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BAY AREA FLAMENCO FESTIVAL / Festival Flamenco Gitano

Founded in 2005, the Bay Area Flamenco Festival has grown into a popular and vital annual Bay Area cultural event. Taking place in venues such as the Palace of Fine Arts, Berkeley Repertory Theater, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Brava Theater, The Freight & Salvage, La Peña Cultural Center and Zellerbach Hall, the Festival has presented some of the most important figures in the history of flamenco as well as prodigies from today’s generation of artists. Director Nina Menéndez's unique curatorial vision distinguishes the Festival and its particular focus on grassroots flamenco from the Gypsy communities of Spain. In addition to several days of live performances, lecture demos, film screenings workshops and master classes, various informal gatherings provide the opportunity for cultural exchange and create a context for sharing cultural traditions and experiencing flamenco in a genuinely interactive and spontaneous environment.

Festival Flamenco Gitano celebrates Spanish Gypsy music and dance as a living culture and a legacy of world stature. Artistic The UNESCO has recognized flamenco as a World Heritage Treasure, acknowledging the Spanish Gypsies' essential role in flamenco's evolution. Spanish Gypsy flamenco artists like Sabicas and Carmen Amaya first performed in the US in the 1940s and were instrumental in the popularization of the art form on the internationl stage. In the mid-1980s the production “Flamenco Puro" brought the best of Gyspy flamenco from the south of Spain to the Broadway stage and soon after Manuel Morao y los Gitanos de Jerez came to NYC for extended runs. But as flamenco gained interest internationally, artists and producers with no ties to the everyday culture of flamenco began to dominate the touring circuits, and productions began to move away from the essential elements of the Gitano approach. Improvisation and the fearless expression of true emotion were seen as a liability that threatened the guarantee of delivering the perfect professional package that could fit seamlessly into the seasons of performing arts centers around the world. Menéndez founded Festival Flamenco Gitano USA, and forges partnerships with like-minded producers around the country, in order to foster cultural exchange with Spain’s Gypsy flamenco community. The Festival’s mission is to increase awareness of the culture, traditions and history of the Gypsy/Romani people of Spain, and to illustrate the way music and dance traditions can serve as a vessel for the transmission of cultural identity and oral history through the generations.

“These artists --heirs to a tradition of music and dance passed down through their family lines-- have an ease for improvisation that comes from living the art as part of everyday life. No choreography is required, only an intimate connection among the dancers and musicians who interact freely on the basis of a shared legacy and an insatiable hunger to find the spark of duende that transforms the mundane into the sublime.”

--Nina Menendez, Artistic Director 

Festival Flamenco Gitano USA



In 2012 the Festival received a Special Honor from the Isadora Duncan Dance Awards for performances featuring a multigenerational group of tradition-bearers, heirs to a rich legacy of music and dance passed down through the families. Bay Area Flamenco has received funding from the Alliance for California Arts and Traditions (2008-2012), from the Zellerbach Family Foundation and has curated and co-presented two NEA-funded series (2011 & 2013) at La Peña Cultural Center. The San Francisco Foundation awarded us a generous grant in 2015, allowing us to expand our grassroots cultural exchange initiatives with underserved youth and families.


ARTISTS PRESENTED  See our past events page

Over the last decade we have presented some of the most important figures in the history of flamenco such as Manuela Carrasco, Angelita Vargas and Manuel Agujetas (who we presented first in 2010 in Berkeley and then brought back for a 4-city tour in 2012). We presented a gala performance by Los Farruco, first family of Gypsy flamenco dance in 2009, and in Feb/March of 2008 the BAF celebrated the Diego del Gastor Centennial Tribute with special concerts featuring BBC World Music Award winners Son de la Frontera and guest artist Juan del Gastor. In 2011 we presented the U.S. premier of Spanish superstar Diego el Cigala (here as well as in Los Angeles and NYC). That same year we presented Jose Maya, one of the greatest dancers of his generation. In 2012 we presented Fiesta Jerez, a 12-member all-star ensemble representing several of the most important flamenco dynasties of Jerez, led by Diego del Morao with artists including Juana la del Pipa, Luis Moneo and Enrique el Zambo.  We presented the US debut performance of rising star dancer Gema Moneo with Diego del Morao in 2012 and her return performance in 2013 with Jose Galvez. In the spring of 2014 we presented the Bay Area premier of the Spanish documentary Guitarra de Palo by Andrea Zapata-Girau with a special All-Star concert featuring several of the musicians that appear in the film including Antón Jiménez, Jerry Gonzalez, Jorge Pardo, Raimundo Amador, Javier Colina and more... Later that year Carmen Ledesma and Rafael del Carmen were featured at the Bay Area Flamenco Festival. In the spring of 2015 we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Bay Area Flamenco Festival with the world premier of “Generations” featuring Gema Moneo, Concha Vargas and Pepe Torres with guitarists El Perla and José Gálvez. The Festival also featured singers José Valencia and Esperanza Fernandez. And continuing our 10th anniversary celebrations, we presented concerts in the fall of 2015 featuring singers La Susi and José Méndez with Paco Fernández and dancer La Chimi. The 11th annual Bay Area Flamenco Festival / Festival Flamenco Gitano featured Farruquito & Co. in “Improvisao” as well as a concert by Multiple Grammy-winning Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and Gypsy singer, Esperanza Fernandez.


