CULTURE

Straight from the soul: Maintaining the clarity of the art of flamenco

“In our art, the most important thing is to dance with your soul, to be yourself and not to get carried away by fame.» Somewhere in Andalusia, Spain, at the beginning of the 19th century, a group of Gypsy singers and dancers used the guitar and their hands to take us into the flaming world of duende through dancing, singing, guitar and vocals, soleares, alegrias, malaguenas, fandangos and rondenas. The dream is set to become reality as a two-day flamenco gala unfolds at the Lycabettus Theater on June 20 and 21. A unique fiesta of the senses, it will feature leading soloists, musicians and vocalists in a panorama of genuine Andalusian flamenco. Who are the protagonists? One is Antonio Canales: The celebrated dancer returns to Athens two years after his performance of «Torero» at the Lycabettus Theater. Juana Amaya is one of the most gifted, self-taught dancers of flamenco puro. If you’re destined to experience the art of flamenco only once in your life, Amaya is the one to see, say critics. «I dance with a free soul. When I start dancing, I don’t know where it’s going to lead me…» says Juan Fernandez Montoya, aka Farruquito, the 20-year-old flamenco sensation and grandson of legendary dancer Farruco. A few weeks before their Athenian performances, the three leading dancers answered a few questions for Kathimerini. What is the most important element of flamenco? Can the passion, the so-called «duende» be taught? Antonio Canales: Lots of different elements interact in a flamenco performance. Perhaps I could single out the feeling and the atmosphere created between the musicians and the dancers. As far as the duende is concerned, anyone who has anything to do with the world of flamenco knows all too well that we are talking about an idea which is hard to convey to someone else. The only thing you can do is to actually feel it. Juana Amaya: I think that the single most important element is rhythm. Duende cannot be taught. You either have it or you don’t. It’s peculiar and depends on all sorts of other things. It’s in the heart. Farruquito: It’s about clarity. Flamenco follows the heart as it beats. You can learn the method, but you must have the soul, or have been born in a flamenco environment. Could the magic of flamenco be lost when it is performed in a theater? Antonio Canales: Absolutely not. Perhaps some members of the audience feel that way, but during my career, I have had success in many theaters around the world and therefore I’m in a position to say so. Juana Amaya: Flamenco develops on stage, because of the magic’s venue. The relationship between the audience and the artists is very special. Farruquito: It could be lost, sometimes. It depends on the public as it depends on you. We usually sing and dance among our families and friends. It’s different when performing in front of 3,000 people. Do you believe that today, given the great number of performances and artists, the quality of the flamenco has declined? Antonio Canales: I think that nowadays there is a greater choice of shows. The most important thing is not to get off track and for all of us struggling to give flamenco its rightful position, to educate and offer our audiences quality performances. Juana Amaya: We must be very careful in order to maintain flamenco’s clarity. Farruquito: There is some sort of confusion. We must separate true flamenco artists from those who simply incorporate flamenco elements in their art. What you do you think of contemporary flamenco? Antonio Canales: All of us involved in flamenco understand the responsibility of coming up with new techniques and idioms. Personally, I always wanted to take such risks because art should never stop evolving. Juana Amaya: There is no such thing as «old» and «new» flamenco. There is only flamenco. What we now refer to as «contemporary flamenco» is a mix of various trends. It is something removed from the essence of flamenco and we ought to find another name for it! Farruquito: Flamenco is always the same. It’s about being natural, being spontaneous, about feelings. Isn’t that contemporary? Flamenco gala on June 20 and 21. For more information, call 210.921.3310 or log on to www.flamencofestival.gr.