María Benítez is an American dancer, choreographer and director in Spanish dance and flamenco. A native New Mexican, Benítez is best known for the work of the company she and her husband Cecilio founded and direct, Teatro Flamenco.
After initial ballet training in the U.S., Benítez traveled to Spain to study and perform. Her basic training was with Mercedes and Albano and Victoria Eugenia in Madrid. During her tenure abroad she performed in Spain, North Africa, Portugal and South America. She also performed on Spanish television. After returning to the U.S., Maria and her husband Cecilio established homes in New York and Santa Fe. In 1972, she and Cecilio founded their own Flamenco group.
Choreography for opera
Benítez has regularly performed in and choreographed for opera. Her first opera experience was performing and choreographing The Santa Fe Opera production of La Vida Breve. With the Metropolitan Opera of New York, she choreographed their production of Carmen in 1987; La Forza del Destino (directed by Giancarlo del Monaco) in 1996; in 1996 the Met's new production of Carmen (directed by Franco Zeffirelli) and in 1998 the Met's new production of La Traviata also directed by Franco Zeffirelli. The Met's Carmen was televised by PBS's Great Performances in the spring of 1997 and Benítez performed in this production in 1997 and 1998 in New York. She has also choreographed and/or performed with other opera companies, such as the Boston Lyric, Virginia, St. Louis and Austin opera companies and in 1997 choreographed and performed in the Santa Fe Opera production of La Traviata. As a solo artist, Benítez has performed with the Orchestra of Santa Fe, the New Mexico and Milwaukee Symphony Orchestras.
Benítez was featured nationally in her choreography of El amor brujo on PBS's "Evening at POPS" with the Boston POPS, the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet and mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves. Benítez reunited with Graves at the Dallas Opera, choreographing and performing in El amor brujo and La vida breve by Spanish composer Manuel de Falla. Benitez has also performed at numerous dance festivals, such as the American Dance Festival and Jacob's Pillow.
Institute for Spanish Arts
Maria Benítez is Director of the Institute for Spanish Arts which she founded in 1970 along with husband, Cecilio Benítez. The Institute, located in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is a not-for-profit, educational and cultural organization established to present programs of the artistic heritage of Spain. The institute's mission is to preserve, strengthen and disseminate the rich and artistic Spanish heritage as expressed through music, dance, visual arts and other art forms. Projects include adult and children's Spanish arts workshops and Flamenco's Next Generation Estampa Española performances.
Awards and recognitions
- New Mexico Governor's Award for Excellence in the Field of Dance
- The City of Santa Fe Mayor's Arts Award
- The Classical Spanish Dance Award from the Institute of Puerto Rico in New York City
- Nominated for the National Medal of Arts, supported by a joint resolution of the New Mexico House and Senate.
- Tobi Tobias (Dec 17, 1984). "Lady of Spain". New York Magazine. pp. 74–76. Retrieved 2014-07-31.
- "Institute for Spanish Arts (Santa Fe, NM)". National Endowment for the Arts. September 1, 2007. Retrieved 2014-08-06.
- staff (July 1, 1977). "Maria Benitez Leads Company in Dance Tonight". The Day. New London, CT. p. 22. Retrieved 2014-07-31.
- Staff (March 3, 1985). "Dance Art Guild Schedules Performance by Maria Benitez". Victoria Advocate. pp. 11D. Retrieved 2014-07-31.
- "Choreographer Benitez, Maria". Metropolitan Opera. Retrieved 2014-08-05.
- Mary Benitez Institute for Spanish Arts website: http://www.mariabenitez.com/index.asp?ID=3
- Deborah Jowitt (August 1, 1977). "Two Women Shape the Rhythms of the Past". Village Voice. p. 58. Retrieved 2014-07-31.
- Staff (May 26, 1982). "Jacob's Pillow dance Festival Plans 50th Anniversary Season". Schenectady Gazette. p. 37. Retrieved 2014-07-31.
- "Senate Joint Memorial 13". State of New Mexico. 1996. Retrieved 2014-08-05.