Other past events presented between 2004 and 2015 include performances by revered Gypsy singer, Ines Bacan; icon of Gypsy flamenco dance, Concha Vargas; guitarist David Serva; Juan del Gastor with Luis Peña & El Pola, the legendary Miguel Funi with Antonio Moya, Lakshmi “La Chimi” with Kina Méndez & José Gálvez from Jerez de la Frontera, the acclaimed dancers La Tania with Juanaire and Carola Zertuche; Gypsy guitar legend Chuscales; Roberto Zamora y su Arte Flamenco; Ben Wood’s cutting-edge flamenco rock band Flametal with dancers Fanny Ara and Melissa Cruz; Gypsy singer Antonio de Jerez from el Barrio de La Plazuela; Cristo Cortes and Los Gitanos de Marseilles; Zambomba, a Flamenco Holiday celebration in the tradition of the Andalusian Gypsies, featuring Angelita Agujetas; Carmen Ledesma, Rafael de Carmen, José Méndez and Mari Pena with Antonio Moya; Andrés Marín and Company and a Bay Area Flamenco All-Star Gala Showcase Benefit for Hurricane Katrina Relief. In 2010 and 11 we presented Zahara Al Andaluz directed by San Francisco-based dancer Kerensa DeMars and featuring a collaboration with the Moroccan musicians of El Hamedeen. In 2011 we presented the original work by Fanny Ara “Garlochí” and In 2012 we premiered her “Juncal Street”. Later that year Kina Mendez presented an historic tribute to her aunt the legendary Paquera de Jerez. In 2013 we brought together a group of artists from Jerez de la Frontera led by guitarist Jose Galvez to celebrate a traditional Gyspy holiday-season Zambomba. 


BAF also presents flamenco workshops throughout the year. Past workshops have been taught by world-class visiting artists from Spain including Manuela Carrasco, Juana Amaya, José Maya, Diego del Morao, Pepe Torres, Concha Vargas, Carmen Ledesma, Gema Moneo, Juan del Gastor and members of the Farruco Family including Farruquito, Farruca, Carpeta, Farru and Faraona.

“While major arts presenters like Cal Performances and SFJAZZ play an important role showcasing top flamenco artists, over the past decade no one has done more to build bridges between Andalusia and the Bay Area than Menendez.”        

-Andrew Gilbert, KQED

Nina Menéndez, Festival Founder & Artistic Director, has a life-long passion for flamenco. She has a PhD in Spanish from Stanford University (1993) and comes from a family of musicians. Her paternal grandparents were from Spain where she has cultivated deep ties to the flamenco community. She serves as director of Bay Area Flamenco, organizing numerous flamenco concerts, workshops and cultural exchange opportunities throughout the year and sharing her profound respect for the art of flamenco with the local community. An avid aficionada of the cante, she also enjoys singing herself. She is an active member of the Bay Area arts community and maintains a vibrant network of community relations and volunteers.


“Nina Menéndez has become a major force [as] the producer of the Bay Area Flamenco Festival”   -NPR, The California Report


Representing the area's vibrant Flamenco community, Bay Area Flamenco is a grassroots arts organization dedicated to facilitating cultural exchange opportunities with world-class visiting artists from Spain through performances, workshops and residencies.


Founded in 2004, BAF produces the annual Bay Area Flamenco Festival/Festival Flamenco Gitano --now in its 10th year-- as well as numerous other events throughout the year in venues throughout the Bay Area and beyond. Artistic Director Nina Menéndez’s unique curatorial vision distinguishes the work of BAF and its particular focus on grassroots flamenco from the Gypsy communities of Spain. 


Fiscally sponsored by Berkeley’s La Peña Cultural Center, BAF has hosted a dynamic and highly successful flamenco series there including the “Flamenco at the Crossroads” series which was funded by the NEA in 2010-11 and the current series “Flamenco Roots, Global Lives” funded by the NEA in 2013-14. Generous funding from the San Francisco Foundation in 2015/16 allowed us to expand our grassroots cultural exchange programs through partnerships with community organizations such as Oakland Public Conservatory of Music and Los Cenzontles Arts & Cultural Academy in San Pablo, California.

“In recent years, the San Francisco Bay Area has become a major U.S. conduit for Spain’s greatest flamenco artists. […] There’s really a vibrant scene here and Nina Menéndez has become a major force [as] the producer of the Bay Area Flamenco Festival.”   

  -NPR The California Report

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