Photos of Sara Baras look more like a Vogue spread on Spanish designers than a flamenco dancer’s press packet. Baras, lovely in colorful silks and chiffons, is something of a fashionista and has indeed traveled a few catwalks. This glamorous look is only one of the twists which Baras puts on the gypsy-influenced dance form of 19th century Andalusia. But make no mistake, Baras is the real deal. She is a revered international flamenco star who will stomp her feet in the Holy City this week.

Her list of credits is impressive, beginning with the fact that she learned the art of flamenco from her mother when she was eight years old in their hometown of Cadiz. By her early teen years, she was dancing with Manuel Morao’s company and sharing stages all over the world with many great musicians, singers, and dancers. At 18, she came in first in the Spanish TV version of American Idol. In 1998 she began her own company, where she has been the centerpiece amidst a talented ensemble.

She has twice been awarded the Premio Max de las Artes Escenicas as the best female interpreter of the dance. Her image has been used to promote the Andalusian government’s ad campaign for fire prevention. To top it off, Baras has her own postage stamp as the “face of Andalusia.”

Baras’ dance is a fusion of tradition and contemporary styles. Without watering down the form, she takes flamenco into the 21st century. The elements of true flamenco are all there but she pushes limits of technique, gender, costume, and musicality. She makes dances that are stories about historic Spanish females as well as dances which are simply about dancing and music. Critics have raved about her fiery footwork, her liquid arms, and her strong passion for performing.

Baras will be presenting Sabores on her visit to Charleston (note: this is a different piece than advertised in the Spoleto program). It is a storyless work which includes many styles of flamenco music with various emotional undertones. Musical numbers are interspersed with dance, building in complexities of rhythm, style, and mood. Baras will be joined by two guest dancers, Jose Serrano and Luis Ortega. The rest of the ensemble includes eight dancers, eight musicians, and three singers conducted by Jose Maria Bandera, also the composer.

Baras’ commanding presence has pleased audiences and critics all over the world and her energy is unstoppable, with over 1,000 shows performed in the last four years. As an artist, she likes to take risks, and while maintaining respect and appreciation for the maestros before her, she has the bold innovation to move forward on her own terms.

SARA BARAS BALLET FLAMENCO • Spoleto Festival USA • $10-$80 • June 7, 8, 10 at 8 p.m.; June 10 at 2 p.m. • 1 hour, 20 min. • Gaillard Municipal Auditorium • 579-3100

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