The nomad, the perpetual traveler wandering through strange lands, belongs to no place and yet, ultimately, becomes a collective reflection of every place, every culture, along his path. It’s from this fusion of influences that new and beautiful things can emerge. Such is the colorful thematic crux of flamenco artist Manuel Liñán’s production Nómada, which makes its U.S. debut on Saturday, September 27, at the Granada Theatre as part of the 14th annual Flamenco Arts Festival.
With the Granada-born Liñán serving as choreographer, director, and lead dancer, Nómada explores the deep-rooted nomadic human condition and how the patterns and rhythms of migration have forever changed our cultural landscape. But it also takes us on a visual journey through the flamenco atlas, from the Andalusian mountains to the Court in Madrid — tanguillos in old Cadiz, a deep seguiriya in Jerez, lively alegrias in Cordoba, a classic fandago in Huelva — all styles of flamenco born from distinct geographic zones over time.
Of course, flamenco itself is an alloy of sorts — the product of a band of nomadic Gypsies who settled in Southern Spain centuries ago, importing influences of vast cultures and musical forms from lands far away. Today, the art form continues to evolve with the new guard of flamenquistas, who mold and reinterpret flamenco, and at times cause a cultural rift with purists who prefer the tradicional over treks into unknown territories.
“This is what Nómada is about: the migration and movement of people and how we all rub against each other and learn from each other and are forever changed by that journey,” said Vibiana Pizano, founder of the Flamenco Arts Festival and a passionate follower of the flamenco scene. “Here in Santa Barbara, and throughout our state, flamenco has changed, too. It’s always changing and taking on new shapes and forms and influences. And that’s a good thing.”
As if on his own personal nomadic exploration, Liñán has painstakingly staged sets with a reverence for traditional technique, spiked with the dizzying footwork of the modern generation and swathed in costumes designed by the gifted Yaiza Pinillos. With assaultive countermovements and astounding liquid wrists, Nómada’s caravan of 10 performers impressed critics earlier this year at Spain’s Festival de Jerez, where it was hailed as a “bright and vibrant show, and an enlightening journey.”
After their engagement here in Santa Barbara — which this year includes a pre-show talk, workshops, and an after-party following the show — the Nómada troop jets back to Sevilla to take center stage at La Bienal, Spain’s other premiere Flamenco festival.
In each of the last 14 years, Pizano and her festival crew have strived to unearth and attract the finest flamenco performers of Spain’s festival season, and this year is no exception. Liñán, 34, is a highly sought-after performer and, perhaps more impressively, an in-demand choreographer. He has been invited on many occasions to choreograph for the Spanish National Ballet. In 2012, he was awarded the coveted Flamenco Hoy Award, voted on by the leading flamenco critics of Spain, for Best Male Dancer of the Year. In 2013, he won the Scenic Arts MAX Award for Best Male Dancer, given to Spanish artists in the field of theater and dance.
“His career has really been on a high,” Pizano said. “He’s really received one award after another, and now he’s traveling all over the world to perform and teach. He’s a busy man, really popular, and we are getting him here for Santa Barbara.”
Area flamenco aficionados are thrilled, yet again, to have the world’s finest brought to their doorstep.
“I feel so blessed that we have the opportunity each year to expose our students to the raw art of flamenco,” said Daniela Zermeño of the Zermeño Dance Academy. “Every dancer can grow from this experience, whether they are watching the show or attending the workshops.” Elsewhere in the S.B. dance community, others are also buzzing. Flamenco studio director Linda Vega said that she was already aware of Liñán’s reputation as a masterful choreographer. “I’m really looking forward to this,” she added. “This festival brings outstanding performers from Spain every year. It’s wonderful to be able to count on that.”
As for Liñán, he explained that his inspiration from Nómada comes from a deep belief that life is meant to be lived, with each moment enjoyed, respecting our roots while opening ourselves to new worlds. “Human beings continue to be nomads,” Liñán said. “We’re an unfinished tapestry with infinite possibilities.”
Manuel Liñán brings Nómada to the Granada Theatre (1214 State St.) on Saturday, September 27, at 8 p.m. Liñán will also conduct intermediate and advanced dance classes as part of the 2014 Flamenco Arts Festival. For tickets and more info, call (805) 899-2222 or visit flamencoarts.org.