World Music Institute has done a phenomenal job in the course of its 22
year history in New York. Flamenco has always had a presence in its
schedule and been a box office winner. Robert Browning, director of the
World Music Institute proudly reflects over his ten years working with
Miguel Marin writing, "Most of the leading names in flamenco, as well
as many young rising stars, have performed in the New York Flamenco
Festival since its inception. The Festival has not only presented the
best in traditional flamenco, but has also presented innovative
contemporary works that are representative of what is happening in
We can generally look to the singers every year to represent flamenco
puro, while the guitarists, dancers, and now costume and lighting
designers indicate new trends. Since the death of Franco, the
vitality of the flamenco arts of Andalusia, the birthplace of flamenco,
has been steady. The debates over the gains and losses, what should and
should not be called "flamenco" have been equally constant.
The 2007 festival opened Saturday Feb 3 with the young singer from Granada, Estrella
Morente, making her elegant US
debut at a packed Town Hall. Estrella
has "it." She has the most-angst free voice in flamenco, as well
as charm, spontaneity, style, imagination, and the security of having
her family perform with her on guitar and palmas. The daughter of the
innovator Enrique Morente who has performed at both Alice Tully Hall
and Brooklyn Academy Music and dancer Aurora Carbonell, Estrella has a
lean, but sultry Mediterranean look presented with the poise of someone
who has performed all her life with great success. Her staging was
sometimes distracting but her command of the form and her girlish
humor is so inspiring that we can forgive her. She can be heard on
the soundtrack of Pedro AlmodÃ³varâs film Volver, and is a recent Latin
Speed and footwork seemed to be the theme of the Gala de la Bienal de Sevilla with Joaquin Grilo, Isabel Bayon, La Moneta, Manuel Linan, Olga Pericet, Marco Flores. Manuel Linan, born in 1980 in Granada and making his US debut, seemed to create the most awe and buzz with his sharp attack. Last
year's gala with the serpentine Rocio Molino and tragedian Soledad
Barrio, both of whose torsos and arms command as much respect as their
feet, seemed far richer in comparison to this year's concert which
"paled" in part due to dark lighting not offset by the equally dark
costumes. Only the sparky La Moneta, dressed in a white bata de cola,
brought in some old-fashioned whoopla.
On February 16, Compana Rafaela Carrasco's "Una Mirada del Flamenco"
(A Look at Flamenco) provided a torrent of explorations of and
departures from tradition. Rafaela Carrasco, from Seville, could be the
Twyla Tharp of flamenco. Oddly unassuming, she has a cerebral approach
with a sly nostalgic curiosity about by-gone habits. A
artist, she has worked with Mario Maya, Belan Maya, Israel Galvan, and
Rafael Campallo, among others. Gloria Montesinos provided the effective
lighting, supporting all the choreographic ideas. Pablo Suarez, her
husband on piano provided the musical composition along with Jesus
Torres, Jose Luis Lopez on cello, and Fernando de la Rua. Rafaela's
posture is often concave, her shoulders hunched, not entirely
attractive but her obsessive investigation into variations on seemingly
every typical flamenco gesture and convention is fascinating. Her
dancers were quite at home in her style which is a vast improvement
fover the recent performance of her "Burlador" presented by Carlota
Santana at the Joyce Theatre.
contrast, Sara Baras who has been coming to New York for years, most
recently with her company in 2003 and
2004 with elaborately costumed
and sophisticated choreography, seemed to go back to the basics. She
performed solo after solo displaying her clarity of rhythm and stamina.
The audience loved her and she returned the clamors with a huge grin
reminiscent of an effervescent Shirley Temple. Also presented in her
evening were guest dancers Jose Serrano and Luis Ortega who performed a
Seguiriya with castanets which was interesting.
El Pele with
guest dancer Edu Lozano performed at NYU Skirball Center performed with
such emotional intensity that his Alegrias made this writer cry. After
all, that was what flamenco used to be all about. A great, cleansing
New York Flamenco Festival 2007 is sponsored byAgencia
Andaluza para el Desarrollo del Flamenco and Turismo Andaluz of Junta
de Andalucia; the Town Hall of Seville; and Diputacian de Malaga.
Additional support is provided by the New York State Council for the
Arts, a State agency; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs;
the Howard Bayne Fund; the Carnegie Corporation of New York; Instituto
Cervantes; the Tourism Office of Spain; and the Consulate General of
Spain in New York. Directed by Miguel Marin Productions.
Flamenco Teaching Artist for City Center
Images: Estrella Morente, Manuel Linan, Rafaela Carrasco, Sara Baras in "Sabores"
In the stuffy confines of the European Parliament, he cut an unlikely figure.
A strutting peacock of a man, Joaquin Cortes is normally to be found stripped to
the waist, dancing Flamenco in front of thousands of mostly female devotees.
This is the dancer who almost single-handedly used his talent - not to
mention his looks - to make Spain's most famous art form a must-see among the
fashionable classes. But, though more used to hearing excited female fans
shouting guapo (handsome), the one-time model for Giorgio Armani now wants to
use his fame for a very different end.
