Niño de los Reyes Credit: Courtesy the Artist

Few forms of music and dance embody raw emotion as exquisitely as flamenco. This formidable and quintessentially Spanish art form fuses elements from Jewish, Arab, and Roma cultures and distills the essence of grief, tragedy, fear, and joy into every note, gesture, and stomp. Hosted principally by the Instituto Cervantes, the first half of the 18th annual Chicago Flamenco Festival (part two is promised this fall) consists of ten performances, an art exhibit, workshops, and a wine tasting over the course of a month. The carefully curated events focus on all three essential elements of flamenco: song (cante), dance (baile), and musicianship (toque). The bill includes artists from France and Spain as well as the U.S., among them local favorites Clinard Dance Flamenco Quartet, featuring Wendy Clinard as principal dancer, Steve Gibons on violin, Marija Temo on vocals and guitars, and José Moreno on vocals. San Diego flamenco dancer La Chimi will perform with dancer, percussionist, and guitarist Oscar Valero and guitarist José Manuel Alconchel at the opening-night ceremony on Thursday, February 27, and then the next night with her ensemble, Luna Flamenca, at the festival’s first full-length performance. Among the other artists are Jose del Tomate, a 21-year-old guitarist born into a long dynasty of acclaimed flamenco musicians, and dancer Nino de los Reyes, who has performed with international jazz and pop superstars Chick Corea and Paul Simon and recently became the first-ever dancer to win a Grammy; he contributed rapid-fire footwork and clapping to the 2019 Corea album Antidote (Concord). Rather than showcase the sort of glam-pop flamenco popularized by superstars such as Rosalía, the fest focuses on straight-to-the-jugular flamenco whose undiluted power may allow the audience to experience duende—the mystical force and passionate, enrapturing spirit of flamenco. In either case, these performances will undoubtedly heat up Chicago’s winter nights.   v