Truth through flamenco: Yjastros to present new version of 'Xicano Power' at the National Hispanic Cultural Center

Nov. 4—The journey has always been full speed ahead for Joaquín Encinias.

As the artistic director for Yjastros: The American Flamenco Repertory Company, Encinias helps find ways to move the company forward.

The company's fall performance is called "Xicano Power." Yjastros will perform it on Friday, Nov. 10, and Saturday, Nov. 11, at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

Yet, the idea has been around since 2004 — five years after the company was started. The company took an iteration of the upcoming show to Festival de Jerez in Spain earlier this year.

"I'd say the version we took to Jerez was a good one," Encinias says. "We've had time to tweak it during Festival Flamenco this summer, and now it's at version 2.0. It's more explosive."

Encinias says the flamenco concert sets potent choreography, music, soundscapes and imagery to an exploration of identity, history and culture, including the Chicano Movement.

Internationally acclaimed Sevilla-based flamenco artist Israel Galván choreographed the piece "Xicano Power" for Yjastros in 2004.

That title was then chosen for the concert when it debuted in February 2023 at the internationally acclaimed Festival de Jerez, in Spain. This was a landmark performance for the company, Yjastros made history as the first U.S.-based company to be invited to a Spanish flamenco festival.

The concert evolved into its presentation during this year's edition of Festival Flamenco de Alburquerque.

Encinias says the concert features choreography and music that ranges from raw and explosive to joyful and triumphant.

The work of young contemporary choreographers such as Carmen Coy and Jesús Perona, who recently finished a residency working with Yjastros and University of New Mexico flamenco students, appears alongside the works of Marco Flores and the visionary Israel Galván.

In collaboration with Theatre Director Alejandro Tomás Rodríguez, Yjastros embodies each choreographer's unique vision and realizes a radical and beautiful thematic work, one that speaks to the complexities of our shared history and the joy and healing that is born out of struggle.

" 'Xicano Power' is an iconic piece in our repertory, and I think it demonstrates what the repertory process was for Yjastros early on," Encinias says. "You really can't speak about the Chicano Movement and where the word 'Chicano' comes from in that time without speaking about the poem 'Yo Soy Joaquín.' "

"Yo Soy Joaquín," was written in 1967 by Denver-based civil rights activist Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales.

Like Gonzales' poem, Encinias says "Xicano Power" explores issues of reclaiming one's identity and a legacy of historical greatness.

The concert utilizes pieces of this poem in its soundscape, as well as pieces of audio from Tejano filmmaker Hector Galán's award-winning 1996 PBS documentary "Chicano! History of the Mexican-American Civil Rights Movement."

"The audio represents what was being fought for or against in the Chicano Movement — educational opportunities, fair employment, workers' rights, civil rights," says Marisol Encinias, National Institute of Flamenco executive director. "The audio selected from Mr. Galán's film captures voices of people involved in the Chicano Movement or the voices of people who the Chicano Movement was moving against."