Holly Burke

The acclaimed flamenco fusion group Nuevo Ballet EspaAñol will perform at the Christopher Cohan Center tonight.

The group, led by choreographers and performers Angel Rojas and Carlos Rodriguez, will perform “Flamenco Directo,” which combines traditional flamenco with ballet and jazz dancing.

According to a press release, Nuevo Ballet EspaAñol was formed in 1995 after Rojas and Rodriguez shared the award for “best dancer” in Spain’s 1994 Flamenco Annual Choreography Awards. Though the group toured extensively in Europe, they did not receive notoriety in the United States until 2002, when they were featured in a PBS television show called “Fury,” featuring 24 dancers and 13 musicians.

“Flamenco Directo” premiered in the Teatro de Madrid in 1998. This performance was the first in a two-year tour. The group toured extensively in Europe, visiting France, Finland, Spain, Italy, Holland, Germany and Belgium.

“Flamenco Directo” is the group’s fourth production. The show includes genuine flamenco and contemporary dance, adding a new dimension to contemporary flamenco.

“(Flamenco Directo) is one of our best shows,” Rodriguez said. “It is our first tour in (the United States) and we thought it would (portray our company) the best.”

Rodriguez also designs the group’s costumes. He is also a choreographer for the Jose Antonio Spanish Ballet. He collaborated with other artists in the 2005 Flamenco Festival’s show “The Four Elements.”

Rojas teaches dance and choreographs for other companies. He also choreographs for Jose Antonio Spanish Ballet and has worked for them as a solo dancer.

Flamenco music and dance dates back to 19th century Andalusia, a region in Spain. Its exact origin is unclear but may have been invented by Spanish gypsies. The passionate dance involves bright costumes with the dancers clapping their hands and stomping their feet.

“(American) audiences (receive) us very well. They are very kind (to) us,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez believes that American audiences interpret the energy of Spanish dance especially well when compared to the European countries that Nuevo Ballet EspaAñol has toured.

“I’m excited to see the show,” said Horatio Heredia, a civil engineering graduate student and the president and dance coordinator of the ASI club Imagen y Espiritu Ballet Folklorico. “I’ve taken flamenco before and the style is very interesting.”

According to Heredia, flamenco classes are not currently being offered in the San Luis Obispo area. The nearset class is at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria.

Nuevo Ballet EspaAñol will perform today at 8 p.m. at the Christopher Cohan Center.

Tickets range from $26 to $38 at the Performing Arts Ticket Office. Student discounts are available. Order online at www.pacslo.org.

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