At the exhibition “100 Years of Flamenco in New York,” the pictures burst with movement. A complete newcomer to this genre could not fail to be impressed by the startling vitality and pride illustrated here. Although the show — now on view at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts — occupies a single room, there’s much to absorb. A preview tour took two packed hours.
Historical photographs of flamenco have been included in other New York exhibitions. This, however, is the first of the city’s own flamenco history, and it reveals how central episodes of the history of flamenco itself have often occurred in this city.
My first tour included prints, photographs, posters, costumes, castanets, programs and books. Later visits have focused on the extraordinary selections of flamenco on film. Rarest of all is 1918 footage of the dancer La Macarrona Juana Vargas recorded in Spain by the Russian dancer-choreographer Leonide Massine. He was preparing his own Spanish ballet, “Le Tricorne” with designs by Picasso and music by Manuel de Falla, in which Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes danced in Spanish style; Massine’s film is now one of the many treasures of Spanish dance housed in the New York Public Library. Another is the oldest film of Spanish dance in America, “Carmencita,” made by Thomas Edison with a Vitascope projector in 1894 and lasting less than a minute.