“Through trial and error, I test rhythmic ideas, personal gestures, and build from the aesthetic movement and language of traditional flamenco to craft dance that is individual to my experience as Chicana, as woman, and as mother.”

Mele Martinez is a recipient of a 2016 Artist Research & Development Grant.

Artist Research and Development Grants are designed to support the advancement of artistic research, aid in the development of artistic work and recognize the contributions individual artists make to Arizona’s communities. For more information about the Artist Research & Development Grant, click here.

With Luz, a touring flamenco project honoring mothers who live and work as artists, Tucson Flamenco artist Mele Martinez aims to inspire, embolden, and enlighten.

Grounded in flamenco’s traditional movement and imagery, Martinez creates work that is both culturally sensitive to the flamenco world and innovative in narrative connection. Working against stereotypes of the flamenco dancer as a sex symbol and object of conventional Latina beauty, Luz presents an image of woman, particularly in the role of motherhood, as a being both defeated and elated, both sensual and cerebral, both lost and redeemed.

In realizing Luz, Fanny Ara will act as co-choreographer and artistic co-director, assisting in the evolution of Martinez’s movement style, incorporating her improvisational and vintage styles into newly structured and innovative musical contexts. Musical composition (guitar/singing/percussion) will grow from traditional songs into a narrative-driven work. Experiments in costume and lighting design will speak simply and thoughtfully to the experience of mothers in the arts

Melani_Martinez-MeleHEADSHOT_aRaised in Tucson, Melani “Mele” Martinez began studying dance at age three with Leticia Durazo, a prominent teacher of Mexican folklorico and Spanish classical dance. As a teenager, Martinez studied under flamenco artist Olivia Rojo, ultimately joining her company, Flamenco Y Mas.

In 1998, Martinez traveled to Sevilla, Spain, to study with world-renowned artists Juana Amaya and Matilde Coral. After training at the National Conservatory of Flamenco in Albuquerque, NM, she became an original member of Yjastros: The American Flamenco Repertory Company. In 2006, Martinez became a soloist for Yjastros and later that year moved with her family back to her hometown of Tucson to bring flamenco to her own community.

Mele and her husband, Jason Martinez, founded Flamenco del Pueblo Viejo, a Tucson performance company, and began teaching flamenco to a small group of Tucson enthusiasts.  In 2009, Mele along with Club España de Tucson and Casa Vicente Restaurante Español co-founded the largest flamenco event in the state—The Tucson Spanish and Flamenco Festival. The success of the Festival led Martinez and her husband to create The Tucson Flamenco Studio, the only studio in the city dedicated entirely to the art form.

Photos by Kristen Watts