Writings and essays about flamenco

Category — Flamenco Dancer Pepe Torres

Flamenco Dancer Pepe Torres Speaks From the Heart – translation and comments by Brook Zern

Translator’s note: I can’t seem to find the publication that carried the following comments by the brilliant flamenco dancer Pepe Torres, but I did find my translation of it. In an eloquent statement, rendered far less elegant in my translation, Pepe speaks from the heart about the price of honesty and integrity.

“Today I’d like to say a few words…

For more than 20 years, I’ve been leaving my heart, my kidneys and part of my liver on the world’s stages. I’ve crossed from the West Coast of the U.S. to the island of Japan, by way of the small Spanish town of El Coronil, with all the jindama [hassles/ anxiety] that the airlines give to flamenco artists.

From childhood I’ve known that in this profession, you can be at a local town fair one day and at New York’s Lincoln Center the next. Modesty aside, I’ve sometimes left audiences amazed, while at other times I’ve just done what was expected of me, because that’s the way art is.

No one has ever given me anything; I’ve been in flamenco tablaos, trying to make sure that my heart never turns me into a mere functionary of the art. In short, doing no more nor less than my compañeros, but to arrive at this point…to feel the warmth and respect of a certain part of the public, and the affection of my compañeros… has been a long road of effort and dedication. And I’ll keep fighting and enjoying this road if God gives me health…but after seeing what I’ve seen, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that the purer the song or guitar playing or dance of an artist, the hungrier that artist will be.

Its disheartening, but when all is said and done, I have the happiness of knowing that I never sold myself, I never sold out, and I never will, just to get to the top of a discouraging world of marketing. And the pride of knowing that all I am today is a person who is aware of the meaning of Flamenco, the meaning of Andalucía, the meaning of respect. I’ve acquired this through my struggles and experiences, and without anyone’s help. So please pardon the sin sabor [unpleasant taste] of these words, but it’s one thing to be famous and another thing to be a good artist through and through.”

End of Pepe’s statement

Translator’s note: Pepe, all flamenco aficionados owe you a debt of gratitude for sharing your art so generously in these difficult times. I consider you, along with Farruquito, to be the crucial guardian of the finest strain of masculine dance. You are a living repository of flamenco art – not just dance, but as embodiment of the entire flamenco realm.

In my years of visiting and living in Morón, it was your grandfather Joselero whose superb singing I heard most often. He was a wonderful artist and a wonderful and generous person.

He was almost always accompanied by his brother-in-law Diego del Gastor. On the guitar, I’ve tried to capture Diego’s elusive power and feeling ever since; you achieve that glorious goal better than anyone I’ve heard. To me, that puts your little-known guitar playing practically on a par with your internationally acclaimed dancing.

When I witness your dance, I feel enveloped by flamenco itself. Today, the word “pure” that you use with such evident pride is under pressure from many talented artists who consider it meaningless or outmoded. Their novel approaches often reflect a desire to find greater self-expression at the expense of flamenco’s traditional constraints that keep the art firmly centered. I admire some of them, and may even consider their work to be worthy of the honorific “flamenco”.

Some follow that path because it reflects the changing demands of the marketplace in our modern world. You have chosen to follow the path of most resistance, marketing be damned. That’s why we are indebted to you in your struggle to present flamenco that is always very flamenco, always close to the bone.

When I want to explain what flamenco dance should look like, I just refer people to you.

Brook Zern

April 5, 2017   3 Comments

Flamenco Dancer Pepe Torres – Review in Crónicas Flamencas – translated by Brook Zern

Morón 2008

Pepe in Morón, 2008

Translator’s note:  Here’s a review from today’s Crónicas Flamencas website, describing the art of the brilliant dancer Pepe Torres of Morón.  It correctly compares Pepe’s extraordinary artistry to that of the greatest dancer I and so many others ever saw, the legendary El Farruco, and another of the art’s top ten, Rafael el Negro.

