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Soledad Barrio's Passionate Flamenco The dancer liberates flamenco from conventional wisdom

By LAUREN KAY

Editor's note: After our recent story on flamenco dancer Israel Galvan's performance at The Joyce, we couldn't resist the opportunity to continue the conversation with Soledad Barrio, who's stirring flamenco program is the Joyce's next offering. We'd love to hear your thoughts on flamenco and how it speaks to you. Leave a comment here or at our Facebook page, or tweet us @TDFNYC

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Onstage, flamenco artist Soledad Barrio is earthy and magnetic. She translates soulful songs into twisting wrists, swirling skirt swooshes, and defiant stomps alongside her troupe of musicians. Her movement, full of angst and passion, is energized with an adoration of flamenco tradition. In some moments, she juts a hip to the side, eyes flashing in vehement response to the singer’s wailing. From September 27 to October 2, New York audiences can get a taste of this exotic, vibrant performance when Barrio brings her troupe, Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca, to the Joyce Theater.

Though some theatre goers might be familiar with flamenco in a clichéd representation, in Noche Flamenca’s program, Barrio offers a fresh---yet still authentic---version. “Both inside and outside of Spain, there’s a misconception about flamenco: People think of it with prejudice as in the category of bull fighters, wine…and flamenco,” she says. “But pure flamenco is only done by a minority of artists. It’s about the singer, the song, and what the song is saying literally and emotionally. Many think the dancer is the protagonist of the story, but the singer really is.”

Barrio has been honing her ability to make this connection for years. A native of Madrid, she began dancing for her family as a small child. At 18, she began formal training and she eventually studied with Maria Magdalena, who inspired Barrio’s entrancing presence. “She was a spiritual person,” she explains. “She could pull magic out of me.”

Barrio also found that she personally connected to flamenco music and thus decided to spend her life working on the craft. However, she admits “I’m an artist that’s never satisfied with myself. I’m always searching and trying to present what’s happening in my life onstage. My life, my two children, and the stage are always connected.”

After leaving her training ground, Barrio danced with various flamenco greats including Manuela Vargas, El Guito, and Cristobal Reyes. Then, after meeting dancer Martin Santangelo, now her husband, the two started a company. It was practically an accident, he says: “We began working together and then after three or four years, we realized we had a company! I recognized this only when we got a call from Australia asking us to do a six week tour.” The epiphany prompted the couple to formalize the company’s structure. Santangelo directs, and there are three singers, two guitarists and three dancers (including Barrio). Since then, they’ve toured the world, sharing what the two call “authentic flamenco.”

“Flamenco is a communication,” says Barrio. “It began as such when people in the Andalucian region were expressing the hardships of life. And it still serves as a communication. Onstage, we all communicate with each other---the dancers, the guitarists, the singers. It’s improvised and changed day to day. But there’s one thing that doesn’t change: Whatever comes up in your head, your heart, your soul, you try to express that right in the moment."

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Lauren Kay is a dancer and writer based in New York City