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Fiesta Flamenca takes a big step forward 

"We wanted to keep that spirit of a big celebration of flamenco, but step it up a bit."

Flamenco is Spain's most well-known dance.

Photo courtesy of Colter Harper

Flamenco is Spain's most well-known dance.

Flamenco dance, the most famous export of Spain's Andalusia region, will take center stage Thu., Jan. 23, at North Side's New Hazlett Theater — the latest, and largest, celebration of Flamenco Pittsburgh's bi-annual Fiesta Flamenca.

The all-ages program will have a different vibe this time, says Carolina Loyola-Garcia, Flamenco Pittsburgh's co-founder and director. What started five years ago as a student showcase held at smaller venues has morphed into a large celebration of the art form.

"We wanted to keep that spirit of a big celebration of flamenco, but step it up a bit by doing it at the New Hazlett Theater," says Loyola-Garcia. "It's a big experiment, but we hope people will respond to the larger venue."  

Flamenco Pittsburgh and its Centro Flamenco de Pittsburgh began in 2003 with a mission of bringing flamenco to Western Pennsylvania. In addition to teaching students flamenco dance and culture, the organization does outreach at area schools and colleges, as well as presenting workshops, demonstrations and performances throughout the region each year.

For this latest incarnation of Fiesta Flamenca, the program offers traditional music and dance performances by Flamenco Pittsburgh's professional performance ensemble, Alba Flamenca, featuring dancers Loyola-Garcia and Flor Isava, as well as singer Barbara York and musicians Jon Bañuelos, James Bond and Lucas Savage. Students from Centro Flamenco de Pittsburgh will also perform. The ensemble will offer a mix of repertory works including "Sevillanas," a traditional dance from Sevilla danced at spring and summer festivals in Andalusia. The performance includes the latest addition to group's repertoire: "Guajira," one of the cantes de ida y vuelta, which has Cuban rhythms and was set on the ensemble by dancer/choreographer Antonio Hidalgo.

The program also features local guest artists: wind musician Erik Lawrence, cosmic jazz chanteuse Phat Man Dee and bellydance maven Olivia Kissel (formerly of Zafira Dance Company).

"Flamenco is very much a hybrid art form because it mixes a number of cultures," says Loyola-Garcia. "Keeping in that spirit, we are trying to include performers from other disciplines."

And as with any good fiesta, food and drink will be available.

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