 

(It also makes a savvy and respectful reference to Pepe’s grandfather Joselero, the fine singer whom I heard most often while living in Morón and studying guitar with his brother-in-law Diego del Gastor).

Surrendering to the deep power of Pepe Torres’ flamenco dance

We live in a time when flamenco dance is taking different artistic directions: adapting distinct schools of dance to flamenco, making theatrical productions that try to channel certain messages, and in general becoming divorced from its primitive aesthetic.  And that strikes me as just fine; art is movement – never more appropriate than in this case – and it can be necessary to seek other sources to feed its evolution.  But with all these evolutions and devolutions, I note a certain lack of flamenco truth, of flamenco essence, of that characteristic perfume that flamenco must have and that, as I’ve said, has become all too scarce.

Fortunately, there are always people who take charge of maintaining the form, the personality and the character of this deep and serious art.  Pepe Torres, from Morón, is a clear example of this.  He was charged with bringing flamencura – the heart and soul of flamenco – to the Círculo Flamenco de Madrid, that filled out its programming with the only element that had been lacking: the dance.

Pepe’s dance distills flamenco-ness and essence.  And that’s what stood out during his performance in Las Tablas de Madrid.   For the occasion, he brought with him an outstanding group: the singers David El Galli and José Méndez and the guitarist Eugenio Iglesias.  Pepe’s humility is evident in his productions, where he always cedes a major role to his people, so one can enjoy the song, guitar and dance both separately and together.

Pepe Torres represents the elegance and masculinity of today’s flamenco dance.  In his movement one recognizes diverse aesthetic elements, but above all the style of El Farruco and Rafael El Negro.  His school has been his environment, his family – and it shows.  The spontaneity of the Gypsy whose apprenticeship begins in his mother’s womb, and in whose veins runs the blood of artists.  If there is anything the best defines his grandfather, the singer Joselero de Morón, it is the exquisite taste he had in simply pronouncing his words.  Pepe has inherited this, the simplicity with taste.  Starting with this premise, he develops his deep and emotive dance without banal adornments, alone with his personal truth.

With a public hungering for serious flamenco, Pepe Torres began the recital dancing his intensely flamenco bulerías as if he was in a family gathering.  Then Eugenio’s guitar came in behind David and José for the tarantos that changed to tientos.  After those sketches, it was time to bring on the steamroller song.  José Méndez was in charge of the soleá, and how well he delivered, slowly but with great taste and knowledge.  To close the first half, the man from Morón  danced an alegrías and a bulerías de Cádiz, to which he brought elegant porte (carriage) and gracia (flair, stylish charm).

As is becoming normal, and unlike the world of cinema, sequels are always good.  The artists come back on stage hot and ready, and things went flawlessly.  Eugenio played a granainas that gave way to a soul-stripping, grief-stricken siguiriyas de Jerez sung by David El Galli, who fought courageously to reveal the essence of the song .  Then, adding to the audience’s sense of tragedy, Pepe mounted the stage for his signature dance, the soleá.  His instinctive grasp and respect for that song and all its meaning make Pepe Torres’ interpretation one of the indispensable reference points for understanding the significance of this style within the realm of dance.  And – how could it be otherwise? – the evening concluded as it had begun, with a bulerías, pulsing with rhythm but this time with all the aficionados fully satiated with moving art.

End of review:  The original is at:

http://cronicasflamencas.blogspot.com/2014/03/rendidos-la-jondura-bailaora-de-pepe.html

March 14, 2014   No Comments

Singer José Valencia and Dancer Pepe Torres at the 2014 Nimes Flamenco Festival – deflamenco.com report by Estela Zatania – translated by Brook Zern

Flamenco’s Geographic and Human “Interior”

Thursday’s flamenco schedule at the Nimes Festival began with a noontime conference by our friend José Manuel Gamboa about France’s contribution to flamenco, a history of French fascination with the art in the Nineteenth Century when it was rejected within Spain.  As Gamboa explained, and as is verified every year in Nimes, those early links have never been broken.

