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PERFORMANCES: 

 

 FLAMENCO AT CASABLABLA

Start your evening with tapas and flamenco at Casablabla and watch a fabulous flamenco performance as Veronica Vargas and dancers from the Triana Flamenco Group strut their stuff accompanied by top Adelaide Guitarist Aloysius Leeson and Gypsy Flamenco Singer - el Titi de Algeciras who stirs the blood with his passionate singing.

Watch out for special guest artists. Check out the Triana Facebook for updates on what's happening or telephone Veronica Vargas on M 0438366931.

Next Performance:  NEXT PERFORMANCES SATURDAY MARCH 25TH and APRIL 29TH 2017
Where: Casablabla - 12 Leigh Street, Adelaide
Time: 7.45pm and 8.45pm
Enjoy dinner, International dishes, tapas, cocktails etc.
www.casablabla.com Tel: 8231 3939

 


 

FLAMENCO!
By Veronica Vargas

¡Flamenco! - images of frills, driving staccato rhythms, gypsies with dark flashing eyes, guitars - hot, steamy nights in Spain!! Well it’s all true if you’re a tourist, however, if you’re the artist, there is another, more serious side to this.

As a flamenco dancer and teacher for over 20 years I’m constantly surprised at the lack of appreciation and knowledge that still exists regarding Spanish flamenco dance.

Flamenco dance is an exciting and challenging dance form that attracts people by its basic rawness and passion. It derives its roots from the gypsies who originally came from India and reflects a variety of cultures, in particular the Moors - all of which have left their mark in the music and dance of the south of Spain. Most people think of it as unstructured gypsy dancing and that after a night watching it, anyone can do it by stamping feet and waving arms around. In fact the rhythms of the music and the dance co-ordination needed to execute this, together with the ability to improvise, makes it one of the most complicated dance forms to learn outside of its borders.

Contrary to popular belief - a professional flamenco dancer has to be trained. Flamenco with its evolution is constantly developing new techniques. Flamenco dancers like other dancers need to look after and train their bodies and have an understanding of how they work. In addition to flamenco classes, dancers in Spain also attend classical Spanish and even contemporary dance classes. The demands on dancers today, particularly on female dancers, makes it necessary to have a high level of fitness.

Early this century women did very little footwork leaving that to the men, concentrating instead on the grace and beauty of their arms, wrists and upper body. Today the female dancer is expected to have the same strength and feet technique of the male as well as the upper body work.

Flamenco dancers work to live music, the essential ingredients to a performance being the dancer, singer, guitarist and sincerity. The SINGER, contrary to what most people outside of Spain believe, is the main focus – flamenco began with singing – the guitar was a late addition. Flamenco is a pure, very personal art and a dancer who pretends passion will not hold the audience. Like good jazz improvisation, individual expression can only happen within a group performance and a good performance relies on the members supporting and trusting each other. So it’s best the dancer not argue with the group before performing as the guitarist may play out of time and the singer decide to sing at inappropriate times.

I have spent years studying in Seville and Madrid with some of the leading exponents of flamenco, which gave me not only formal training in the understanding of different approaches and techniques, but an intimate comprehension of the role flamenco plays in the everyday life of Spaniards - I’ve not only danced it I’ve lived it! While it’s important for all budding flamenco artists to go to Spain to study, the usual 6 week stint is only the tip of the iceberg and that to fully appreciate flamenco a dancer needs to enter the culture and not just learn steps.

Flamenco is an evolving art form. It’s important to experiment, to do something fresh and new, but it’s even more important not to forget its roots and to respect its traditions. When an art form evolves it’s the result of life evolving and dancers need to look to the past to learn and study the way people danced, even though it was simpler. It’s necessary to understand the spirit of those dancers and what they contributed, because they are the ones that led the way for dancers of today. This applies generally across the arts.

The mistake many artists, whether they dance or play guitar, make is to involve themselves with the new and latest ‘fads’ without having a good basic knowledge of the traditional. In Spain, all the trendsetters in flamenco are thoroughly versed and experts in traditional flamenco and from there seek something new.

It’s also important to acknowledge that there are fashions in dance which come and go. Quality survives - fashion doesn’t.

Obviously people in Australia have a different relationship to the art. Local performers initially find it difficult to develop the natural grace, posture and body line that comes from being brought up in Spain and dancing from an early age. Its not part of everyday life here and the natural reserve of Australians can constrain the emotional rawness which fuels flamenco making it initially difficult for students to express themselves.

As a performer I always try to convey the purity and tradition of flamenco in my performances as well as mixing in something new and fresh. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Because we’re not surrounded by the same influences as flamenco artists in Spain, the challenge is to keep abreast of what is happening over there as well as looking to local influences which can work in flamenco.

One cliched image I would like to put to rest and never hear again, is that flamenco works best in a ‘cabaret’ type atmosphere. I hear and read this all the time by people who have no idea and set themselves up as experts and whose ‘spanish’ experience has been limited to those tourist tablaos (commercial flamenco clubs) and 6 weeks in Spain. In Spain, tourists go to tablaos to see flamenco - locals, artists and aficionados go to theatres, festivals and penas (small locally supported, non-commercial flamenco clubs). The majority of flamenco performances are held by dance companies in theatre type venues where the public is not distracted by talking, getting drinks, eating, smoking etc. There are hundreds of intimate flamenco penas which have performances and when that happens, the majority of these venues are set up with concert seating. The bar is usually in another room or closed during the performance. This does not necessarily affect the intimacy and enjoyment of the show. Cabaret style can be good, its fun, but it is not always the best way to enjoy flamenco. Flamenco artists do not like people drinking, talking and smoking while they perform unless they’re in a bar, private house etc or holding an informal fiesta.

I have had the privilege of sitting in on numerous private and spontaneous fiestas where the flamenco has been intimate and magical - these are moments that are always different and could never be repeated on a stage. They are unplanned and usually held after performances. Two examples of these occurred during a festival when a visiting Spanish Dance Company was performing here. The first time was after a Fringe performance of my own Company when some of the visiting artists came to renew their acquaintance with me. We sat outside the venue and the fiesta slowly took on a momentum of its own with singing and dancing until we were asked to leave and consequently invited to a neighbouring restaurant to continue. The second time was a few days later after their own opening night of Carmen. That was entirely different as 50 artists descended on a local spanish restaurant at North Adelaide, launching immediately into song and dance till 4.30 am and the restaurant ran out of beer. It was a wild night.

Attending these private fiestas is not possible for the general public and it can just be a matter of luck if you come across an impromptu one. However, the performances artists put on a stage, whatever the seating arrangements, are the result of a lot of training and hard work and should never be underrated.


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