Oscar Nieto – Dancer, Choreographer, Teacher, Singer, Video-media artist.
As a Dancer, Oscar Nieto has become one of North America’s most acclaimed flamenco dancers since launching his professional dance career at the Chicago Lyric Opera House in 1969. Following his debut performance, he was invited to work with Lola Montes and her Spanish Ballet, and with the José Greco Company. A tour of Europe with José Antonio’s Ballet Silouetas took Mr. Nieto to Spain, and there he embarked upon an intensive study of Spanish flamenco, regional and clasico dance forms. Upon his return to North America he worked with flamenco masters Ciro and Antonio Gades. In 1998 he received a Canada Council grant to study the evolution of flamenco and Spanish dance in Spain.
Oscar Nieto is in constant demand as a guest artist and teacher. Mr. Nieto has performed with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and in several of Vancouver Opera productions of Carmen, La Traviata and Jenufa, both as dancer and choreographer. He is noted for choreography that is truly original yet firmly rooted in the traditions of his art. His impeccable technique, striking choreography, and overwhelming stage presence have earned Oscar Nieto lavish praise from press and public while bringing countless devotees to the art of Spanish dance. Oscar has been dubbed “a flamenco Fred Astaire” by the LA Times in recognition of his technical accomplishment and charisma as a performer.
In 2005 he was awarded the Jacqueline Lemieux prize – the first time the award has gone to a flamenco artist. The selection committee – Esmeralda Enrique, José Navas and Lynda Raino – which chose Nieto for his longstanding contribution to the art of flamenco in Canada, notes: “Oscar Nieto still puts the stage on fire when he performs! … As one of very few senior male flamenco dancers in the country, he is leaving an important legacy for flamenco dance across Canada.
As a video/film artist: Oscar has been creating and producing videos for the Vancouver Tap Dance Society since 2006. He is currently working on a video project for the Tap Society to document the work of Dianne Walker and her mentor Leon Collins.
His work in video started with a documentary project on the life of his mentor Lola Montes. In 2005 he received a Canada Council grant to assist him in the development of this documentary. He has been studying the art of filmmaking and video technologies with Dave Hardy, one of the founders of the Vancouver Film School, since 2004.
His latest project was a documentary on the life of the late impresario David Y. H. Lui.
In 2014 he was awarded a grant from the Canada Council for a 6-month sabbatical which he is currently undertaking to refresh and regenerate his artistic path.
Breaking Barriers: Rejecting the traditionalist notion that only Andalucían gitanos can do “real” flamenco, he believes that flamenco is a truly global art form accessible to anyone, regardless of their origins. His first company was called “Mosaico de Danzas” to reflect their diverse repertoire which included both classical Spanish Dance and puro flamenco. In 2002 he along with business partner Kasandra Lea founded Al Mozaico Flamenco Dance Academy and Mozaico Flamenco Dance Theatre in Vancouver. “Mozaico” has come to represent the rich diversity of the flamenco community.
As someone willing to challenge the “ownership” of the art form, Oscar has been an innovative leader in the evolution of flamenco in Canada. In the 1980s, his group, Flamenco Heresy, combined Latin jazz with flamenco and salsa; a bold fusion for its time. Other combinations involving poetry, video – even Butoh – have helped to advance the relevance of the art of flamenco.
Empowering Others: Oscar’s generosity, humour and encouragement have made him a beloved teacher and mentor. He views each student holistically, seeing the study and mastery of flamenco as part of a larger journey self-actualization. A rigorous teacher with the highest standards, he has developed effective teaching methods that honor each student’s learning style and foster self-confidence, discipline and self-knowledge.
Al Mozaico Flamenco Dance Academy awards an annual scholarship to a student who epitomizes his example.
Making a Difference: Oscar is the leader of a new generation of dedicated artists and teachers who have learned from his vast knowledge of Spanish Dance arts and who strive to honor his vision of inclusion, innovation and inspiration. In fact, many of his students have matured in their careers to become mentors and leaders in their own right by founding their own companies and schools, establishing festivals and performance series.
But Oscar’s influence extends well beyond the flamenco community. He has presented hundreds of educational programs and volunteer performances at schools and community events. He is highly esteemed for his popular free lectures in the Vancouver Downtown East Side.
Oscar’s work touches the lives of many people; some of whom would not have otherwise been exposed to flamenco. His example has inspired many of them to empower themselves and others through lifelong learning, self-expression, physical activity, and community-building.