Careers in dance are typically short, but maybe no one ever mentioned that to flamenco dancer Eva Lucena. Or maybe she pretended not to hear.
Lucena, 75, still performs and teaches with the Alborada Spanish Dance Theatre, which she directs. On Oct. 11, the company, which is now based in Fords, will honor her with a performance titled “A Forty-Year Flamenco Journey,” marking the anniversary of Lucena’s arrival in the United States.
For this dancing veteran, flamenco is forever.
“I hope so,” Lucena says. During the program, at Hamilton Stage for the Performing Arts in Rahway, she will appear alongside company principal Chavela in the “Seguiriyas”; with her protégé, Krystina Cardenas, in “Tangos de Cádiz”; and with Lisa Botalico in “Tangos de Chufla.” Singer and guitarist David Castellano, whom Lucena “discovered,” will join a musical ensemble that includes Dominico Caro, Carlos Revollar and Sean Kupisz.
In the satirical “Tangos de Chufla” Lucena portrays a flamenco student whose hyper-inflated ego brings her teacher to despair. Yet in real life Lucena is inclined to be humble.
“She never hogged the stage,” says flamenco teacher and choreographer Victorio Korjhan, a long-time associate. “She’s always conscious of supporting other artists.”
Korjhan credits Lucena’s longevity to her fighting spirit and openness to new ideas.
When Lucena arrived in New York in 1974, she was ill and grieving over the sale of the Villa Romana, a family-owned nightclub in Rome that had included a flamenco tablao. “I had to get away from everything, because I was very sad,” she says. “I abandoned my dance life and went to Panama for a year; and I got sick there.”
In the States, however, she quickly rebounded, touring with Sebastian Castro Vallejo and forming the company that would become Alborada Spanish Dance Theatre with Maria Alba, in 1979.
Alba, who died in 1992, could beguile an audience “just moving her eyes, or just moving a hand,” Lucena says. From her, Lucena learned how to dance with shawls and fans.
“I know my roles onstage are getting smaller, but I don’t mind,” Lucena says.
Describing the joy of teaching her students to clap and stamp, she adds, “There’s my future.”
“A Forty-Year Flamenco Journey” takes place at the Hamilton Stage for the Performing Arts, 360 Hamilton St., Rahway, Oct. 11 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $20 ($12 for students and seniors); call (732) 499-8226 or visit ucpac.org