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Flamenco artist cherishes dance

Published Oct. 12, 2005

(Ran CTI8 South)

Oscar Trevino's soft-spoken low-key manner changes radically when he's on stage performing the fiery flamenco.

His dark eyes flash and it seems as if sparks could fly from his shoes.

Flamenco, the traditional Spanish folk dance that has been around for hundreds of years, is known for its rat-a-tat rapid heel stomping and the clicking and clacking of castanets worn on the fingers. The dancers are accompanied by guitarists and singers who all must work in harmony with one another if the dance is to tell a story of love and passion.

Trevino dances six nights a week at the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City and for the past five years has been with Ballet Folklorico de Ybor, where he dances, choreographs and teaches. Ballet Folklorico also performs in schools to expose children to Latin dances.

Trevino said he fears that unless people learn about flamenco, as well as other forms of ethnic dance, it soon may become lost.

"We cannot let this art die. You don't just get up on stage and start dancing; it takes a lot of training. When I go out to the schools it's amazing to see children who want to learn to dance but have no one who can teach them."

When Trevino dances, he's "stunning," said Susan Edwards, director of program services at the Arts Council of Hillsborough County. "He's a phenomenal asset with incredible skill and verve."

This past summer Trevino received a $1,500 Emerging Artist grant from the Arts Council, making it possible for him to go to Mexico City and for two weeks takeprivate dance classes to perfect his style and technique.

"I went with the attitude that I wanted to learn, and I was confident I would be able to keep up with the classes, which are very intense," Trevino said.

Each year 40 to 60 aspiring dancers, musicians, painters, composers, actors and others apply to the Arts Council in hopes of receiving a grant of up to $1,500 that can be used for furthering their craft.

"This is such an important aspect of the Arts Council," Edwards said. "We help artists of any age who are beginning serious careers and might otherwise not receive any funding. If we expect to have good dance companies and good theater here in Tampa, we need to help these artists or else they will be forced to seek work in the larger markets of Los Angeles or New York."

A native of San Antonio, Texas, Trevino said he has been fortunate in finding work here in a career that began when he was 9 years old and taking all types of dance lessons.

"My father had a great influence on me; he was always wanting someone in the family to be involved in the arts," said the 31-year-old dancer who was the youngest of 10 children.

When Trevino was 12, he auditioned for and won a $4,000 scholarhip from Jose Greco, a well-known flamenco entertainer. With an older brother to chaperone, Trevino traveled to Spain for a summer where he took all sorts of classes in Spanish and flamenco dance. Later, after a short stint in college, Trevino toured with national dance companies, including Charo's Review.

In 1987, he was lured to Tampa by a contract from the Columbia Restaurant.

It was an offer, he said, he "couldn't refuse." The promise of being able to dance on a nightly basis was also a plus.

"That's one thing that's very, very important to a dancer, to be able to take classes, to really know how to dance, to enjoy what you doand to be able to perform. Especially in this type of art it's very difficult to be able to perform consistently," Trevino said.

"The only time I feel comfortable and secure is when I'm on stage," he said. "I never see it as work because there's nothing better than to be working in something you love best."