Roma by birth, Cortes has become the new European Union ambassador for his
people, in an effort to end decades of discrimination and xenophobia.
Dressed in more sober attire than normal, the dancer recently addressed MEPs
in Brussels. "The main reason for my presence here is that I am of Roma origin
and I understand that this institution is known as the champion of human rights
in the EU," he said.
"I am one of the rare European Roma to whom fortune has been kind, as I am
able to proudly assert my identity without fear of being persecuted, humiliated
or being made a scapegoat." He added: "We all have to fight for the integration
of the Roma nation, and hope that in the near future a new generation will live
a better life."
An EU report in 2005 on racism and xenophobia stated that: "Roma are often
stereotyped as criminals. The reality is that many Roma are the victims of
crime." Many, particularly women, are marginalised by society, living in an
underclass from which it is hard to break out. An EU resolution last year said
Roma women suffered high levels of exclusion, particularly from access to health
There are now believed to be 14 million Gypsies in Europe, with at least nine
million of those living inside the expanded EU. The largest contingent of two
million live in Romania, but the Roma have perhaps the highest profile in Spain,
thanks in part to Flamenco, the art whose origins are credited to them.
Cortes, who is currently dancing in Moscow for Russia's new super-rich, has
been fighting hard for the recognition of the Roma. He launched his own
campaign, called Stop Anti-Gypsyism, seven years ago. One ambition is to try to
rid the word "Gypsy" of the negative connotations which it sometimes has in the
He agreed to be the new ambassador for the Roma nation as the EU declared
2007 "the year of equal opportunities for the Roma". He is to head a series of
initiatives to try to get Gypsy artists equal billing with leading singers,
dancers and artists throughout Europe. Away from the arts, the broad initiative
aims to integrate the Roma in society.
His people's cause is close to his heart. Growing up Cordoba, Andalusia in
the 1970s, Cortes watched as many of his contemporaries struggled to find jobs
or often slid back into the murky world of drugs and petty crime.
About 800,000 Gypsies live in Spain, and they have been persecuted for much
of the past 300 years. A series of laws and policies tried to rid them from the
Gypsy settlements were often broken up and the residents dispersed. In some
cases, they were forced to marry non- Gypsies. They were banned from using their
language, which is a mixture of Andalusian Spanish and Romani, and prevented
from taking up public office or joining trade organisations. Under General
Francisco Franco's dictatorship, Gypsies were harassed or their children forced
to attend school. They became a permanent underclass.
Conditions for Spain's Roma have improved considerably in the 30 years since
democracy was re-established, with special state education programmes operating,
and social services becoming more geared to their needs. But recent reports on
Gypsy life have found high numbers are still illiterate and living on the
periphery of Spanish society. Many run their own small companies, dealing within
their own communities. Gypsy-run building firms mark their sites with the blue
and green Roma flag as a warning that if anyone breaks in, they may have to
reckon with reprisals from Gypsy "security".
Huge slum dwellings like Los Tres Mil (The Three Thousand) in Seville and San
Cosme in Barcelona were traditionally used as dumping grounds by local
authorities to separate Gypsies from the rest of the community.
A dancer with Gypsy roots
* Joaquin Cortes is a native of Andalusia, the birthplace of flamenco. He was
born into a Gypsy family in Cordoba on 22 February, 1969.
* The Cortes family moved to Madrid in 1981, where at the age of 12, Cortes
began to take formal dance lessons. He was invited to join the Ballet Nacional
de España in 1984, taking to the stage in venues as diverse as the New York
Opera House and the Kremlin.
* His wild, passionate approach to flamenco earned him worldwide recognition
and controversy. He once said, "In classical ballet they still dance with a nude
torso. Why not in flamenco?"
* In 1992 Cortes founded his own company, "Joaquin Cortes Ballet Flamenco". A
starring role in Pedro Almodovar's 1995 film, La flor de mi secreto, brought him
a new audience, as did Carlos Saura's film, Flamenco, and he regularly tours
February, 2006, New York City based musician Paul Jared Newman
discovered the deep, rich sound produced by a guitar made by Andrés
Marvi. It was love at first listen. He immediately decided he had to
have a Marvi guitar. With a little web surfing, Jared found Marvi's
website http://www.ad-marvi.com/ which informed him that Marvi works in Ferreirola in the Alpujarras, a mountain range south-east of Granada, Spain.
self-taught, Andres Marvi has been making guitars for 25 years,
eighteen of those years in Spain. But his career took an upswing when
the firm ENCUENTRO produced a video in 2004 featuring the great
Flamenco guitarist Gerardo Núñez playing one of Marvi's "negras."
Jared commissioned a flamenco guitar from him with the aim that he
could play both classical and flamenco. Marvi's flamenco guitars offer
both the warmth and sustain associated with classical music as well as
the percussive attack of flamenco.
and I set off to the Alpujarras to pick up the guitar in late
August/September so that we could enjoy the opening of the flamenco
Biennal in Sevilla right afterwards. When we met Andrés (known as
Andy), he was newly back from the Black Forest in Germany where he was
born, and pressured by a deadline to finish 3 more guitars to deliver
to a customer in Korea. Andy lives above "El Cueva de la Mora Luna," a piano
bar locally known as Carlos'. We stayed in an unforgettable bed and
breakfast "Sierra y Mar" in Ferreirola (population approximately 30!).
