Carlota Santana and her 35-year-old company, Flamenco Vivo, are coming back to Kaatsbaan for two anniversary performances. If you’ve ever felt a sense of cognitive dissonance when comparing the ferocity and power of a female flamenco dancer with the “meek” stereotype of women in macho Latin American cultures, you need to check out the new opus by famed “holistic flamenco” choreographer Belén Maya that the company will be unveiling.
The dance is titled Mujeres Valientes (Valiant Women), and it’s a feminist tour de force meant to remind the world of the contributions of two Latina powerhouses of centuries past.
A child prodigy who educated herself in secret, poet/philosopher/scientist Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651-1696) joined a religious order to avoid being married off and stifled. She wrote extensively in defense of women’s intellectual rights and education, not to mention allegories, dramas and comedies, establishing the largest personal library in Mexico at that time, as well as substantial collections of musical and scientific instruments. Frequently at odds with the local Church hierarchy, Sor Juana eventually was forced to give them all up and become a plague nurse, which led to her death – but not before being recognized by her male intellectual peers as the “Mexican Phoenix” and the “Tenth Muse.”
Also memorialized in Mujeres Valientes is Manuela Sáenz (1797-1856), an Ecuadorian socialite who became a spy for the South American independence movement and the lover and co-conspirator of Simón Bolívar, who dubbed her “Libertadora del Libertador” after she thwarted a plot to assassinate him. Disinherited and exiled to a tiny coastal town in Peru, she met Herman Melville and Giuseppe Garibaldi, and managed to preserve her correspondence with Bolívar for history before her death in a diphtheria epidemic.
The second half of Flamenco Vivo’s program presents electrifying solos by two prizewinning dancers from Spain, José Maldonado and Guadalupe Torres. All works are performed to live music. Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 12 and at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 13. Tickets cost $45 for café table seating, $30 for general admission, $10 for student rush seats and children. For reservations, call (845) 757-5106, extension 10, or visit https://kaatsbaan.yapsody.com. The Kaatsbaan International Dance Center is located at 33 Kaatsbaan Road in Tivoli.