This is the 2019 Flamenco Festival New York.
Sombras celebrates the 20th anniversary of Ballet Flamenco Sara Baras.
“Sombras” means shadows in Spanish. The title probably doesn’t refer to dark energy, but rather the spirits of flamenco that are hard to see directly, though they are always around in the shadows.
Sara Baras is from Cádiz, the Flamenco Heartland
Sara Baras was born in Cádiz, Spain on April 25, 1971. Her mother ran a Flamenco school. She has been winning awards in Spain since she was a teenager. Baras is famous for dancing La Farruca, a dramatic style normally performed only by men. Some call her the “Queen of the Spanish Moonwalk.”
The originators of flamenco, the Romani, traveled all the way from northern India to what was then the end of the known world, Andalusia, Spain. The flamenco picked up influences all along the way. Today Andalusia is the heartland of flamenco culture.
Cádiz was the main Atlantic port of the Spanish colonial trade. That’s why the flamenco came to Cuba, the last leg of the Atlantic trade.
The Spanish culture brought to the Americas was Andalusian and that is probably why flamenco is popular in the Americas. It was a way for peninsulares (Spain-born Americans) and criollos (the American-born children of peninsulares) to hold on to their culture and privilege. Studying flamenco was a way to say, “I am Spanish” (and you’re not LOL).
In Cuba, the flamenco mixed with the African drum and we got Latin music as we know it today. Interestingly, Cuban flamenco (Rumba Flamenca) went back to Cádiz and influenced modern flamenco, but that’s another story (Compañia Irene Rodríguez).
So Baras represents the most genuine Spanish flamenco. She’s not from Madrid or Barcelona. She is from the Romani heartland in Andalusia.
Bonding and Rapport
Last time Baras danced at New York City Center for the Flamenco Festival, I learned something about flamenco, performers and humanity.
The context is understanding how humans communicate. From the French we get this idea of “rapport” as in bonding and rapport. It means understanding between two individuals or groups.
Watch two people who like each other. One will subconsciously copy the movements and expressions of the other. It’s almost like an unspoken dance. Salespeople do it on purpose as a means of manipulating the sale.
The way humans understand another human’s emotional state is to mimic the other’s facial expressions in our own face. We intuitively understand our expressions and that is how we understand the other.
That’s why too much Botox cripples people’s ability to understand emotions. Botox is a neurotoxin that paralyzes muscles. The face doesn’t move, so you don’t receive the emotional information.
Watch people. The swooning eyes and open smile of attraction generate the same response. So does anger. Watch a politician or priest show righteous anger on stage, and watch the audience reflect it back.
That’s rapport. It is just how our human nervous system is wired. This happens without you thinking about it or even knowing it is happening.
Dancing with the Gods
I don’t know whether Baras prays before she performs, but many performers do.
Watch a drummer with an African heritage before the show and you will see them step aside and pray quietly. They connect with the ancestors (the Gods) and invite them into the room. Perhaps in this way flamenco and African dance have a natural affinity. Spain and Africa are only nine miles apart.
This is relevant because after a great performance people will congratulate you, but sometimes you don’t even know how you did it. Before you got on stage, you couldn’t do it. But on stage something happens. You transcend yourself by opening to the universe (in whatever way you see it) and become superhuman. It’s like the famous story of a mother who lifted a car by herself because her child was caught underneath it.
The universe is infinite and can do things that can only be described as magical, perhaps magical realism. But the human body is finite and opening so much takes a lot of energy and practice. It’s also very tiring. That’s why performers feel so exhausted after a great show. You can’t stay open for too long or your mind and body break down.
During the performance, the audience watches you open to the universe and because of rapport, they too open up and it feels really good. It’s like having an orgasm without the peak. But you are left with the same polvo, the afterdust, or warm glow you feel after a good round of making love. Notice how you feel good after the show and everyone else in the audience is warm, happy and friendly too?
This is what I saw Sara Baras do on the New York City Center stage in 2015. Her hands turned into flames and her feet beat the heartbeat of the universe. She and her dancers opened up so much that all of us in the audience opened up with her and were satisfied.
Ballet Flamenco Sara Baras Performances
Thursday, March 7 at 8pm
Friday, March 8 at 8pm
Saturday, March 9 at 8pm
Sunday, March 10 at 3pm
From March 7-9, ticket holders can join a free flamenco lesson in the Grand Tier lobby from 7-7:30pm.
Ballet Flamenco Sara Baras Tickets
Tickets are available at the New York City Center box office, by phone and online from $35
There are no handling fees for tickets purchased at the box office. By phone and online there is a $6.75 per ticket handling fee for tickets to one performance, or $20 per order when ordering tickets for two or more performances at the same time. There may be additional fees.
$15 Student Tickets are available at the Box Office from 12 noon to curtain time on the day of the show (except November 28 – 29 and December 30). On ticket per valid student ID. Subject to availability.
Daily: 12 noon – 8 pm (7:30 pm Sundays)
CityTix® (212) 581-1212
Daily: 12 noon – 8 pm (7:30 pm Sundays)
Get tickets at www.nycitycenter.org
New York City Center
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M1, M2, M3, M4, M5, M6, M7, M10, M20, M31, M57, or M104
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