Masterclass on how to combine education with tradition

There are people in the world, whose work makes a difference in other people’s lives. Today I want to talk about one of these people.

Ángeles Acedo López.

Ángeles is a psychologist in Marchena, Andalusia. 25 years ago she created ‘El Roete, Asociación Cultural’, a cultural association called “The Bun”. This non-profit organisation has two functions: 1) promoting flamenco 2) by using it as a tool in the social & emotional education of children aged between nursery and secondary school. The aim is to bring flamenco closer to children by showing them that it is not only an art form from the past, but it is vivid and alive! Through day to day examples, they bring flamenco to the children’s territory, and help them realise that flamenco is around them in all shape and form, even if they don’t know about it. A good example is Rosalía, who is popular among the youth, but they wouldn’t necessarily know that her songs from the album ‘Los Ángeles’ are versions of old flamenco songs. Through someone they know and like, they are introduced to flamenco artists and they learn about the art itself. Collaboration with local artists, like Dani de Morón, brings live music to the sessions, and at the same time, by simply discussing the places Dani goes on tour, children discover new countries and cities. The learning process is through someone who is familiar and close to them, without the constraints of a school class.

Teaching is done in various forms: in workshops, in the El Roete centre in Marchena, and on visits around Andalusia, where El Roete bring their different projects. Local artists often collaborate in these projects. The use of social media, like Facebook and Youtube is part of the communication channels, and exchange of ideas through them is encouraged between the participating children.

Besides the promotion of flamenco, they also use flamenco as a tool in the emotional education of children. Handling emotions is difficult, a map of emotions contains more than 300 types of different emotions. But when at the beginning of their sessions, children are asked how many emotion types they can identify, they mostly say two: happiness and sorrow. This can be greatly improved with these sessions and they can successfully name many more afterwards. Methods include recognising emotion types heard in the different songs or trying to associate feelings with the different ‘palos’ or song forms. However, the opposite direction is also used in teaching. With which ‘palo’ would you express this feeling? El Roete teach the younger generations about the different flamenco forms and what they are about. Children from bigger towns, like Seville, may find more familiar the urban song forms like alegrías or rumbas, and children from the countryside, may understand and enjoy better the abandolaos and fandangos originated in the villages. Sessions are always practical, never theoretical. Ángeles explains that rather than flamenco becoming a school subject, they prefer having flamenco as an extracurricular activity, so that it doesn’t become an obligation for the kids, something they have to prepare and study for.

Ángeles and her colleagues have also created a small competition around every fifth anniversary of the association, whereby people are asked to design a poster for El Roete, and winners are rewarded with small prizes.

I find absolutely fascinating what Ángeles and El Roete do. Education is key in the upbringing of children, but there is actually little or no time spent on social and emotional education. Doing this through their local tradition is extraordinary! They teach children about emotions and expressions via their local customs and traditions. Flamenco is present in Andalusia. Not everyone is interested or actually likes it, but everyone hears it in the radio, on concerts and festivals, on local events, parties and weddings, and possibly even listens to it at home. Children have a general idea about flamenco, and this is enhanced, further trained and used in their emotional education. There are many ways of promoting art, but there is nothing more future proof than introducing it to the younger generations and help them create their identity through their local history and traditions.

Combining education with tradition seems to me exceptionally brilliant.

I raise my hat to Ángeles and her crew.

Rocío Molina

Rocío Molina  deserves a post without any further explication.

Contemporary flamenco dancer, who “reinvented flamenco” – according to 1843 (the magazine of The Economist). I only decided to write about her now, when I heard her big news: she is expecting! Why is this relevant on a flamenco blog? Oh, for so many reasons. Before I explain, let’s talk a bit about who she is.

