Flamenco's Fiery Duende at Arsht Center

Miami can't seem to get enough flamenco. And the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts has been ground zero for satisfying that desire, bringing in numerous international flamenco stars and festivals.

Like this year's eighth annual Flamenco Festival inside the John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall.

The star of this year's festival is Sara Baras, a flamenco dancer who has become internationally famous for her brilliant footwork and captivating stage presence over a career that has spanned more than 20 years.

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She'll perform what she calls a "large-scale production" entitled Voces, Suite Flamenca that features a company of dancers, including guest artist José Serrano and a group of seven vocalists and musicians. Her tribute is to flamenco's greatest artists, including Paco de Lucia, Antonio Gades, Enrique Morente, Moraito, and Carmen Amaya.

"I've titled the work Voces to thank, with humility, all of the voices that have influenced my generation and that have had an influence directly on myself. And to thank all of these artists -- that because of them, we are now here," says Baras.

Baras says that the artists are so deep within her soul that her performances "come from my heart. I am going to give on stage what I am, and it is in honor of these artists."

For producer Miguel Marin's, his international Flamenco Festival with tours throughout Europe, Asia, Australia, Canada and the United States, has become among the most important Spanish cultural events organized outside of Spain.

"Sometimes you have to go away from your own culture to realize the value of your culture," says Marin, who discovered flamenco 20 years ago when he moved to New York from Spain, then moved back to his home country to become fully immersed. What he realized that he hadn't embraced before about flamenco was what he calls the "electricity that comes from the performance."

"[It] is a direct art form, where the intensity and depth of the emotion is able to touch the hearts of people, regardless of their cultural backgrounds," he says.

He explains that the structure of flamenco is very improvisational. "This brings the duende of the magic to the stage and the audience can feel it. You do not need to understand it; it is not a dance or music for the mind; it is an art form that you feel from your heart. That is what duende is -- what everyone is looking for in flamenco -- that one magic moment where everything just connects."

The Flamenco Festival at the Arsht Center was initially so successful that when the Miami center was looking for programming commissions to celebrate its 10th anniversary, the fest was a top of choice.

"From the very first year, we knew that the Flamenco Festival would be a signature series for the Arsht," says Scott Shiller, former executive vice president of the Arsht. "The core of flamenco is so close to the Arsht Center's mission of being 'vibrant, innovative and nurturing.'"

For the 10th anniversary year in 2016, a tablao, an intimate performance café, will be created at the center featuring flamenco by internationally renowned artists, while patrons enjoy tapas and drink service.

-- Michelle F. Solomon,

Flamenco Festival Miami 2015, Arsht Center, Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. (with a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m.) in the John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; tickets $35-$125;

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