When the Spanish flamenco dancer and choreographer Ruben Olmo is on stage, he feels as though he’s spread his wings and started to fly. He believes in Nietzsche’s premise that dancing is a metaphor for thinking.
In “Noche Andaluza” (“Andalusian Night”), his first piece of choreography as artistic director of the renowned Ballet Flamenco de Andalucia, Olmo shows how dancing gives wings to body and mind. The Spoleto Festival show opens tonight and runs through June 2.
“Noche Andaluza” is an adaptation of “Metafora” (“Metaphor”), which was selected in a 2011 Spanish public competition as the production that would begin a new era for the company after it had been closed for two years.
The 17-year-old Ballet Flamenco de Andalucia is a state-sponsored company of Andalusia, Spain, that keeps alive the flame of large-format flamenco and Spanish classic ballet, according to the flamenco writer Juan Vergillos.
“With Olmo’s direction, the company has acquired youthfulness, new ideas for the choreography and a personal understanding of flamenco and Spanish dancing,” Vergillos said.
Olmo, 32, said he has been more or less in constant movement since he was 9, and that he has never limited himself to one style of dancing.
“Noche Andaluza” certainly showcases traditional flamenco — castanets, fans and bata de cola dresses — but it also depicts a more avant-garde style represented in the solo of one of the most important contemporary flamenco dancers, Pastora Galvan.
The production marks Galvan’s first performance since having a child. At the beginning, she didn’t feel in shape for the rehearsals; even the bata de cola was very heavy for her, she said. But “Noche Andaluza” quickly rejuvenated her. “I added my art, my picaresque and avant-garde dancing style and all my heart.”
Olmo and Galvan have studied together since they were children.
“We are like siblings,” Olmo said. “It has been a dream come true to have her as a guest while I’m directing.”
“Noche Andaluza” has everything you would expect in a flamenco ballet, according to Vergillos. “Charleston audiences probably will find it very eye-catching, showy and colorful,” he said, and it’s an unusual opportunity to see Galvan in collaboration with the group; she typically dances only for her own company.
“There is no tragedy or drama in Olmo’s choreographies,” Vergillos said. “He adds color and balance. He has a soft vision of a whole universe.”
“Metafora” has been performed in Greece, the U.K., Ecuador, Mexico, Colombia and several American cities, including Boston, Washington, D.C., and New York. This is a huge achievement for a company that prepared the production in just a month and a half, and with a reduced budget due to the current economic crisis in Spain.
“I had to adapt to the situation and to make this an artistic experience without much budget,” Olmo said. “At the end, we got good results.”
The 10 young dancers, who were selected from 400 candidates through public auditions, had to learn various dancing styles. But despite these different styles, Ballet Flamenco de Andalucia’s name gives a clear indication of Olmo’s main concern.
“Flamenco is a brand that we cannot mistreat,” he said.
Lucía Camargo Rojas is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.