Writings and essays about flamenco

Category — Flamenco Dancer Manuela Carrasco

Manuela Carrasco: “The Pure Flamenco Dance Is Gone Forever” – Interview by Rosalía Gómez – translated by Brook Zern

From Diario de Sevilla, March 19, 2014

Manuela Carrasco “The Pure Flamenco Dance Is Gone Forever”

Translator’s note:  The countless people and institutions working to change the flamenco dance to something newer, fresher and better have triumphed at last.  All over the world, spectacular productions on themes of Greek tragedy or the seasons or the architecture of Oscar Neimeyer are drawing huge audiences.

But such a total victory can cause collateral damage.  And in this case, according to la diosa, the loss – unlamented by today’s consumers of culture – is pure flamenco.

Here are the words of the greatest “bailaora” [female flamenco dancer ] of our age:  Read it and celebrate if you love everything new, avant-garde and trendy.  Read it and weep if you love flamenco.

“El baile puro se ha ido para siempre”

The artist from Seville, with the National Prize for Dance and the Medalla de Andalucía, returns to the Lope de Vega theater this weekend with “Suspiros Flamencos”, one of her most applauded spectacles

By Rosalía Gómez

Next Friday, along with springtime, there will arrive at Seville’s Lope de Vega Theater Manuela Carrasco, the genuine representative of a dance that is disappearing due to the transformation of the culture that has sustained and nourished it.  A dance of inspiration that this woman from Triana, who holds the Medal of Andalucía, has brought to stages for almost 45 years – she worked at Mariquilla’s tablao in Torremolinos at the age of ten – and through which she has earned endless honors, among them the 2007 National Prize for Dance [Danza – the dance as a whole, not merely flamenco] – as well as the unofficial titles of the ”Goddess” and the “Empress” of flamenco dance.

Following the premiere in the last Bienal de Sevilla, Carrasco returns with one of her most requested spectacles, Suspiros Flamencos (which debuted in 2009), a recital in which she’ll be accompanied by her usual musicians as well as those she calls the niños (kids): the dancers Rafael de Carmen, El Choro and Oscar de los Reyes.

Q:  Paco de Lucía felt panic when he played in Seville because there were always a hundred guitarists in the audience.  What does it mean for you to be dancing in your native turf?

A:  I love dancing in Seville, although it scares me, too.  I know a lot of dancers are coming to see me; I realize that I’m an artist’s artist [artista de artistas].  But like every responsible artist, I respect the public in general, in any venue.  Every time I go onstage is like a premiere for me.

Q:  What do you think of when you’re about to go onstage?

A:  I always ask God to light me up so I can give the public my best – to show them brilliance [genialidad], although when  the lights go down, the truth is that I don’t see anyone at all.  I’m alone.

Q:  How would you define yourself as an artist?

A:  I’m a woman who lives by the flamenco dance (baile) and for the flamenco dance.  Goyo Montero told me that there are two very different women inside me:  One who is above the stage, and the other who’s below it.  In my daily life I’m a very simple person; I cook, I like to be with my family, I ask for people’s opinions about everything I do…Onstage, on the other hand, I am responsible for my art, demanding of myself, and aware of the fact that I am not like the other artists; I am the representative of a flamenco dance that is ending (que se acaba).

Q:  That’s something that has been said for a century or more.  Antonio Mairena, for example, said that authentic song would die with him, and look how many major figures have emerged since then.  Do you really believe that el baile de raíz (dance with roots) is dying?  Don’t you go the the theater to see the young artists?

A:  Pure flamenco dance is gone forever.  I don’t go to the theater often because I always leave angry.  Today the majority of young people want to dance like Israel Galván.  And I took Israel into my troupe and I know well what that boy is capable of.  But who among today’s young people is still dancing pure flamenco?  Farruquito, and very few others.  I don’t deny the merit of today’s dancers.  And more than that, I admire their execution, their speed, their professionalism, their capacity to spend seven hours a day in a studio, to do turns like a spinning top and just eat up the stage; but flamenco puro, the art, is something else.  The art exists, but you have to slow or stop yourself to find it.  The hardest thing is to find your own language without taking away its virtues [sin desvirtuarlo].  In any case, to avoid seeming negative, I’ll say that today I’m noting an upturn [un repunte]; that is to say that there are more people doing true flamenco than there were 8 or 10 years ago.

Q:  In all your biographies, it’s said that you are self-taught.

A:  That’s true.  No one taught me to dance, though of course I saw a lot of artists.  Since I was little, I wanted to be like Carmen Amaya.  I say here movie “Los Tarantos” in a neighborhood theater with my girlfriends and since then she has been a model for me.  When I was 13 or 14, I remember that my father – also a dancer – corrected some of my postures and gave me advice, but my dance has always been my own and no one else’s.  It’s also a fact that from the beginning, I’ve always been at the side of great artists and loved to watch them.  In the tablao La Cochera, for example, I was there with the trio Los Bolecos, and to me, El Farruco seemed to be the greatest; and also Rafael el Negro and Matilde Coral.

Q:  Was it Farruco who showed you how to stop time with your arms.

A:  No, this I learned on my own.  He had a different way of dancing.

Q:  Compared to other artists of your generation, you don’t seem anchored to the past, and you try to adapt yourself to the times.  You’ve even chosen to be directed by people as distinct as Ortíz Nuevo, Jesús Quintero and Pepa Gamboa.  Has your dance also  evolved over the course of your career?

A:  Of course.  I know that I don’t dance now like I did 25 years ago, that I don’t have the potencia (power) I did then, but that what I’ve lost in power I’ve gained in wisdom and in majesty.  And the ilusión (the drive, the dream) is the same as ever.

Q:  You have four grandchildren now, and a lot of turns in your body.  Have you sometimes thought of retiring?

A:  No, not now, because I feel good; I get up each morning and go to practice and I always have some project in my head.  With myself I’m the most sincere person in the world, and the day I no longer see myself with the requisite faculties for being onstage, I’ll leave, without any doubts.

Q:  For many years, you’ve been sharing your life and the stage with the guitarist Joaquín Amador,  your husband and the father of your daughters Samara and Manuela.  What has Joaquín meant to your career?

A:  Joaquín is the best thing that has happened to me in my life.  He’s a great guitarist, a great musician and his music has let me open up my mind.  We argue a lot in rehearsals, but I realize that I don’t often seem old or outmoded thanks to him and his music.

Q:  Has the tremendous economic crisis we’re living through affected figures of the first category like you?  And what do you think must be done to get out of this situation?

A:  Of course it has affected me.  Each time there are fewer galas and everyone pays late and pays badly.  I think we’re living through one of the worst moments in history and to fight it I’d ask the politicians to support artists and, above all, that they make it possible for everyone – artists and the people in the street – to have a job and  a worthwhile (digna) life.  There are poor people who are going through terrible times.

Q:  After your appearance in the Lope de Vega you’ll start preparing the big production that you plan to present in the Maestranza Theater during the next Seville Bianal.  In it, and following in the footsteps of Camarón, El Chocolate, Pansequito and El Pele, it will be Miguel Poveda who sings the soleares [Carrasco's signature dance] for you.

A:  Yes, God willing, although we haven’t been able to start rehearsing because he’s on tour.  I would like to create some new dances and I hope everything comes out marvelously well, the same as the coming 21st  and 22nd at the Lope, because the most satisfying thing for an artist is that the public goes home content.

End of interview by Rosalía Gómez


March 19, 2014   No Comments