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.