Atlanta flamenco dancer Ania Bartelmus celebrates the art form’s past and present

Flamenco dancer Ania Bartelmus aka La Candela will perform traditional and new repertoire in Inman Park on Saturday. (Photo by Boon Vong)

Credit: Boon Vong

Combined ShapeCaption
Flamenco dancer Ania Bartelmus aka La Candela will perform traditional and new repertoire in Inman Park on Saturday. (Photo by Boon Vong)

Credit: Boon Vong

Credit: Boon Vong

This story was originally published by ArtsATL.

Flamenco is flourishing in Atlanta and dancer Ania Bartelmus, who performs under the name La Candela and founded the ensemble La Candela Flamenco, has insight as to why. “Flamenco has something to offer everyone because it resonates with a wide range of human emotions and brings together elements of Spanish, Latin American, African and Jewish cultures,” she said during an interview with ArtsATL.

“Audiences are searching for an immersive experience that transports them beyond themselves, and I firmly believe flamenco provides just that,” she said.

Credit: Picasa

Credit: Picasa

Flamenco is an inextricable intertwining of dance, music and community, and this Saturday La Candela will perform twice at the Mask Center in Inman Park. “What makes flamenco especially appealing is its ability to reach not only dance enthusiasts but also fans of performing arts and live shows in general,” said Bartelmus, who sees performances as opportunities to educate as well as entertain.

Traditionally, the form comprises three essential ingredients: a singer, a dancer and a guitarist. It constantly evolves, however, depending on the context and training of the artists and the setting of a particular show.

On Saturday, for example, Bartelmus will bring the persona of La Candela to life with flutist Teodora Stoyanova; guitarist José Chirinos; and percussionist Dave Holland, who, in addition to the cajon, a box-shaped drum familiar to most flamenco aficionados, incorporates instruments like bongos, doumbek, udu (ceramic drum), djembe, tar (frame drum), maracas and even wind chimes. “Dave has the creative freedom to select instruments for each show, adding a magical element for the audience,” Bartelmus said.

The dancer, musicians and -- when there is one -- the singer are partners in creating the flamenco experience. The audience also often plays a crucial role, adding clapping and vocalizations that accentuate and heighten moments of deep emotion. Some contemporary performances feature careful scripting and set choreography. For the purist, though, improvisation and the call-and-response interaction among singer, dancer and musicians are the beating heart of flamenco.

Bartelmus received her training in Spain from the Centro de Arte y Flamenco de Sevilla, Flamenco Danza and La Truco Flamenco Institute and said that a significant part of her role as a director is “educating the artists about flamenco, bridging their existing knowledge with my own expertise in this art form and bringing them closer to the culture and traditions associated with it.”

Credit: Greg Fior

Credit: Greg Fior

For La Candela Flamenco, she explained, the flute often takes the role of the singer and complements the guitarist in accompanying the dancer’s footwork, but they uphold tradition by ensuring that improvisation is a vital part of the shows.

At the same time, Bartelmus said, she is “passionate about delving into our respective origins and cultures, with the aim of making our flamenco more authentic and relatable to Atlanta audiences.”

To that end, La Candela’s performances often incorporate classical European and Latin American music. Bartelmus is currently involved in a long-term collaboration, Entre Mundos, with a pianist to explore the connections between Spanish classical music and flamenco.

On Saturday, La Candela will showcase new repertoire, dances the artists have been developing since the beginning of this year and some more traditional compositions. One of the newer works features a solo for flute titled “Flamenco Study #1,” by Polish composer Krzysztof Zgraja. It is a contemporary piece and includes using the flute as a percussive instrument.

La Candela is one of several groups bringing flamenco to Atlanta. The art form has been well-received in the city by local businesses -- who book artists for corporate events or to entertain patrons -- and public and private funding agencies, as well as a diverse and growing community audience. La Candela Flamenco recently received a grant from the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta for 2024 programming to advance the group’s mission of inspiring communities, enriching local culture and empowering local artists while promoting diversity and inclusion.

Other groups include the nonprofit organization A Través, which produces the annual Atlanta Flamenco Festival, a series of classes and performances that usually run from September to November, and La Feria Atlanta, an event that coincides with La Feria de Abril, an annual traditional celebration in Seville, Spain. This year’s festival wrapped up last weekend with a performance by Dallas-based Flamenco Black and a final workshop this week by Flamenco Black guest artist Yinka Esi Graves.

Julie Galle Baggenstoss, who is on the A Través board of directors, runs Berdolé, which produces flamenco shows regionally and nationally, booking local, national and international artists. Berdolé is currently presenting a bi-weekly flamenco series every other Thursday at the Madrid Spanish Taverna in Roswell, with the next show set for this Thursday, Nov. 16.

Baggenstoss said that Atlanta’s flamenco artists offer something for everyone, from expert patrons to those curious about learning more. “If you don’t like a show for one reason or another, don’t give up, because the next one by a different group of artists may be something that you’ll love,” she said.

Other flamenco artists who call Atlanta home include Marianela “Malita” Belloso and her sister Maria Carolina “Cara” Belloso of Caló Gitano. Caló Gitano operates a dance academy and presents a monthly performance series, Entre Amigos, which picks up again in 2024 on March 9 at the Caló Gitano studio.

Natalia Perez de Villar founded Flamenco Underground in 2011. Flamenco Underground produces shows for public and private events with local artists, as well as those from other parts of the United States and Spain.

Baggenstoss offered her thoughts about why flamenco has endured as an art form: “Flamenco is about more than the action from the performers. Everything the performers do is intended to move the audience and get them moving -- clapping, tapping their feet and standing up to shout, ‘olé!”’


“A Night of Flamenco”

5 and 8 p.m. Nov. 18. $30-$35. Mask Theater, 1083 Austin Ave. NE, Atlanta.

Robin Wharton studied dance at the School of American Ballet and the Pacific Northwest Ballet School. As an undergraduate at Tulane University in New Orleans, she was a member of the Newcomb Dance Company. In addition to a bachelor of arts in English from Tulane, Robin holds a law degree and a Ph.D. in English, both from the University of Georgia.

Credit: ArtsATL

Credit: ArtsATL


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