Week of events to explore ‘The Blackness of Flamenco’

A Traves de Flamenco, an Atlanta non-profit, is coordinating a week of events that explore and celebrate “The Blackness of Flamenco.” Films, lectures, classes and performances will address the impact of slavery in southern Spain, the African diaspora and the complex history of the expulsion of Jews and Muslims from Spain in 1492, as streams that contributed to the art form we know today as flamenco.

The week will begin with a performance by Yinka Esi Graves at the Red Light Cafe on Monday, Oct 29, at 7:30 p.m. Graves came to flamenco late as a college student in London. Her passion for the art form led her to live and work for the next five years in Spain where she continued her studies and worked with Cristobal Reyes’ Flamenco Company and the UK based contemporary flamenco dance company Dotdotdot. Graves work has been presented in festivals throughout Europe and in the Chale Wote festival in Accra, Ghana. She has also collaborated with Atlanta native and former Alvin Ailey principal dancer Asha Thomas.

Being of African descent, Graves is especially tuned in to the similarities of flamenco and traditional African dance forms where the dancers are part of the music and the stage is a circle of performers and observers. She feels that in both flamenco and African dance the music and dance are interconnected. When everything flows together there is a synergy that is experienced by both the performers and their audience. In flamenco the synergy is referred to as duende, a force that wells up from deep within the performance and becomes palpable. Graves says that duende can never be forced, but a space can open for it to emerge.

Graves will be working with flamenco singer Alfonso Cid and flamenco guitarist Pedro Jimenez who will come from Spain to perform with her.

Dr. Meira Goldberg will give a free lecture on Friday, Nov. 2, from 3 to 4 p.m. in the lobby of the Rialto Theater on her new book “Sonidos Negros: On the Blackness of Flamenco.” Dr. Goldberg is both a flamenco dancer, La Meira Flamenco, and a flamenco scholar. Her book explores the roots of flamenco and looks at the early influences from the Muslim and Jewish communities that existed in Spain before they were expelled by the Spanish monarchy in 1492. There was also African slavery in southern Spain which is explored in the film “Gurumbe – Afro-Andalusian Memories,” which will be shown that evening at the Auburn Avenue Research Library. The film is free but reservations are required. For reservations at this link.

The programs are co-sponsored by a broad consortium including A Traves, The Baton Foundation, Liquid Blackness, The School of Music at Georgia State University, The Department of Spanish at the University of North Georgia, Glenwood Elementary School, The Auburn Avenue Research Library and The Red Light Cafe. For more information on all the programs and classes, visit www.atravesarts.com.

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