Eva Encinias Sandoval, the dancer who brought Flamenco to The University of New Mexico, recently retired after 43 years. Encinias's love for the fiery, passionate Spanish dance form led her to create the concentration in Flamenco in the UNM dance department.

Like many people, Encinias Sandoval re-evaluated her 43-year career during the pandemic.

“I’ve been eligible for some time and people kept telling me you can retire at any time. I had it in the back of my mind, but I love my work and always have,” she said. “When COVID hit, online teaching became really difficult. I’m not technically adept and dance has its complexity. I knew from the beginning it was not going to end in six months.”

eva by Rafael Estvez 2

Encinias Sandoval’s roots in dance are deep. Her mother, Clarita Garcia de Aranda Allison, owned an Albuquerque studio near Edith and Candelaria boulevards in Albuquerque and taught all types of dancing from ballroom to ballet. Influenced by her mother and brother, Allison also taught flamenco. Encinias Sandoval and all eight of her siblings danced too.

The historic marker out front of the Carlisle Gym where Encinias Sandoval taught on campus is a tribute to Allison and notes “Her love for the flamenco tradition brought greater awareness and appreciation to this centuries-old art form and its importance in the cultural history of the Southwest.”

Encinias Sandoval brought the Spanish dance form to the community as well as the university, founding the National Institute of Flamenco in 1992 with lessons for all ages, including children. The non-profit Institute was originally located on Central Avenue across from UNM buildings and passersby could watch the children in swirling skirts and hard-soled shoes twirl and stamp through their lessons. The studio is now located in the Sawmill Area. The Institute is a family affair with Encinias Sandoval as the founding director, her daughter Marisol as the executive director, and her son Joaquin as artistic director.

As a dance teacher at UNM, Encinias Sandoval was responsible for the introduction of flamenco dance as a field of study at the university, the first and only institute of higher education in the world to do so.

“In the 1980s UNM asked me to develop a concentration in Flamenco, a much more comprehensive program than just teaching levels of technique,” she explained. Besides learning the dance itself, the curriculum was expanded to include choreography, music structure, and history. Encinias Sandoval brought in outside Flamenco dancers and guest teachers to teach specialized courses.

“You need different points of view, different styles, different people adding to the student’s knowledge of Flamenco, its birthplace, its development in Spain. They needed more influence from Spain. I couldn’t be the ultimate voice for them. We needed to bring in other artists to enrich their lives and help them realize the vast possibilities of the art form,” Encinias Sandoval said.

Having the international talent on hand led to the Festival Flamenco Alburquerque (the spelling is a historic nod to the 18th-century Spanish viceroy for whom the city of Albuquerque is named), a yearly event featuring classes and workshops for students and performances by Flamenco artists from around the world.

Just as COVID-19 forced Flamenco classes to shut down or go virtual, this year’s Festival Flamenco Alburquerque 34 will adapt to ongoing pandemic measures.

“We are planning on a hybrid festival. This means that we will do some live performances, either outside or socially distant following state guidelines for theaters.  We would also do a few workshops following the same criteria, then offer an online aspect as well.  I will certainly be involved in various capacities.  In recent years my main role has been to oversee tech rehearsals for the shows and I hope to be very active in Kids Camp,” Encinias Sandoval said.

“It’s really important our students see some of these exciting, iconic artists and expose them to a wide range of what is happening in contemporary and traditional Flamenco,” she added.

Even though Encinias Sandoval is retired now, her ties to the Flamenco program and UNM are not severed. Her daughter and fourth-generation flamenco dancer Marisol, who has been a senior lecturer of Dance at UNM, has filled the position. More instructors are being sought to replace the younger Encinias’ place and round out the faculty and Encinias Sandoval hopes to see some tenured positions open.

“I feel very confident with any of the people applying that they will not just keep the program going but really help it to grow... Younger blood will have the energy to revive the momentum lost with COVID. It’s looking like it’s in very good hands.”

Eva Encinias Sandoval, Flamenco master and retired UNM dance teacher

UNM has made Flamenco a dynamic community here. Outside of Spain, this wouldn’t have happened without the university investment. I’m so grateful to UNM for supporting it in the way they have and I look forward to seeing its future growth.”Looking ahead, Encinias Sandoval anticipates she will still be busy with the festival, helping to write grants, recruit sponsors, and otherwise support the non-profit.

“I’m retired from professorship but will be very involved in helping to develop Flamenco in our community both in and out of the university,” she said, jokingly adding that she’s also “looking forward to getting my garden in March instead of June.”

Looking back, Encinias Sandoval remarked, “My relationship with Flamenco has been one of awe, challenge and total love,” she continued. “I have always been inspired by its power and nuance. I find it the most challenging form of dance I have ever studied and I have done many.  Most of all I have a deep love of Flamenco for the life journey that it carried me through.

“It’s been an honor to be at the university and it’s been such a resource in developing this art form in our community nationally and internationally and I look forward to helping in any way I can to continue this art form… UNM has made Flamenco a dynamic community here. Outside of Spain, this wouldn’t have happened without the university investment. I’m so grateful to UNM for supporting it in the way they have and I look forward to seeing its future growth.”

“Having thousands of students trust me with their education, their lives, their experience in Flamenco, and teaching by far has been the richest part of the experience… One of the most beautiful things is introducing a dancer to Flamenco and then watching them grow through the experience.”