Flamenco on Film

2 July 2013: In collaboration with the Dance on Camera, the Foundation for Iberian Music will host a screening of three flamenco documentaries followed by a roundtable discussion with flamenco scholars and experts. The event will be in the Graduate Center’s Elebash Recital Hall on Tuesday, July 2 at 6:30. This film screening will be in conjunction with other concurrent flamenco events such as “Flamenco: 100 Years in New York” at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Flamenco on Film
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
6:30 pm
Elebash Recital Hall
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016


In 1964, Mariano Parra, a disciple of La Meri, took the studio on 215 W 20th St – the building had been a factory.  The studio quickly became a gathering place:  Carmen Mora and Mario Maya had their wedding reception there.  During the 1964-65 World’s Fair, after hours all the artists came by:  Bernarda and Fernanda de Utrera, Juan Habichuela, Antonio Gades.  Jeff Duncan was a modern dancer on 3rd floor who had been instrumental in Mariano’s getting the space.  They were both broke, so Mariano suggested they do concerts in the studio the way La Meri had, and this was the initial impulse for “Mondays at 9,” an every-other-Monday series featuring Spanish, Korean, and modern dancers such as Jack Moore, Cathy Posen, David White and Deborah Jowitt.  In 1966, in the middle of the subway strike, they created a performance series called “Mondays at 9.”  The  paradigm for arts funding was changing from private to public, and the Association of American Dance companies suggested that collectives such as that represented by the “Mondays at 9” artists incorporate:  Jack Moore led the foundation of Dance Theater Workshop.

José Molina Quijada (b. 1936) says that the Billy Elliot story mirrors how he came to dance.  The family migrated to Madrid in 1942 – after his father, who had fought for the Republicans, was released from Franco’s prison. At nine, he was enrolled in a boxing school but, much to his father’s chagrin the boxers shared space with Spanish dance classes, and here José found his vocation. In 1945 he spent the exorbitant sum of nine pesetas to see Pilar López, starring José Greco, Manolo Vargas and Roberto Ximénez – he knew that this was his future.  In 1957, Molina was flown by the comedian Steve Allen to New York to audition for his TV show. Greco saw him and hired him on the spot. Molina danced with Greco for five years and left to found José Molina Bailes Españoles. He introduced New York to wonderful dancers like Luis Montero, Antonia Martinez, Azuzena Vega, and Nelida Tirado. Now 77, Molina still teaches. He became a U.S. citizen in 2012.

Tina Ramirez

“The first day that I opened my studio was April 1, 1964.  (I took over Lola Bravo’s studio.  She was my teacher and a fabulous teacher – she taught all three branches of Spanish Dance.) It’s hard to say when my first performance was because I took my students to performances very early on, such as the World’s Fair in 1964.  They also performed at Casa Galicia, which is now located on Second Avenue.  There were also many performances at parks, street fairs, senior citizen’s homes and even in Sing Sing prison. Eventually, we were sponsored by groups like Hospital Audiences and New York City agencies.  At one point, we had to audition for the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs to perform, and we were so successful that they extended our “tour” from two weeks to four.  The city was broke and there was a lot of unrest, so we were on the front lines.  But I wanted a dance company worthy of its name, and this was the means to do it. The date that we always use for the actual founding of Ballet Hispanico is December 15, 1970, but performances had been happening for years, so it’s impossible to say what the first official performance was.  For the same reason, it’s impossible to say who the original dancers were, as the company steadily evolved.  The most familiar picture from that time shows the seven young women (one was only thirteen at the time): Dolores Garcia, Sandra Rivera, Coco Pelaez, Rachel and Nancy Ticotin, Alicia Roque and Valerie Contreras.  There was also one male, Lorenzo Maldonado. The mission was present Hispanic culture so that everyone would know who we were, what we looked like, what we felt.  That’s why choreography and design have always been so important to me.”

K. Meira Goldberg “La Meira”

La Meira has been first dancer in Carlota Santana Flamenco Vivo, Fred Darsow Dance, Pasion y Arte, and Ballet Flamenco La Rosa, performing throughout North America in venues such as Carnegie Hall and Jacob’s Pillow. Meira has been featured in several documentaries and has been awarded choreography grants from Pew Charitable Trusts, American Dance Festival, and the New York State Council on the Arts.  She  choreographed “Carmen” under the baton of Seiji Ozawa, and the first staging of the 1915 version of Manuel de Falla’s “Amor Brujo” since Pastora Imperio performed it in that year, along with the rarely staged opera “La Vida Breve” for the Manhattan School of Music.  The New York Times called  the production “one of the more audacious, intriguing operatic undertakings to hit a New York stage this season.”  Meira holds an M.F.A. in choreography as well as an Ed.D in dance history from Temple University, and has published numerous articles on Flamenco history.  Meira’s doctoral dissertation on Carmen Amaya contains thirty five interviews with figures such as Diego Castellon, Leo and Antonia Amaya.  She is currently working on a project entitled “Sonidos Negros:  Meditations on the Blackness of Flamenco.”  She is co-curator of the exhibit “100 Years of Flamenco in New York” at the New York Public Library for the Performing Art at the Lincoln Center.  She has taught at Bryn Mawr, NYU, Princeton, Sarah Lawrence College, Flamenco Festival International in Albuquerque, Ballet Hispanico and at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Ninotchka Devorah Bennahum, native of New Mexico, grew up watching the flamenco performances of María Benitez and Eva Enciñas-Sandoval. Trained in ballet and music, Bennahum became a dancer and choreographer and, subsequently, a dance historian and performance theorist. An Associate Professor of Theater & Dance at the University of California, Santa Barbara, she holds a Ph.D. in Performance Studies from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and a B.A. in History and Art History from Swarthmore College. Her first book, Antonia Mercé, ‘La Argentina’: Flamenco & the Spanish Avant-Garde (Wesleyan), is a biography of the great modernist Spanish dance artist La Argentina. Her second book, Carmen, a Gypsy Geography (Wesleyan 2013), traces a genealogical history of the Gypsy flamenca dancer from the lands of the ancient Middle East to Hispano-Arab and Sephardic Spain. She has written on dance and culture for The Village Voice, The New York Times, Dance Research Journal, The Denver Post and Dance Magazine. Since 1996, she has taught Dance History to American Ballet Theatre’s pre-professional dancers, as well as American Ballet Theatre and ABT’s Studio Co., ABT II. In 2013, she co-curated with Meira Goldberg 100 Years of Flamenco on the New York Stage currently on view at the Vincent Astor Gallery at Lincoln Center’s New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. She is grateful to have unearthed, quite by accident, a history of Spanish female dance artists on the stages of New York.