Local couple is keeping the proud legacy of flamenco dancing alive and passing the tradition down to a new generation.
Passion. It’s a word that pops up over and over when talking with flamenco dancers about their unique art form.
Nobody knows the intensity that flamenco can elicit better than Tammy Weber de Millar, director and choreographer of the Flamenco del Sol Dance Company, which opened a studio in Oviedo this year.
“Flamenco is such an unusual, niche art form that it’s not of interest to everybody,” Tammy says. “But to the people that it is of interest to, it’s everything.”
Tammy, who was born in Chicago, discovered flamenco when she was a 17-year-old college student studying abroad in Spain. The rhythmic dance style, which originated in southern Spain, is characterized by hand-clapping, foot-stomping, dramatic arm gestures, and emotive expressions.
“I was always attracted to the Spanish language and culture,” says Tammy, now 50. “But I had never seen flamenco before, and when I did, my entire life path changed completely. It was an unforgettable experience.”
In fact, Tammy was so taken with flamenco that she returned to Spain several times to study and eventually opened a dance academy in South America. She met her husband, Alonso Ivan Millar, while working as a choreographer for an opera company in Bolivia. Ivan, who is Bolivian, was a trained dancer with a background in contemporary, ballet, and folkloric dance.
The duo moved to Central Florida in 1999, where they danced professionally at theme park venues for years and taught flamenco classes for adults. About two years ago, Tammy and Ivan opened a dance studio in Sanford, offering classes for both kids and adults. When they outgrew that space, they moved to their new location in Oviedo.
In addition to running the studio, both Tammy and Ivan have full-time jobs. She is vice president of a publishing company that specializes in educational technology. Ivan is a firefighter/paramedic for the Lake Mary Fire Department.
Tammy hopes even more of her young students will develop a similar desire to teach and preserve the art of flamenco dancing.
“We want to raise up the next generation of instructors,” Tammy says. “That’s really important to me. I will not last forever; the
knees will not last forever. And, the energy level’s not going to be there forever.”
Sonia Small, a Flamenco del Sol student and instructor, says her favorite thing about flamenco dancing is the way it unites people from different age groups and walks of life.
“That commonality of loving flamenco and Spanish culture has brought us together,” says Sonia, who is of Puerto Rican and Guyanese heritage. “It feels like we have a little family here.”
Those who are unfamiliar with flamenco don’t understand the allure that it holds for people like Sonia – until they attend a Flamenco del Sol performance. The studio’s student and professional dance companies frequently perform at venues around Central Florida.
“Once they see us, they’re hooked,” Sonia says proudly. “Then, they see why we have so much passion for it.”
Flamenco del Sol has quite a few upcoming performances, including several community events that are tied to National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from mid-September through mid-October.
In early 2019, the company will reprise its production of Carmen, a lavish mainstage show that combines lively flamenco dancing and live music with stunning costumes and compelling storytelling. Flamenco del Sol presented a successful production of this tragic love story at the Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center in Sanford earlier this year.
Next year’s performances will be January 26 and 27 at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando and March 24 at the Athens Theatre in DeLand. Proceeds will be donated to Ronald McDonald House Charities.
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