"Martinez was electrifying in her raw fury and glorious joy."
- The News Review, October 2013
MELANI “MELE” MARTINEZ
Mele Martinez’s natural movement style, even in childhood, made for a perfect fit with the raw spirit of flamenco. Raised in Tucson, Arizona she began studying dance at age three with Leticia Durazo, one of the most important early teachers of Mexican folklorico and Spanish classical dance in Tucson. As a teenager, Mele was introduced to Olivia Rojo and the art form of flamenco. Mele studied under Rojo and soon joined her company, Flamenco Y Mas. In 1993, Mele began studying at the Annual Festival Flamenco Internacional de Albuquerque, the largest flamenco festival outside of Spain. She has attended every festival since.
In 1996, Mele began performing throughout Arizona as a soloist and she soon gained recognition as a gifted mover. By age eighteen she was already exhibiting a powerful awareness of musical interpretation both in rhythmic understanding and emotive potential in the art. She also began teaching dance to children. In 1998, Mele traveled to Sevilla for the first time and studied with world-renowned artists Juana Amaya and Matilde Coral. Upon her return, Mele was inspired to practice and perform flamenco as it was originally intended - through improvisation. She was given that opportunity in the many Spanish restaurants, tablaos, and flamenco venues throughout Arizona where she performed regularly for the next several years, developing her communication with musicians.
In 1999, Mele began her training at the National Conservatory of Flamenco, and became an original member of Yjastros: The American Flamenco Repertory Co. under the direction of Joaquin Encinias and Omayra Amaya. She also studied with some of the world’s most important choreographers, including Israel Galvan, La Tati, and other commissioned artists from Spain.
Mele became Manager of the National Conservatory of Flamenco, working alongside one of the country's most esteemed flamenco family's, Los Enicnias. She soon moved to the position of Company Manager for Yjastros, which allowed her work to expand into theater production, dance education, and arts organization.
In 2006, Mele along with her husband and flamenco artist, Jason Martinez, moved to Tucson to found Flamenco del Pueblo Viejo, a performance company. Both began teaching flamenco to a small group of Tucson enthusiasts. In 2009, Mele along with Club España de Tucson and Casa Vicente Restaurante Español co-founded the largest flamenco event in the state—The Tucson Spanish and Flamenco Festival: an outdoor event bringing some of the country’s most celebrated flamenco artists to the Old Pueblo. Mele was the Artistic Director of the festival from 2009 to 2014. With the success of the Festival, Mele and Jason created The Tucson Flamenco Studio, the only studio in the city dedicated entirely to the art form of flamenco.
In 2014, Mele was the recipient of the Arts Foundation for Tucson and Southern Arizona’s New Works Grant and in 2015 received the Arizona Commission on the Arts Research and Development Grant for her solo project, Luz. This work was co-choreographed with acclaimed flamenco artist, Fanny Ara and developed in honor of mothers in the arts. Luz toured in 2015/2016 in collaboration with artists such as Manuel Gutierrez, Jose Cortes, Andres Vadin, and Gonzalo Grau. In December 2016, Luz was presented in LLUIVA FLAMENCA, a state-wide festival produced by flamenco artist and curator, Angelina Ramirez, and Flamenco por la Vida. Mele continues to document her work on Luz and her experiences as an artist/mother in her blog Dar a Luz. She performs and offers workshop instruction in concerts and festivals throughout the country. Her latest work, a 2017 flamenco project entitled Canciones de Luisa, honors the music of legendary Tucsonense, Luisa Espinel Ronstadt.
Despite humble beginnings in Tucson, Mele Martinez is now considered one of the most authentic flamenco performers in America.