Timo Nuñez: Flamenco Dancer

Posted online: August 2012

Timo Nunez

by KATRIN WANBERG photographs by THYRONNE MILLAUD

AS A BOY GROWING UP IN SANTA BARBARA, Timo Nuñez, (born Geronimo Andrés Nuñez Bellamy), 27, spent a great deal of time with his grandmother, Beatrice Terrés Rosales, a first-generation Santa Barbaran born to Spanish immigrants. Nuñez heard tales of his grandmother’s hand in kicking off the first Old Spanish Days festivals, “which is how I got involved in flamenco dancing,” he says. “I always felt extremely connected to my grandmother because she was so cultured and loved sharing music and dance with my sister and me.” His grandmother’s own dreams of becoming a dancer were shelved to raise a family of four children, but she passed along her passion for the art of flamenco to her grandchildren. “When we started dancing flamenco, she was so proud. There was no feeling like making her proud,” says Nuñez, who was with his “Wita” when she passed away in the summer of 2010. When Nuñez’s older sister, Beatrice, began taking dance classes, he wanted to trade his soccer cleats for dance shoes. At 9 years old, his parents—his dad, local minister Jerome Bellamy, and his mom, Adrianne Nuñez, still reside in San Roque—encouraged him to study at the Santa Barbara Ballet Center, and he hasn’t stopped pursuing the art since. “By the time I was 12, I was invited by Juan Talavera—a well-known flamenco dancer in southern California—to be a surprise portion to his show, The Men of Flamenco,” says Nuñez. “I was the kid who would come out and dance and everyone would go crazy.” Shortly after his professional debut at the ripe old age of 12, Nuñez continued his fancy footwork along with his sister, performing at venues such as the Kennedy Center of performing arts in Washington DC with renowned choreographer Debbie Allen. “My sister and I grew up dancing together. We performed for so many Fiesta celebrations—at the Santa Barbara Courthouse and on television,” Nuñez says. “My sister was the Junior Spirit of Fiesta and Spirit of Fiesta—now she is a lawyer! We still have a great time collaborating creatively.”

Nuñez is known for his gifted portrayal of traditional flamenco, which he has studied abroad in Spain many times since his first visit to Andalusia at the age of 12. Since then, he has spent time in Madrid at the famous flamenco academy Amor de Dios and in Seville, where he learned from Latin dance greats Farruquito, Manuel Betanzos, El Torombo, Pilar Ortega, and more. “Flamenco has been—and always will be—a personal journey for me,” says Nuñez. “To be a flamenco artist, one must understand the mixture of technical and emotional elements. There is so much passion in each style of flamenco.”

Nuñez has traveled the world as a guest performer and soloist in everything from the film version of Rent to the television dance competition So You Think You Can Dance. Now, he’s balancing his work as a dancer and a choreographer with a burgeoning acting career—he has starred as Alejandro on BET’s Reed
between the Lines
—and his inaugural show, Pasión, which premiers February 18 at the Lobero Theatre. “My mission is to put flamenco into the limelight by mixing it with modern dance and music,” he says. “I want to showcase the traditional dance in a new way without compromising its integrity.”

Nuñez has set out to accomplish this with the help of dancers he has met through his travels—“I am bringing my people from some of my favorite places”—as well as Rent choreographer Keith Young, who collaborated with Nuñez on a flamenco routine to It’s a Wonderful World.

With his first show in the works and his acting career taking off, Nuñez says, “Every time I go on stage, I take a moment and thank my grandmother. She was so in love with my dancing and so proud. When she passed, it really pushed me to do what I have always wanted to do.”

 

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