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From father to son, a passion for flamenco

Ramón de los Reyes (left) and son Nino will make a joint appearance at the Dance Complex.Essdras M Suarez/Globe staff

Ramón de los Reyes and his Spanish Dance Theatre, New England's only fully professional Spanish dance company, have taught tens of thousands of flamenco enthusiasts of all ages over the last three-plus decades. But for the Madrid-born Reyes, the most important students have been Nino and Isaac de los Reyes, his two sons with ex-wife Clara Ramona. Both offspring left the Boston nest to hone their craft in Spain, and both showcase their flamenco skills in venues around the world.

This weekend, Nino is back in Boston, and father and son are making a rare joint appearance as part of a concert at the Dance Complex called "Fall Is Rising: Faculty & Friends." Ramón, a longtime teacher at the Dance Complex in Cambridge — and occasionally at Boston Ballet, the Boston Conservatory, and the Walnut Hill School — presents a new seguiriya choreographed for eight dancers from his studio. He and Nino will provide percussive accompaniment. Nino, 28, billed as the event's special guest artist, will dance solo excerpts from his hourlong "Origins." (The concert's other participants include Olivier Besson, Rozann Kraus, Margot Parsons, Lisa Simon, Danny Swain, and Prometheus Dance.)


Q. Nino, you've been around flamenco since you were born. When did you first start dancing?

Nino: My first steps were inside my crib at my parents' studio in the Piano Factory. I remember doing steps at home that I saw in the studio at 3 or 4, just because I was always looking. I would go to my parents' classes, be in the background, and members of the company would show me steps. I was 6 when I was onstage for the first time in flamenco boots, in the Buenos Aires opera house, and after that I started to study. I went to a very famous school in Spain and learned from different teachers.


Q. As a prodigy, you started touring the world by the time you were 10. Were you driven to dance, or was it more a family expectation?

Nino: Our parents never forced us to go to class. Even weekends, if I had a moment, I would go to the studio or to take a class. I would go to school, and if I had a break in the day, I would go take a flamenco class, then go back to school, finish at 4 or 5, then go take another class, and then go to conservatory. [I] didn't finish until late at night, just because I wanted to learn. I also wanted to play soccer. I loved sports, too.

Ramón: It's a difficult career, a difficult life. But I tell [my sons] if you like to do it, do it well. I train my sons to be their own people.

Q. Nino, your father works in the traditional "flamenco puro" style, but yours has some contemporary fusion.

Nino: I have many influences of being born here and seeing and learning a lot of dance — tap, ballet, modern, jazz. And of course, I express that. But I'm a purist, too, because what I dance comes from the inside. The first thing my generation has to do is respect the roots, the essence. But we're born in another age and have seen the fusion, so we see flamenco be something new, help it to evolve.


Ramón: I want him to do his own personality, to do flamenco in his own style, but conserve what is really flamenco. It's difficult, very complicated footwork. Not everyone has the quality to do it, to do seven, 10 pirouettes and entrechats six, and he does. I say that not because he is my son — I see it very honestly. He has a lot of talent. What he does is special.

Q. You've been tremendously influenced by your mother and brother Isaac, but what's the greatest artistic gift you've gotten from your father?

Nino: The essence of flamenco — the dance and being a true artist and professional.

Q. Ramón, what have you learned from your son?

Ramón: Different ways of doing footwork and making different sounds. It's difficult for me to do it because my technique is completely different. I don't try to do it, I'm not stupid. [Laughter.]

Q. Since you are not tied to a specific company, Nino, you also have the freedom to collaborate with a wide variety of ensembles and artists. You just got back from a recording session with Paul Simon?

Nino: Yes, I recorded clapping and footwork for him to use in his new recordings. It was great. I got to meet these incredible musicians.

Q. Ramón, is your Spanish Dance Theatre still actively performing?

Ramón: Occasionally. I maintain it for my sons to continue someday.

Nino: The biggest thing for me in life is to someday continue with all that my father and mother did here for flamenco. I want to make something for the flamenco community in Boston, to bring workshops and performances to Dance Complex as the house of flamenco here, so his legacy and Spanish Dance Theatre continue. To see this place where you can breathe dance is a gift.


Interview was condensed and edited. Karen Campbell can be reached at karencampbell4@rcn.com.