Sol y Arena: The Art Behind Flamenco Dancing


Christian Iglesias

The Sol y Arena Dance Program focuses on Spanish Dances.

Students are often discouraged to not major in dance, thinking it will never transition into a professional career. This stereotypical view has shied away possible dancers in the making. At New Mexico State University, dance is a degree offered for contemporary dance, sport dance and flamenco.

Sol y Arena is a dance program that is offered at New Mexico State University that focuses on Spanish dance. The program includes performances and teaching workshops covering cultural and historical content of various flamenco and classical Spanish dances.

Flamenco originated in the southern regions of Spain, but it’s thought to be influenced by many world cultures, including Latin American, Cuban, and Jewish traditions. Flamenco dance is a highly-expressive Spanish dance form. The flamenco is a solo dance characterized by hand clapping, percussive footwork, and intricate hand, arm and body movements.

Summer of 2016, dancers of the Sol Y Arena travelled to Spain and other places across Europe to study the art and culture of dance. They worked at a conservatory called Amor de Dios (Love of God) that produces world class figures of flamenco. The months of June and July are peak season for dance and performances. There are dance competitions that students participate in competing against people from France, Africa and many other countries.

Paco Antonio is the company director of dance and conducts Sol Y Arena. Antonio has worked at NMSU for 15 years and has studied dance most of his life. When Antonio first started teaching at NMSU there was no graduate dance programs. “My main focus is to create awareness for dance. Thankfully, we are making progress artistically. Art houses art,” Antonio said.

Dance is a degree provided at NMSU, but Sol Y Arena is specifically a program for flamenco dance. Foundation and experience is required in order to be a part of Sol Y Arena. Dancers are encouraged to be part of ballroom, modern contemporary dance, or focus on Sol Y Arena. Mariachi dances are also offered along with jazz performances.

“We really want to build up the artistic culture in the borderlands. Students can make this a professional opportunity or change themselves in a recreational way. We have a lot of artistry within this industry. You can make a career out of dance,” Antonio said.

Performance career or teaching a vision by motivating the young through dance. Dance isn’t offered much in schools because it competes with sports provided for the youth. Schools shy away from promoting dance and it has faded throughout the years. Dance is a way to display culture and tradition and learning valued art forms.

Antonio’s mission for Soy Y Arena is to show emotion through dance. He says, “We want to express our joy at being able to share this art form. The journey of expressing yourself, there is nothing like dance for that. Flamenco has its own tone and feeling running from tragedy and elevating yourself above emotions.”

There are degrees for dance that students have graduated from NMSU and have gone professional working in: El Paso, Texas, Albuquerque, New Mexico, New York and even outside the country working in Spain. Graduate students work extremely hard on their pieces to have opportunities to work with professional dance companies.

Dance is a serious profession that takes a toll on the individual’s body. Proper flooring is key to limit injuries. Injuries coming from dance can range from broken bones to torn ligaments that can end a person’s career.

Cristina Segovia, a graduate student with a degree in dance and finishing her master’s in education with a concentration in dance has been with Sol Y Arena for three years. She explains that dancing is a difficult art form when it comes to moving your body along with footwork and matching the rhythm and other elements involved in dance.

Segovia says, “The biggest misconceptions that people think dance is easy, and I think it is the complete opposite, it takes more time and work to put it.”

Sol Y arena is a flamenco company through NMSU that students get invited or asked to be a part of to study flamenco.

“I started dancing at a late age, I had the natural ability to turn and move in certain ways. Goes along with the saying, dance like nobody is watching. I encourage all dance majors to get to know the instructors, there are a lot of opportunities to perform with live music,” Segovia said.

The people of Las Cruces and surrounding areas can come catch a show and experience the culture behind dance.

The Ramada Palms is where Sol Y Arena holds dance performances called Flamenco Fridays. Flamenco Fridays next performance is October 27, that performs flamenco dances on stage for an audience along with singing. There have been four shows already and the audience attendance has been growing every performance. The spring semester performance is the Spring Harvest show at the Center of the Arts March 2nd-3rd.

“I feel it is so powerful and so exciting especially when the performance is live. Flamenco is full force and filled with so much emotion,” Segovia said about preforming at Flamenco Fridays.

Sol Y Arena has transitioned its marketing to attract new fans or future dance members through social media or other technological forms. Antonio and Segovia encourages fans to come out to the next show and show support for a group of hard working students that attend New Mexico State University.

Follow Sol Y Arena on Instagram at: nmsu_sol_y_arena

For more information about Sol Y Arena, check them out at the NMSU website:

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