South Florida audiences will be treated to a unique interpretation of traditional flamenco dance when Flamenco Festival Miami returns to the Arsht Center this month.
Choreographer and dancer Manuel Liñán will return to Miami on April 23 with an all-male dance company and a new show that explores gender identity through “characterizations inspired by the flamenco woman.”
Liñán has garnered international praise for his showmanship and the sincerity with which he challenges the rules of traditional flamenco. In “¡VIVA!,” he is joined by six other bailaores-bailarinas, male dancers dressed in traditional female costumes, for a jubilant expression of flamenco dancing where the feminine is embraced by the masculine body and gender roles are broken — exposing dramatic new forms.
The 42-year-old, openly gay Spaniard recently discussed the program and his approach with SFGN. (The email interview has been translated to English and edited for length.)
SFGN: What inspired you to use male dancers in place of women?
Manuel Liñán: At no time do I try to replace women, [I] simply dress as I want, comb my hair as I want, put on makeup without abandoning my identity as Manuel. “¡Viva!” was born when I was 6 years old. As a child I had the need to dress in frilly dresses to dance, put on makeup, etc. When I did, people laughed at me and I didn't understand it because I always did it normally and formally. [I] didn't want to be a woman, [I] wanted to be Manuel with ruffled makeup and a wig.
In what ways do you adapt or change the choreography?
It is something natural that dancers have in movement. At no time do we stop being Jonatan, Hugo, Betanzos, Daniel, Yoel and Miguel. We like to dress in dresses and use these dresses to dance. When we use the bata de cola, for example, it is a different language … it is a very long skirt and you have to know how to use it.
How does it change the audience’s perception of the dances?
It's very different and I think each person has a different perception. Mostly, I just think they see dancing bodies and forget the gender. Others may see transvestite men, others may see disrespect and others don't even ask to see it.
How have audiences responded to this unique portrayal of flamenco?
The public has welcomed us in a very exciting way; although, at some point, I have seen [people] leave the theater knowing that those under those dresses are men. But they have always welcomed us wonderfully well, also [the dance] critics.
What do you hope audiences will take away from these performances?
A good memory of 12 honest artists who dance and sing from the heart.
Compañia Manuel Liñán will perform “¡Viva!” on Saturday, April 23 at 8 p.m. as part of Flamenco Festival Miami, April 10 – 23 at the Arsht Center in Miami. Tickets start at $25. For a full festival schedule and tickets, go to ArshtCenter.org.