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Flamenco group to visit Newman Center

Noche Flamenca visits the Newman Center on May 6.

Just as hip-hop has multiple elements (up to nine, depending on whom you ask), flamenco is about more than fiery guitar playing or dramatic dance moves. The centuries-old art form is about the blend of singing, dance and guitar — components that come together live on stage during a Noche Flamenca concert.

Multiple musicians, dancers and singers, grouped informally as if in a friend’s living room, bring flamenco’s ancient stories to life. Clapping hands and stomping feet add percussive urgency.

“The whole reason that we work with live music is that flamenco has to do with things that happen in the moment — when a singer or a dancer or a guitarist feels a certain way at a certain moment,” says artistic director Martín Santangelo, who brings Noche Flamenca to the Newman Center for the Performing Arts on May 6. “And depending on how they feel, they’ll play or sing or dance differently. It’s like jazz; they can stay within the structure but they can express what they’re feeling. The function of the live music is to give room to life.”

Raised in New York by a sculptor father and a modern dancer mother, Santangelo was exposed to flamenco at a young age when his mom befriended flamenco dancers Mario Maya and Carmen Mora. Santangelo studied acting with writer and director Luis Valdez (“Zoot Suit,” “La Bamba”) until a show about flamenco inspired him to move to Madrid and study the art form full time. In 1993, he founded Noche Flamenca with his wife, dancer Soledad Barrio. He says he’ll be learning about flamenco until the day he dies.

“Flamenco exists because people needed to have a catharsis and needed to transcend their daily lives to something much bigger,” he says. “It does it by taking human emotions to their furthest extremes. If somebody cries, they’re wailing in flamenco. If somebody’s celebrating something happy, they’re the happiest person you could possibly imagine.”

Newman Center Executive Director Steve Seifert says the group’s passion is the reason he wanted to share it with a Denver audience.

“I’ve seen them twice live in New York — these people perform as if lives are at stake,” he says. “It’s very intense, and it’s incredible.”

Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca perform at 7:30 p.m. May 6 in DU’s Newman Center, 2344 E. Iliff Ave. A free “Behind the Curtain” lecture begins at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $32–$48; visit for more information.

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