Focus on flamenco

Dance, guitar, singing and audience feedback: Ballet Hispánico presents renowned dancer Nélida Tirado

  • Dancer Nélida Tirado performing. Photo: Paul Crisanti

if you go

Where: Ballet Hispánico’s Penthouse Studio at 167 West 89th St.

When: Saturday June 23, 2018

Time: There will be two sets, one at 8:00 p.m. and another at 9:30 p.m.

Tickets: Start at $25 and go to $55

Interested in attending an event that has the ambiance of New York City’s flamenco scene? You’re in luck. Nélida Tirado will be performing a Flamenco Tablao show at Ballet Hispánico on West 89th Street on June 23. She has focused her career on Latin dance, specifically flamenco, a Spanish dance which features guitar and can be accompanied with singing.

According to Tirado, flamenco tablao is also known as Café Cantantes, or cafe of singers. It became popular during the Café Cantante period in Spain, from 1850 to 1910.

“There’s something about flamenco music, flamenco guitar playing, flamenco dance that resonates with everyone, on every level. It may be because it’s about life, it’s about everyone’s struggle, everyone’s strength, everyone’s weakness. Flamenco talks about all these different types of emotions, regularly,” Tirado said.

She said a traditional flamenco tablao is an intimate setting, decorated with bullfighting posters, mantones, which are shawls, and photographs of Spanish or flamenco icons. It’s cabaret style and Tirado compares the style to the spontaneity of a jazz performance.

“There are certain things that are set, and there are other things that are impromptu. So, there’s lots of room for improvisation. And you’re not really sure how things will lay out,” she said.

Tirado, who was raised in the Bronx, was a student at Ballet Hispánico from the age of five to 17. She was born into a family of artists, and her mom pushed her to remain close to her Puerto Rican roots through dance. She stumbled upon flamenco and fell in love with it.

Tirado said she’s excited to be able to present flamenco in this way, in a space that is special to her.

“I spent all of my childhood years here. I was formed there, it’s nice to go back and do this type of performance in this space, for this audience,” Tirado said.

She said flamenco artists may choreograph some moments, but the majority of the performance is spontaneous.

“You’re really limitless. You’re limitless with what you can do within the movement. You’re limitless with what you can do as far as sound goes, you’re limitless with what happens in the moment because you are truly in the moment, and the musicians are to follow you,” Tirado said.

At a traditional dance performance, the audience usually claps at the end and it’s seen as rude to make sounds during the performance. Flamenco doesn’t follow those rules. Tirado said her favorite part about performing flamenco is the verbal feedback from the audience during the show.

“It’s not frowned upon, it’s part of the culture,” she said. “It animates and gives life to what’s on stage as well. It’s a real exchange of energy.”

Tirado said that for her as a woman, flamenco is passionate and empowering.

“It talks about all of these things that speaks to everyone as a human being. There’s a strength behind it because of the resilience of the people that used this as a way for expression, and it still is a way of expression for those who can relate to some of the themes within the music,” Tirado said.

The show is open to the public. Wine and traditional Spanish tapas will be served, creating a genuine tablao experience.

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