opened a lot of doors. He has such charisma, such stature. Just by his presence, he is able to communicate so much. He moves with such intention, he doesn’t need fast footwork to be in the heart of the people. He has always had maturity and power. Now he is 52, and he still has that presence. All the dancers on the program have been inspired by Antonio, and they are so happy to be on the same program. It’s very rare to see all these artists who have their own companies performing together.
Q. You’ve called Karime Amaya and Jesús Carmona the most important of the flamenco artists coming up now. I’m really knocked out by Carmona, who has these brilliant, flamboyant spins and leaps as well as dazzling footwork.
A. He was one of the principal dancers of the National Ballet of Spain [Ballet Nacional de España] and you can see his training. What makes him so special is he combines his technique with deep emotion. You can see the connection, otherwise it would just be footwork, meaningless with no soul. He is very explosive, a virtuoso, but he also has what we call duende, that magic presence.
Q. And Karime comes from the ethnic gypsy tradition of her great-aunt, the legendary Carmen Amaya.
A. She was born in Mexico, and it’s amazing to see how she’s been able to keep that style alive, but she has made it her own style in her body. She is only 26. She is going to be the next big star in flamenco. She has footwork speed — I don’t know how she does it.
Q. What does Carlos Rodríguez bring to the table?
A. He is a choreographer and brings in technique that is closer to ballet, more like the wind than the earth. He brings in another style of flamenco and represents the next generation and influence of Spanish classical dance in flamenco.
Q. How has flamenco changed over the past 20 years, and where is it going?
A. We are now living in the golden age of flamenco. All these limitations from traditionalists are broken, and artists are finding a way to communicate and express themselves freely in flamenco. You can see traditional, but also more balletic, contemporary, experimental. It allows this wide range of expression. In the past, you could only see traditional flamenco, but artists have to find their own way. They listen to different music and have found a balance that is honest with the art form and with today, and that’s what keeping flamenco alive. Before, people around the world only wanted to see the Gypsy dance, but that was the part of the lifestyle of some Gypsy families. That is not the widest part of flamenco today. I am happy to see artists today have the courage to do what they have to do and express themselves.
Q. The relationship between musicians and dancers is at the heart of flamenco. It seems like every flamenco performance is a big party onstage.
A. Totally. I can tell you every show is a new, different experience, and everyone is involved in the energy that is needed. The harmony and melody are created by the guitarist, but we need a certain energy from the singing and clapping. In flamenco, the musician follows the dancer, who sets the tempo. In every piece, the dance creates a structure, and within that structure the musician sings whatever lyrics come to him that are part of that particular style, and the dancer has so many variations he can improvise. It’s very much in the moment and unpredictable, which is what makes it so exciting.
Q. What does someone who has never seen flamenco need to know to really appreciate it?
A. You don’t need to understand anything. The art form is very direct. It’s not intellectual. You just need to feel it. There’s no story. It’s about basic human emotions. Not long ago, we did a music concert in China, and it was surprising how the audience connected with the singer, even if they didn’t understand what the singer was saying. I recommend people let themselves be taken by the emotion. I hope they connect with that dimension that is beyond ourselves — that spirit, that magic, that energy, to have an experience with something divine.This interview has been condensed and edited. Karen Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.