Sunday, November 18, 2007

Flamenco Dance Today: Part I

In these posts, I look at flamenco dance during this modern and critical phase of its development by presenting some of the thoughts and feelings of famous contemporary professional flamenco dancers. These thoughts and feelings will center on where they think flamenco dance is headed as an art, how it has changed, and their personal approach in relating to flamenco dance.

Sara Baras started out dancing in her mother's dance school, a dance academy in Cádiz, where she began when she was very small. Later on, she studied with other teachers, but she says that her mother was the one who made her fall in love with flamenco and grow within flamenco. Her first professional job outside the family was in the company "Manuel Morao y Gitanos de Jerez". “I was just a young girl of fifteen or sixteen. The show was called "Esa forma de vivir" [that way of life], they were all gypsies but me and I felt like such a kid, it was quite an experience.” She says for the first time she danced without thinking “'I'm going to do this, that, or the other', it was much more basic, and there I was on stage, at the same time I was learning in a natural way.”

Sara Baras always wanted to make her own dance company and when she was 26, she already had a mini-company, with a few musicians. The style of dress in Sara Baras' company is setting a fashion within the world of flamenco. In the beginning they used all the typical shawls, hair combs, and flowers, but when she had the opportunity to express herself the way she wanted, the company began to wear costumes of much softer materials, that allow one to see the body. She says you can play around with the fullness of the fabric, and that everything counts, the music, the sound, choreography, lighting, she is trying for a certain aesthetic when she dances.

She says she is always prepared to experiment, to work with fusion with other styles. For example in her piece "Juana la Loca", in addition to dancing there is an element of dramatic interpretation. The basic concept of the piece is going insane over love, something that is very akin to the intensity of flamenco. “The flamenco forms help you a lot, you're not going to dance por soleá laughing your head off, that makes it easier. Like my mother says, in this world you have to lose you head but not go through life without a head on your shoulders, I value bravery very much, and when you're brave you take risks and there must be risk in art, also in your personal life, if not, you don't get anywhere, you have to try things to see how they work, to find out if it's the right thing for you. With "Juana la Loca" I'm surprised to see that what with all the work we've done, there's still a lot of improvising on stage, you have to improvise without messing it up, very often you have to let yourself get carried away by what you feel in your heart, let your body feel right, do what you want.”

Taken from an interview by Daniel Muñoz
Translation: Estela Zatania

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