All the facets of flamenco remain active. Traditional, new flamenco, Spanish dance, neo-folk… The panorama is ample as you can see below.
For many spectators outside Spain (and some even within) flamenco is supposed to have its intrinsic design. Nothing could be further from the truth considering today’s hybrid trend of scenic arts that abounds with about as many categorized art forms as performing artists. Traditional flamenco and new flamenco, Spanish dance and contemporary dance, folk and neo-folk dance are but some of the languages fluctuating in the lively scenic reality of flamenco today.
Increasing in popularity, flamenco is reclaiming its position at the international forefront of dance, but the justification for its position lies in its authenticity and the recognition of the roots and origins of Spain’s most popular dance. Viva, the new, applauded creation by Manuel Liñán, is tremendously transgressive in the sense that its all-male cast take up the roles of women in the play. Liñán and his boys, exorcising the woman within them, dress in long-tailed gowns, shawls, and engage in the fierce and rigid foot-tapping demanded of the female flamenco dancer. The performance shall not be seen as a parody or vaudeville travesty, but as a gesture of equality. It serves to demonstrate that the differences in gender in flamenco are merely conventional. In their brand new creation La otra escena [The Other Scene], Liñán once again breaks ground and shows his aggressive stage personality.
Another resounding performance is by the Andalusian María del Mar Suárez La Chachi. She surprises us in her solo La espera [The Waiting]. The performance is a mix of flamenco and electronic music with a touch of religious irreverence when a nun engages in a debate between art and faith.
For their part, Marco Vargas & Chloé Brûlé, working in tandem since 2005, have presented Los cuerpos celestes [The Heavenly Bodies]. For this performance they have abandoned the duet format for the first time and looked for assistance from the musician Miguel Marín as well as additional dancers. The stage has been changed into an astronomic observatory, from whose telescope they can see the Milky Way or Alpha Centauri. However, it also serves as a kind of microscope from which they can see themselves, their dance, and inner universe.
And for those who think that flamenco is purely about emotions, there are proposals such as those of the flamenco dancer and philosopher Fernando López. True to the roots of flamenco, The Tenerife-based Obdulia Bustos from Malaga is delving into an exploration of the body and its movements. In her solo Pensador [Thinker], López reflects on what we are and what we have been. From this reflection he derives at issues such as the historical memory, gender roles, and violence towards women. She, in turn, is heavily engaged in the preparation of New Woman, the new production for her company Obdulia Bustos Flamencurías, which can be characterised as a study of active creativity. Her approach is based on Marcel Duchamp’s assertion that you should think before and after creation, but never during.
Based on the firm belief that folklore is neither static nor incapable of developing, artists throughout the country have applied a 21th century perspective to delve into serious research of the vast heritage of Spanish folklore. One of them is the young creator Sara Cano, who after her solo Sintempo [Without Tempo], staged her ambitious choreography Vengo [Here I come]. In this performance she boldly attempts to reinvent popular folklore with a contemporary expression. Sara Calero is another creator positioning herself as innovator of Spanish dance and flamenco. In her stunning Fandango Avenue, a solo that takes us back to the 40s and 5os, she showcases flamenco in the golden age of musicals and the heyday of Broadway’s imagination.
Albeit a defender of Spanish dance at any cost, Daniel Doña is also an artist of his time. His contemporary perspective is transmitted in everything he creates. Campo cerrado [Closed Field], his latest street performance, is no exception.
Visually striking, a trio with eye-catching, big hats deal with the concepts of identity and diversity in post-war Spain. Resistance, persistence, repression, rebellion, and exile are the themes presented in this new creation.
Veteran creator Manuel Segovia also declares himself committed to disseminating the riches of Spanish dance from a free contemporary scenic perspective. For 25 years he has been true to these principles with his company Ibérica de Danza. He recently staged Figaro, the Barber of Seville, where the codes of comic art merge with the expressive forms of Spanish dance. His presentation was imaginative, funny, and above all colourful.
We Are Flamenco
As exponents of defending Spanish dance in all its art forms (the bolero school, stylised dance, classical Spanish and folklore), Carlos Fajardo and Juan Manuel Prieto formed an alliance in 2014. They did so upon winning the Spanish Dance and Flamenco Contest in Madrid with their performance Raigambre. Their alliance became known as the group dSyR (De sangre y Raza). True to their principles, they are now embarking on a journey through the distinct moments in the history of flamenco. From the live-music cafés, to the dawns of the flamenco taverns, or ‘tablaos’ as they are called, and back to the contemporary scene, it can all be seen in their new proposal Mosaico español [Spanish Mosaic].
Similar intensions have spurred on another young company Deloflamenco from Fuerteventura. Pioneering a new style, this company directed by Anna Villacampa, has been offering tourists on the islands authentic proposals in line with the vision of Spanish dance. Amongst such proposals are Maridajes [Pairings] or De cal y Arena [Of Lime and Sand], both as rigorous in execution as creative in conception. In contrast, since its creation in 2002, Malucos Danza, the company run by Carlos Chamorro in Galapagar, Madrid, has been working on merging flamenco with other scenic languages. From this activity has sprung out a personal vocabulary and a particular scenic style. It is manifested fully in recent productions such as Los dioses no lloran ni vierten lágrimas [The Gods Neither Cry Nor Shed Tears] or the very theatrical piece Vecinos [Neighbours].
The importance of the flamenco dancer/creator is still evident in the works of artists such as Anabel Veloso from Almeria. This seasoned artist with over a decade of stage experience has now presented her new creation Oro sobre azul [Gold on a Blue Backdrop] at the Bienal in Seville. The performance looks towards Portugal, the land of her father, overflowing her personal flamenco style with allusions to Portuguese culture such as its music fado.
Along these lines, we should also note the artist from Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, María Juncal. She follows in the footsteps of her family, the Borrull, who set a benchmark for the world of flamenco. In her new contribution, Bailaoras [Female Flamenco Dancers], she is surrounded by six female performers. With guitars, percussions, and singing, they pay tribute to the women who have kept up this tradition.
Founded on the classicism of flamenco, we also find the works of Rita Clara, who together with the guitarist Jesús Rodríguez, add an avant-garde approach to their playwriting about the problems of our time. Such occurs in her ninth production La dama de blanco [The Lady in White], which in allegorical form deals with the terrible drama of drugs. The flamenco family of Spain is not only vast, but also growing. Therefore, many of its artists opt to join forces to deal with the matters of producing, distributing and managing their performances.
Art & Danza Promotions is a pioneer in this endeavour. Carmen Cantero, its director, has consistently been dedicated to upholding the quality of Spanish dance and flamenco. The organisation manages the affairs of artists and companies such as Antonio Molina “El Chorro”, La Venidera, La Lupi, Flamenco Ballet of Andalusia, The National Ballet of Spain and, not least, The Carmen Cantero Ballet.