At night in the theater, it was the turn of the best of Morón de la Frontera and Lebrija, two indispensable elements in the flamenco axis centered on Seville, each town with its special and unmistakable perspective.  If the Morón scene was dominated by the relaxed aire of Diego del Gastor’s “cuerda pelá” or stripped-down guitar, Lebrija was propelled by the intensity and urgency of the flamenco of Jerez and Cádiz.  That’s the source of the musical personality of singer José Valencia.  A still-young yet mature singer, who is striving to open a professional path as headline in the art after decades singing as part of the finest dance companies, unwavering in his defense of classic flamenco song.  No ditties, no bouncy pop.  (Ni temitas ni temitas.)

The winner of the Giraldillo al Cante prize at Seville’s last flamenco Bienal as well as on two earlier wins for cante accompaniment of dancers and as the Revelation prize for new talent, he was accompanied by the Malaga guitarist Juan Requena, who received the Giraldillos prize for Song Accompaniment.  With his first recording now two years old, and another in preparation, and with the admiration of his colleagues as well as aficionados, Manuel Valencia is now at his finest professional phase.

His appearance onstage was met with clamorous applause. And soon that big, round and flamenco voice filled the air with cantiñas with the distinctive flavor of Lebrija.  In the soleá, he started well, but suddenly something went wrong with his throat that resisted an easy resolution.   With great musical expertise, Valencia sought out less brilliant tones and less demanding song styles, saving the situation thanks to his knowledge and professionalism.  The free-rhythm malagueñas leading into the rhythmic or abandolao version went well.  In the siguiriyas, the instability of his  throat gave an added touch of warmth to José’s normally Pavarottian singing.  He then decided to take a real chance [cortar por lo sano] with a marathon round of bulerías, out front and alone before the possible danger, with no other accompaniment than the discreet handclaps of Juan Diego Valencia and Manuel Valencia, and the muted knocking of Requena on his guitar.  The singer loosened his necktie and spoke into the mike: “I don’t want to defraud you.  I’m going to die right here!”  He then launched into a series of classic bulerías with great taste and gusto, and some semi-danced touches; even his vocal chords obeyed, and with those bulerías all the rest would have been too much.  Animated, José Valencia rounded off this difficult recital with a martinete in the style of Antonio Mairena.

After a rest, we returned to our seats to receive a outburst of Moronism though the art of Pepe Torres and his group.

Morón de la Frontera has produced a surprising number of dancers, of whom the maximum present-day example is Pepe Torres.  His work is held in high esteem by aficionados because despite his youth, he conserves the art of the older generation, not as a museum-bound relic but by giving new life and validity to the approaches of El Farruco, Rafael el Negro, Pepe Ríos, Paco Valdepeñas, Antonio el Marsellés and even el Gineto de Cádiz, all reflected in his dance.

Pepe, polyfaceted as he is, added the beautiful touch of opening with his rendition of siguiriyas on guitar, an homage to his granduncle Diego del Gastor.  He then danced to the tonás and the siguiriyas, with an interlude for a vocal and guitar rendition of the tarantas.

His danced alegrías is one of the high points of the recital, done to the song of Luís Moneo, Moi de Morón, Guillermo Manzano and David el Galli, and the immense guitars of Paco Iglesias and Antonio Moya.

A solo rendition of the sung tientos tangos, and afterwards the soleá, the form most closely identified with the Morón locale, and a long and tasty finale por bulerías.  Pepe then called José Valencia and his group, and it all ended up in a classical fin de fiesta to the delight of the audience.

End of article by Estela Zatania in deflamenco.com  The original is seen at:

http://www.deflamenco.com/revista/resenas-actuaciones/jose-valencia-pepe-torres-festival-flamenco-de-nimes-2014-1.html#.UtoV1OD0DoB

January 17, 2014   1 Comment