Known as the last hideout of the Moors, the Alpujarras are respectful
of the Moorish ingenuity in both their terracing of the hills, the
irrigation system known as "acequias", and the architecture.
with Marvi's guitars, perhaps even better than imagined, Jared was
transported. We circled by Sevilla for the opening of the biennal
directed with exquisite taste by Mario Maya and classes with Eliza
Marquez. Upon return to New York, Jared heard such comments from
dancers as, "I don't know if it's your playing or the guitar. It's so
inspiring. It makes me want to dance."
by Deirdre Towers photo: author Deirdre Towers (right) with guitarist Paul Jared Newman (left) and guitar maker Andrés Marvi. (middle)
Deirdre Towers(Dancer/Choreographer) has danced and choreographed in a wide spectrum of styles for decades, performing
at venues ranging from the Plaza Hotel for private parties to
Washington Square Church with the late gypsy singer Rafael Fajardo, as
produced by World Music Institute, to La Cueva de Luna Mora in
Andalucia, as filmed by the BBC. A
teaching artist for City Center since 2003, she taught flamenco
history/rhythms for Maria Benitez at her Institute of Spanish Arts in
New Mexico for seven summers. American Ballet Theater employed Deirdre
as a teacher of dance for the camera for their Summer Intensive for
four years and at Frederick Douglass Academy for two years. Currently
the Executive Director of Dance Films Association, Ms. Towers directs
the internationally touring Dance On Camera Festival in collaboration
with The Film Society of Lincoln Center. Trained in multiple dance
studios in New York, Sevilla, and Accra, Ghana, she holds a BA from
Hamilton College, and a MA from New York University.
Ms Towers will be contributing another piece for Root about her trip to this year's Flamenco Bienal in Spain.
Make no mistake from the poor image quality, this is a recent video broadcast on Spanish television. Note the compas guide at the bottom of the screen as the video begins. A beautiful and stunning performance!
From one our readers comes this brilliant article about the film, Vengo by Tony Gatlif. It is an exploration of the director's use of thematic codes and symbolism.
Vengo explores the continuity and multi-faceted influence of the Roma and North African cultures in Andalusia through a narrative structure that employs similar patterns of continuity and duality. Gatlif's multi-layered exploration of regions and cultures marked by the sirocco is guided by a brilliantly coded series of symbols and alter-narratives that are woven together by recurring symbols such as wind, water, music, circle dance and light, among several others. Thus the film's most prominent symbols are the very elements/features that link the seemingly separate lands and traditions of Spain, North Africa and India.
It happens every other year on 6 stages in Seville and is in its 14th incarnation, the Bienal de Flamenco. If you're planning a trip to Spain this fall, you must go to the Bienal.
This year's focus is dedicated to the dance and takes place from September 13 to October 15, 2006.
Training, world-class performance, new music & compilation releases as well as dance DVDs are features of the festival. The choreography of dancer María Pagés will be in the first volume of the DVD collection.
Photo exhibit by photographer & flamenco guitarist Gilles Larrain, "Flamenco: Landscape of the Soul" will be on view at Pabellón Hassan II of Isla de la Cartuja. This brilliant series was taken on assignment for Geo magazine in 1983.
Here are a few images from this series:
Tia Juana La De La Pipa & Granddaughter, Seville 1983
Domingo González, director of Bienal de Sevilla, explains, “We’re going to shine the spotlight on the generation of bailaores who are at a more restless creative moment, developing their own style on stage”
There are still very few who, in a illustrated and planned form, come
to Andalucia to enjoy the flamenco tourism.... to offer the traveller who plans to visit Andalucía, to
those who are travelling through or simply living in it, a useful and
colourful tool, to start to know the history of flamenco and to learn
to differentiate one style from another, and at the same time dispose
of the necessary addresses and activities that favour, in many cases, a
first contact with Flamenco in Andalucía.....
Cádiz expresses itself through ´cantiñas´; Málaga through ´jaberas´,
´jabegotes´ and ´verdiales´; Córdoba through ´zánganos´ and ´fandangos´
through Lucena; Granada through ´zambras´, ´roas´, ´granaínas´ and
´medias´. If there weren´t any heterogeneous, on the other side of the
pond, they lent us the ´guajira´, ´milonga´, ´vidalita´ and the ´rumba´
and afterwards the invention of the ´colombiana´ by Pepe Marchena. In
effect, Andalucía is a melting pot whose understanding abounds more
than acorns and chestnuts, of dragnets and trapnets. A part of its soul
is built on cave dwellers, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs,
Christians and converts, bricks in a musical wall to which the gypsies
added their battlements: the ´quejió´ (complaint).
Following images are from the 11th Biennial Courses & Performances from the Andalucia website