Durham County

Dance group performs, teaches art of flamenco in Durham

Instructor Antonio Hidalgo, associate artistic director of Tours for Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana, leads a free master’s flamenco class for the public at Duke on Saturday. The class attracted about 15 people to learn the basics of flamenco.
Instructor Antonio Hidalgo, associate artistic director of Tours for Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana, leads a free master’s flamenco class for the public at Duke on Saturday. The class attracted about 15 people to learn the basics of flamenco. jalexander@newsobserver.com

The instructor stood at the front of the classroom. With his back straight and arms in the air, he clapped his hands twice and stomped his feet, beginning 90 minutes of instruction in southern Spain’s signature dance: the flamboyant flamenco.

On Sunday, Antonio Hidalgo will be performing with some of the world’s best flamenco dancers at Motorco Music Hall in Durham. But on Saturday he was mixing it up with some who had never seen the art form before and some who had little experience.

As part of Duke’s dance program’s two-part series, “The Passion for Flamenco,” the Spanish dance company Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana has performed the past two nights at Motorco.

The group performed Friday and Saturday night in front of a nearly sold-out crowds.

Flamenco is a form of folk music and dance that originated in the early 1700s in the Andalusia region in southern Spain. It’s a mixture of Gypsy, Arabic, Spanish and Judaic cultures. The dance includes hand and body movements, clapping and percussive foot movements.

The New York-based dance troupe was started by Carlota Santana more than 30 years ago. She said the group travels the country and performs. Santana is also an instructor at Duke’s dance department.

“Flamenco is a very emotional art form, and I think it hits people because it creates universal emotions,” Santana said. “It grabs you. The artists are there expressing themselves, showing emotion, and then the people in the audience can really respond to that because they can feel what’s going on.

“There’s a lot of very soft and sensual movements in flamenco, but at the same time you can be very strong and very tough. To me it’s a sharing of an art form.”

This is the third time the group has made its way to the Triangle. Last month the troupe performed in towns in Texas, Massachusetts, Arizona, New Mexico, New York and Colorado.

Making connection

Barbara Dickinson, a professor of the practice of dance at Duke who helped coordinate the series, said she enjoys flamenco because of the connection performers have with the audience.

“I really felt that kind of cross-feeding of the audience and the performers and how it inspired them to do more and really play with what they were doing onstage,” Dickinson said of Friday night’s performance. “And the crowd just went wild.”

About 15 community members joined Hidalgo, the associate director and choreographer, for his master’s class. Hidalgo, who lives and trains the troupe’s dancers in Spain, taught them the basic movements of the flamenco dance, including the “stamp and tap.”

Alexandra Olivares said she and her mother drove from Charlotte to see the symposium and take the free flamenco class. She said she has danced to flamenco on and off for seven years.

“It’s a beautiful art,” Olivares said. “The rhythm is different than any dance that is danced in North America, and when I was growing up it was something different to do than most of the other girls.”

Alexander: 919-829-4822;

Twitter: @GarnerCleveland

The last performance

Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana will perform in a tablao (cafe) setting at Motorco Music Hall in Durham at 7 p.m. Sunday. Patrons can opt for table seating for $30 per person or sitting on risers for $20 per person. Limited student tickets are available for $10. Tickets are for sale at the door or in advance at the Duke Box Office. To buy tickets, go to tinyurl.com/nt6jsl8 or call 919-684-4444

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