Note to the reader: Unfortunately the display of the following posts is not organised from past to present so you'll have to scroll down in order to see the most recent ones.
To honor the marvelous picture on the right, of the Great Flamenco Dancer, Antonio Gades*, I'd like to start by saying that Flamenco has been a life long passion and as with anything that one feels passionate about, it comes from the guts, from deep inside ourselves; just in the manner in which Antonio Gades used to perform.
Were it not for the reccorded material where he appears I would've been deprived from admiring this talent as well as other Flamenco figures such as: La Merche Esmeralda, Lola Montes and Carmen Amaya, who are still defying time from wherever they may be.
I knew since the first time these spirits lurked my senses that I was bound to find them.! And even though I wasn't born Spanish (but of Spanish ancestors) I directed my steps without any recommendation to find a flamenco school in great excitement! and soon after, became interested in the culture that revolves around this ancient and nomadic art form (mainly in the dance).
In doing so, like a kid who is searching for a hidden present, I came across the fabulous eponymous Documentary by the Spanish Director, Carlos Saura, where the magic of this complex language is portrayed in all its splendor.
Some time after this first approach, I also discovered three other of his masterpieces: "El amor Brujo", "Carmen" and "Bodas de Sangre" equally powerful and mesmerizing and with a very strong bond to Spanish culture, that of the poet and writer Federico García Lorca.
Flamenco appears in Andalucía in the middle of the XIX Century as a result of the encounter of different cultures like the Greek and Arab, and the remote Indian people who found in Spain a new land for settlement. As a result of this rich blending: cante, baile y guitarra (chant, dance and guitar) have echoed throughout the years to become the voice of these conspicuos characters; "the Gypsies"
(El Pueblo Gitano).
Carlos Saura filmed Flamenco in 1995. The documentary shows some of the best dancers of all times to have made this art form. There are dancers, singers and musicians. What a beauty to see some of them in their old rinkled faces and hands, the close-ups to their toothless mouths or their worn out expressions, and yet, shining with formidable spirit! If only for this, I so wish I was a true gypsy, far from the conventions of what we are led to think pretty.
The technical style in which Flamenco was filmed is somewhat sober; the camera moves gently for the most part of the film in slow travellings and tilts, resembling the movements a spectator would do when following the sound and movement.
A spectator who is sharing that intimacy that only takes place in theatre. The unison between time and space.
Carlos Saura utilizes the chiaroscuro in a magical way. The shadows perpetuate the movement of hands and bodies, they are a visual and terrestrial echo for what we refuse to let go; the ephimeral power of beauty. One of the most striking scenes to convey this is that of María Pagés * when her remarkable long arms seem to be two enormous wings moving gracefully. Minutes after, she is behind a translucid screen and becomes a shadow, a magic spell. I must at this point make a little pause to share one of the best happenings in my life.
In 2006 I had the privilege of attending one of María Pagés' workshops. At that time I was unaware of her calibre. I had heard her name and knew she was big in Flamenco culture but that's about it. The realization that she was part of the cast in "Flamenco" escaped me completely at that time and perhaps it was better because her artistic persona mesmerised me just as it were.
Then by sheer luck I got a ticket to see María Pagés perform at the theatre "Teatro de Gollado" (Guadalajara, México). She performed with no more than other 8 dancers who were part of her Company. The austere and discrete use of high-technology effects made her sole presence even more outstanding. I recall seeing her perplexed while thinking to myself in a most womanly inner voice. "What a sight! What a fresh breeze to rethink the concepts young and old.
Days after this wonderful encounter, I was ready to form part of a three day workshop she gave for professional and semi-professional dancers in Guadalajara, México. To get a place was an absolute oddisey, particularly because the workshop was being subsidised by the Department of Culture and naturally, many dancers were interested. However, I managed to smuggle in on the first day by arriving at eight o'clock (when the workshop was intended to start at half past ten); This gave me plenty of time to carefully explore the place and plot my chances! next two days were easier! I had succeeded in being there! Three unforgettable days of my own Flamenco celluloid!!
Bangarra has been one of my Australian Theatre highlights. To be able to witness the dancers' formidable skill was a joy and at the same time, a reminder of this once far -away land I have come to know -if only very little-. "Terrain" is good proof of how mystical this vast territory is.
The sets and costume designs were a visual and sensorial extension of the dancers bodies, where a beautiful narrative unfolded in terracotta warm colours, roots and wood. This land that has preceded us for centuries is the scenario itself; the point of departure for Bangarra's compelling work.
Bangarra Dance Theatre (may 10, 2013)
Carmen. Teatro De Gollado. Guadalajara, México
Yesterday I found these photographs from one of my last performances: Carmen.
I scanned the pictures which seemed so remote and so precious. It was almost as if I didn't recognise myself in them. And as poor as their quality is, they remind me of a time when I devoted myself to flamenco.. and it has never left.
Interestingly, Carmen was Bizet's final opera. It was presented to the public in 1875 and he passed away three months later and unaware of the enduring success it would have. He thought it a failure.