A famed environmentalist’s work will be incorporated in a flamenco performance as part of the Aliento Latino Dance Season 2018 Saturday and Sunday at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.
Alice Blumenfeld and Abrepaso Flamenco Dance Company will be presenting “Vacío/Void” — a show that Blumenfeld said got its start from environmentalist Rachel Carson’s book, “Silent Spring.”
The show has many UNM alumni involved in the production, including Lauren V. Coons, who graduated from UNM in 2014 with her bachelor’s in music and in 2017 with her master’s in music.
Blumenfeld said Carson was a childhood hero of hers because of her environmental work and writing — the imagery Carson uses inspired her choreography.
“I wanted to make a tribute to her, especially as her work is just as relevant, if not more relevant today as it was 50 years ago,” she said. “And March is Women’s History Month, so it seemed like an ideal time to produce the show.”
Carson was one of the first people to raise awareness that putting human convenience over the environment is not okay, Blumenfeld said.
“At a time when there were few female scientists, she had the courage to speak up for what she believed in,” raising awareness about the major effects of harmful pesticides in particular, Blumenfeld said.
She was inspired by Carson’s book, because of its themes of interconnectedness that show that mankind is not above nature and does not have the right or the ability to control nature, Blumenfeld said.
“Even as people become more and more aware of how we are desecrating the environment, we still live in a way that makes our lives more convenient at the expense of nature, which will eventually be at our expense as well,” Blumenfeld said.
The title of the performance, “Vacío/Void,” comes from realizing that empty spaces — the vacío — were actually an idea that connected all the themes Blumenfeld was working with, such as the perceived distance between humans and the rest of the world, she said.
The lead artistic team is composed entirely of women, Blumenfeld said, with Coons as composer, Meagan Chandler as singer/songwriter, visual art by Natalee Maxwell and Coons as choreographer, director and co-producer.
“We are all pushing the boundaries of our respective forms,” she said. “Lauren’s visual scores and interdisciplinary work redefine what it means to be a composer, and she’s creating new ways of overlapping visual art, dance and music.”
Blumenfeld said Chandler is a diverse vocal artist with experience working with groups such as Desert Dwellers, Medjool, Trip Andaluz and Ojaleo — she has also written original lyrics for most of the songs in “Vacío/Void.”
Blumenfeld said Maxwell’s experience as a dancer was brought forward in her work as a visual artist. She said Maxwell painted the set pieces on a large scale, thinking as a pointer and dancer and created a unique set.
“As artistic director, I work towards breaking the stereotypes in flamenco, so that all the performers are able to express their truest selves,” Blumenfeld said.
While Blumenfeld had the idea for the performance a couple of years ago, it was not until the late summer and early fall of 2017 that she started to choreograph the work, she said. After deciding she wanted several dancers and holding auditions, rehearsal began, totaling around 15 per week.
“The dancers have been working tremendously hard, and I couldn’t be happier with their work,” she said.
Blumenfeld hopes this is just the first of many times they get to do the show, which will continue to evolve, she said.
Every Abrepaso performance has been different, as each one has investigated a different theme or concept and “Vacío/Void” is no exception, Blumenfeld said.
She said she is hoping for a great turnout, because the work can speak to various groups, from people who like classical music to environmentalists.
“We’ve put in so much work into the show and as a unique homage to Rachel Carson, I hope as many people as possible will be able to experience it,” she said. “I hope the themes of the performance help us reach a wider audience.”
“It seemed to fit perfectly into the themes I was working with from Carson,” Blumenfeld said. “Her perspective has really been essential to building this performance.”
Coons said flamenco is an extremely important part of the New Mexican culture and that she hoped appreciation for Carson’s work would increase during Women’s History Month.
Nichole Harwood is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. She writes for both culture and news. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Nolidoli1.