thINKingDance on Re-Imagining Flamenco

Rosario Toledo at the First Philadelphia Flamenco Festival. Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller.

Dancer and thINKingDance writer Carolyn Merritt reported on Pasión y Arte’s highly successful First Philadelphia Flamenco Festival, held in February 2012. The festival, partially funded by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, enjoyed eight sold-out performances as well as packed houses for its symposium, film screenings, and master classes with flamenco dancer Rosario Toledo.

Merritt wrote: “As I sat listening to the experts expound on the state of flamenco at the First Philadelphia Flamenco Festival symposium, my eyes shifted downward for a moment. At the dais with moderator Lois Welk (Dance/USA Philadelphia), Robert Browning (founder, World Music Institute), and Michelle Heffner Hayes (author, Flamenco: Conflicting Histories of the Dance), was master flamenco dancer Rosario Toledo, around whom the festival revolved. A two-week celebration of flamenco organized by Elba Hevia y Vaca, director of Philadelphia’s all-female flamenco company Pasión y Arte (PyA), the centerpiece of the festival was Toledo’s Del Primer Paso and the group work Complices, commissioned for PyA. Like the others at the symposium table, Toledo was dressed somewhat formally in a long red dress, but her scuffed-up white sneakers, fluorescent orange laces untied, disrupted an otherwise straightforward image of femininity. This tiny detail caught my eye, for it belied the complex themes at the heart of the entire festival—the intersection of transgression and tradition, the reconciliation of feminism and femininity, the struggle to reclaim ‘beauty’ on new terms as one among other options for the female flamenco artist.”

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