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Flamenco shows mark personal moment for young dancer

June 6, 2018
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Emmy Grimm, a.k.a. La Emi, framed by the fringe of her shawl as she spins on the stage of The Lodge at Santa Fe. Grimm has known the venue since her childhood, originally watching her mentor María Benítez dance upon it and this summer she will be the headliner with her own show. (Gabriela Campos/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — This summer’s flamenco season at the Lodge at Santa Fe represents a full-circle moment for La Emi, the energetic young powerhouse of Santa Fe flamenco, who is both the beating heart of the planned show — in what she says is a significant step in her development as a performer — and its co-producer.

The venue, named for La Emi’s first instructor, the famed Maria Benitez, is the Carnegie Hall of flamenco in Santa Fe, an intimate cabaret made with flamenco and its blistering passion in mind. It’s where La Emi, 27, first saw flamenco and where she made some of her first performances. It’s where her father once worked as box office manager.

On top of any of that, to become the summertime headliner at the Lodge is something of a link to the luminaries who’ve come before.

La Emi, aka, Emmy Grimm, the northern New Mexico native who has entranced audiences across town as part of different companies and productions, will soon add her name to a storied cast of A-list figures in New Mexico flamenco — Juan Siddi, Antonio Granjero and her first teacher, Benitez — in having made the Lodge her home theater for the season.

“This is where I fell in love with flamenco,” she said. “I grew up watching the shows here as a little girl. This is definitely a place I had always thought — I mean, to be able to have the honor of producing my own show where I saw my first teacher perform? This is very personal.”

The spirit of the July-to-August shows, a co-production with the Albuquerque-based National Institute of Flamenco, comes directly from the caves of Granada, Grimm said, the Spanish Gypsy enclave where the art form was born — with performers who have deep roots, flamenco family names and esteemed pedigrees.

The Encinias brothers, Nevarez and Jose, of the famed New Mexico flamenco Encinias family, are soloist dancers. Vicente Griego of Dixon will be a featured cantaor. Jose Fernandez, a noted Spanish flamenco singer, will perform as well. Chuscales, aka Jose Valle Fajardo, will be on guitarra. And there’s La Emi at the center.

She “represents the next generation of outstanding young flamenco performers in New Mexico,” said Jim Long, the chief executive of Heritage Hotels and Resorts, which operates the Lodge, highlighting the youthful impact of the Encinias brothers, as well. “It’s a show not to be missed.”

“It’s going to be a powerhouse of flamenco puro,” Grimm said.

Marisa Magallanez of the National Institute of Flamenco, founded in 1982, said the show and its participants are a natural outgrowth of the institute’s effort to build the flamenco community in New Mexico and beyond. “We see, as the trajectory of our mission, helping these wonderful, talented artists take those next steps,” Magallanez said. “We’re so excited to work with (La Emi) in this way.”

“It’s about growing deeper roots in the art form,” said Griego, Grimm’s godfather. “A lot of artists think of how they can get bigger and bigger and taller and taller. Every year, I see Emmy just getting deeper and deeper. That’s the most beautiful thing.”

The run of 36 shows is perhaps the tallest order yet of Grimm’s lengthy but still-young career, though the chance to perform in a familiar theater with so many personal connections sends the already-bubbly performer into a whirl of excitement.

One particularly exciting aspect of the production, she said, is the chance for her young students (she opened a flamenco youth academy last year; it has since grown to roughly 50 regular students) to perform a weekly Sunday matinee.

“It’s such a wonderful opportunity — for those children to perform on that stage, build their confidence, grow their skills,” said Theresa Martinez, Grimm’s studio manager whose 6-year-old daughter is a student. “She does so much.”

While she’s begun to perform elsewhere, sometimes in Miami, sometimes in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Grimm does not have an endgame or goal in sight. It’s enough now, she said, to appreciate that she’ll be the one on the stage where she, as a child, first fell for the rhythm and the passion of flamenco.

“You never arrive,” she said. “I see myself as a student of the beauty of flamenco. My father would always tell me it’s easy to get our minds going with, ‘What about this? What about this?’ And I’m the first to do it. But every day is a new day. I try to stay in the present with gratitude.”

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Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.santafenewmexican.com

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