ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Last December, a blaze destroyed the world-renowned National Institute of Flamenco, taking with it the Albuquerque group's studios, irreplaceable costumes, archives and business files.
But six months later, the institute is rising out of the ashes and is hosting its annual international flamenco festival. The Festival Flamenco Internacional de Albuquerque, which began Sunday and runs through Saturday, features dancers from around the world thanks to donations and area schools letting organizers use their space to prepare.
Dancers from the Albuquerque-based Yjastros company said the fire may had destroyed its studios, yet it didn't finish off their desire to keep dancing and host the event that attracts some of the world's best flamenco dancers, even from Spain.
"Nothing can stop us," said Kayla Lyall, a dancer with Yjastros. "And the festival feeds us ... For people who come here they know it's not over."
According to authorities, the fire broke out inside the costume storage room at the institute in downtown Albuquerque. Fire Department crews tried to fight the blaze from inside the building, but they were pulled out because of the possibility of the roof collapsing.
Once crews started battling the flames defensively from the outside, the roof caved in as dancer Elena Osuna sadly looked on. "We were there watching the fire together, and there was nothing we could do," Osuma remembered.
Less than 24 hours after the inferno, support from area businesses came, and schools offered help to keep the institute alive and the dance company going. The University of New Mexico also offered space so organizers could work to keep alive one of the largest flamenco festivals outside of Spain.
The institute also quickly launched its own fundraising efforts while focusing on the festival, said Marisol Encinias, the festival director.
"We knew this festival would still happen," Encinias said. "Flamenco is something that survives no matter what."
Originating from the Andalusia region in southern Spain, flamenco is a form of Spanish dance and folk music that developed from Romani music and dance more than two centuries ago.
The flamenco festival features performance, workshops and even classes for children at events throughout Albuquerque until Saturday.
Among those performing are dancers from Spain like Alfonso Losa and others from around the world. Yjastros is scheduled to perform later in the week in what dancers anticipate will be an emotional event.
"They'll be nothing quite like it," Yjastros dancer Alisa Alba said. "Flamenco is something that always stays with you."
Follow Russell Contreras at http://twitter.com/russcontreras