Rio Grande Arts Community Scholarship recipient Ruth Rodriguez has been dancing flamenco for the past ten years at the National Institute of Flamenco. An Albuquerque eighth grader, Ruth resides with her mom, dad and two dogs, and enjoys fashion and dressing up, “which comes in handy when I perform,” she says. When not attending school Ruth is enrolled in two Intermediate Flamenco Training classes, one Adult Ballet class, one Bata de Cola class, two Teeños Flamencos classes and she assists in Child Ballet class at the Institute. Her weekend performance schedule is often just as busy.
Flamenco is a dance form associated with the Roma people of southern Spain that incorporates song and instruments. Albuquerque’s renowned National Institute of Flamenco was established in 1982 by Eva Encinias and is recognized worldwide for its noteworthy programs, presentations, performances and education of the flamenco dance form. Offering lifelong instruction that nurtures self-esteem, social skills and creativity from the early age of 3, the Institute partners with Tierra Adentro of New Mexico and the University of New Mexico among other local, national and international affiliations.
Ruth feels incredibly lucky to be able to dance flamenco. It is a defining characteristic that separates her from other teens around the world. From the onset of her tenure as a student of flamenco, Ruth has trained to be humble, yet focused. “It gives me a lot of sense in […] what kind of person I am because […] it speaks to my character,” she says. She considers her dance company a close second family. “I can truly be myself when I’m with them and I can feel their energy while we all dance together, which helps me dance better,” she shares.
Her instructors play a big part in her development. Among several notable mentors, Eva Encinias stands out as one of two amazing women who have afforded Ruth the opportunity to nurture her love of flamenco dance form. The other is her mother, Dolores. Eva instills a high level of confidence in her students, treats everyone equally and makes sure each one of her protégés is dancing for themselves. “Kids that study with her, she practically raises them, and I can say she was the one that raised me,” Ruth says.
The Rio Grande scholarship enabled Ruth to enroll in classes covering more advanced techniques, helping to build her skill level. This is the first year Ruth has taken Adult Ballet where she is mentored by ballet dancer Deanna Encinias. She looks up to Navy Encinias, her Intermediate Training Program teacher and her Teeños instructors Kayla Lyall and Carlos Menchaca too. “Every single teacher I’ve been with has been absolutely amazing. They train me in different ways and everything I’ve learned has improved my dancing more and more,” she says.
“When I dance, I think of people watching me, like old friends and family members,” Ruth shares. Performance is an integral part of her training. She aspires to become a member of Yjastros; the American Flamenco Repertory Company, an invitation-only flamenco dance company. But she will have to wait to entertain that opportunity. Apprentice auditions are offered only to those ages 16 and older. In the meantime, Ruth spends her free time writing stories, swimming and hanging out with her dance friends. “We know we can trust each other. It’s not something like the awkward boy and girl thing. It’s a very natural thing,” she says.
It’s not every day you meet an exceptional teenager like Ruth Rodriguez. Her drive and determination to achieve her artistic goals come with years of hard work, devotion to her craft and a maturity beyond her years. She is excited to keep the energy flowing and watch her flamenco art form grow. Así se baila, Ruth!