Olé, Chico!

Anna Isaacs

Photo by Nate Daly

Anna Isaacs fell in love with flamenco early, attending her first class at age 12. The Louisville, Ky., native was immediately hooked. Later, while attending college in Washington, she would ride the bus 90 minutes away to take classes from the closest teacher she could find. She also has studied at the National Institute of Flamenco in Albuquerque. Now a Chicoan, the 30-year-old launched Flamenco Chico last year, molding it in the likeness of the venerable New Mexico institution. While there is a small flamenco scene in town, Isaacs’ goal is to form a hub that will promote the art form with an online presence, organize events and public performances, and teach lessons at Downtown Dance (163 E. Third St.). Her Sunday classes are offered as part of eight-week sessions focusing on technical and artistic aspects of the dance. You can find more information about lessons, upcoming performances and opportunities to play guitar for the dancers at chicodancesflamenco.com.

How did you get started with Flamenco Chico?

About a year and a half ago, I quit my full-time job, and started doing shows and teaching lessons. It’s a very community-driven thing. We have a few guitarists, we have a few dancers and we have a lot of dance students, from high-school-age to people in their 60s. Flamenco is very family-oriented. This month has been very busy. We had a touring artist [Savannah Fuentes] come, and I’m going to be at Red Tavern with the group that performs there regularly [April 11-12].

Flamenco is an intense performing art. How do you encourage people who are interested, but perhaps a little intimidated?

Flamenco isn’t one thing. Flamenco is the name given to the folk music, dance and singing of Andalusia, in southern Spain. There are many forms, or palos. In formal performance settings, you’re going to see the most intense palos. But in a family setting or just hanging out, there are other palos, where you jump in, do a little sassy thing and jump out. Or there’s sevillana, a party dance. So there are lots of styles wrapped up into one, from beginner to very serious, advanced levels. Flamenco comes from the gitano Roma people who originated in India, traveled into Europe and contributed to many Gypsy traditions. In Spain, that happened to be flamenco. It’s an art form that is about suffering and repression, but within that, there is a sense to find strength, beauty and joy.

How do you hope to promote flamenco in the community?

We have the performance troupe and we have the beginner class happening. The next move is to formalize the guitarist community to have them coming in and playing for students, and helping to grow the improv aspect of performance. As we grow, we’ll probably also start separating classes into skill levels. Flamenco takes a lifetime to master because there are so many palos. It’s endless learning.