For two decades, the Flamenco Arts Festival has brought a galaxy of international stars to Santa Barbara annually in order to create and nurture an audience here for this sophisticated, traditional art form of southern Spain. Vibiana Pizano carries on the work begun by her father, Alberto Paul Pizano, one of the most prominent cultural leaders in Southern California from the 1960s until his death in 2015.
Beginning in East Los Angeles before moving to Santa Barbara in the late 1970s, father and daughter have been tireless advocates on behalf of the performing arts, maintaining close contact with the culture of modern Spain while at the same time taking leadership roles in the politics of Latinx advancement in California. The Flamenco Arts Festival, with its red-carpet pageantry at the suitably historic Lobero Theatre, represents a rare distillation of what’s best about the dream of Spanish culture on the coast of the Pacific Ocean.
This year, the festival takes place over the course of four days, Thursday-Sunday, September 26-29. On Thursday night, Los Angeles–based composer/guitarist Andres Vadin will bring a five-piece group to the Lobero to express the height of 21st-century sensibility in flamenco guitar. Incorporating elements of Cuban, Arabic, and jazz music into the flamenco tradition, the Andres Vadin Project will set the stage for the three days of dazzling dance to come.
As instruction is an important aspect of the festival’s mission, Friday and Sunday will be devoted to workshops led by master practitioners in each of the flamenco’s disciplines: toque (the guitar), cante (singing), and baile (the dance). Saturday night’s red-carpet gala features perhaps the most talked-about young flamenco artist in the world right now, the Galician Eduardo Guerrero. With his long, flowing hair, bright-blue shoes, and toreador attire, Guerrero presents a flamboyant version of the masculine ideal. He’s also a tremendously original performer and a remarkable athlete, fully capable of holding an audience’s rapt attention for more than an hour without a break.