Will you do the fandango?

International flamenco star Rafael Amargo is hitting our shores this week, and he's excited to find out how Israelis react to his style.

Rafael Amargo 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Rafael Amargo 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
When it comes to flamenco, one of the names mentioned frequently and with much adoration is Rafael Amargo. A true star, he is one of the most prominent dance figures to emerge from Spain, using his art to touch hearts the world over. Amargo and his company will perform Intimo beginning Monday at The Suzanne Dellal Center and later as part of the Karmiel Dance Festival. Amargo hails from the Andalusian region of Spain. While he began dance training in Granada at the age of nine, he was drawn to movement and music from birth. "I started dancing in my mother's womb. When I would hear music, I would kick and go nuts," he says. After studying with many of Spain's flamenco experts, Amargo spent time in New York City training at the Martha Graham School. He then returned home and began performing as a soloist with a number of dance companies. His talents then took him off to Japan, where he began his career as a choreographer. While Amargo's training was predominantly in classical flamenco, his choreographic style reaches far beyond. He draws from many types of dance, most noticeably modern. His work, therefore, has a fresh and innovative edge. In 1997, Amargo formed his own company, Nacencia. As his version of flamenco is a collaboration between musicians and dancers, his company contains both. Joining Amargo in Intimo is a company of four dancers and seven musicians. Together, they have performed all over the world, leaving quickened pulses and amazement in their wake. Since Amargo comes from the birthplace of flamenco, he feels a strong tie to the art form. He told The Jerusalem Post by phone, "It is an art, an emotion, the ultimate expression of a nation. An expression which has the quality to touch the heart, to move your senses. Flamenco has a direct connection to your feelings, and feelings have no frontiers." Amargo is an expert in breaking boundaries, mainly the "fourth wall" (a concept which describes the emotional distance between the performer and audience member). There are few performers that possess the ability to connect with the audience the way that Amargo does. He describes his experience onstage as "an interchange with the audience, a great communication with each one of the spectators. If you can reach this communion and it becomes fluid, it is Heaven. I think that then I have reached my goal, to touch, to move through art, through flamenco. It's a wonderful heartbeat." Amargo's love of performing and his understanding of how to touch audiences has gained him a good deal of attention lately. He recently choreographed the musical Zorro, which is being performed on Broadway and in London's West End. He will represent Spain as a cultural ambassador at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Plus, Amargo is to star in a film portraying the life of Salvador Dali. And now he's coming here, where flamenco has recently experienced a popularity boom. While 10 years ago a class or performance was a rarity, now Israel boasts several flamenco companies of its own, including The Israeli Flamenco Company. "I want to introduce flamenco to as many countries as possible. It is an honor for me that Israel is one of the stopping places... I am very excited to go to Israel. I want to feel how we perform, not only for the people of a country, but for a nation. I want to discover how the Israeli audience reacts to our art, to our flamenco," Amargo said. Now's his chance.