Rocío is a flamenco dancer from Málaga, born in 1984 to a former ballet dancer mom and a chef dad. At 17, she graduated with Honours at the Royal Dance Conservatory in Madrid and danced in professional flamenco companies for a while, including the one of María Pages, but soon started her solo career. She presented her first work “Among the walls”  (Entre paredes) at the age of 22, which was strongly criticised by the traditional flamenco world. This was followed by many more self-creations such as “Turquoise as a lemon” (Turquesa como el limón, 2006), “Old Gold” (Oro Viejo, 2008), “When stones fly” (Cuando las piedras vuelen, 2009), “Affections” (Afectos, 2012), “Ardora’s forest” (Bosque ardora, 2014), and “Fallen from Heaven” (Caida del Cielo, 2016). I was lucky to see a few of them in Spain and in London, in the Barbican; my absolute favourite being “Affections” with Rosario, La Tremendita (the favourite flamenco artist of my friend X.).

The first official recognition came in 2006 with the “Dancer of revelation” title from the critic “Flamenco Today” (Flamenco Hoy), and many other awards followed. Just to mention a couple: in 2008, she received the Giraldillo Award for Best Choreography and Best Dancer Award in the Seville Bienal, and in 2010, she received the Spanish National Award for Dance from the Ministry of Culture. More interestingly, after her performance of Old Gold in the New York City Center, Mikhail Baryshnikov kneeled before her at the door of her dressing room! And if this wasn’t enough, in 2017, the Spanish newspaper ‘El Mundo’ included her in their list of 50 most influential homosexuals in Spain.

My personal preference has always been the more traditional flamenco dance, but I have always said that the talent, innovation and courage of people like Rocío Molina and Israel Galván, have to be acknowledged and respected. They are geniuses of our times in a way, whether they are understood, accepted or liked…

If it’s possible to top all this,  she has done it with her latest creation, ‘Grito Pelao‘. This production is about maternity, becoming a mother – in this case, a single mother – with all the fears and excitement that this entails; it is also a tribute to women giving birth every single day, and an homage to life itself. People ask all sorts of questions: But isn’t she lesbian? And isn’t she single? Yes and yes, but does that really matter? Without going into her personal choices in life, I want to talk about this. We can talk about this, because she talks about it in her show, in her performance. Artists always say that their way of expressing themselves is in their art, therefore their creations will always be personal and unique(!). This latest show of Rocío is special, even exceptional. Not only because she dances while being pregnant. Obviously, you cannot compare, but I have also danced when I was expecting my daughter K. When one’s body is used to regular dancing, then dancing can be continued, having taken the obvious precautionary steps. It is not necessary to stop right away: the intensity can be lowered, the steps can be changed, the moves can be softened. In Rocío’s case, the jumps can be eliminated. This is what Rocío has done. She created this show, before actually getting pregnant, when she was dreaming about becoming a mother, and when she got pregnant, she adapted the show, so that she can continue dancing it.

I think it is special, exceptional and fascinating, because as a contemporary art production from a contemporary artist, it places into a contemporary scene the eternal topic of maternity. A gay single woman’s journey towards maternity makes us think about IVF and single parenthood. We may agree or not, we may like it or not, but this exists, now, in our lives, in the XXI. century. There are women who dream about becoming mothers, even if they are single; there are gay men and women, who dream about becoming parents, even if they don’t have a man or woman in their lives. And there is IVF: a solution for them and for many other “traditional” couples, who are having difficulties. But no one talks about this, or not much at least. Not even in modern, open London.

I do believe that the way forward is via communication and transparency in all areas of life. We talk about this at home with my husband, I talk about this on forums at work.

Now, I am not trying to open Pandora’s box and talk about something that I have no idea about. I just want to draw attention to people, like Rocío Molina, who are raising awareness, even if this is not their/her primary intention. Rocío is just expressing her feelings and her fears through the art she knows (and is so good at!), and I like that. Saying that, I have not seen the show (yet). I only read reviews, saw videos, heard flamenco critics and flamenco radio programs talk about it, heard Rocío, Lola and Silvia talk about it. In the production, besides the mother of Rocío, Lola Cruz, the singer Silvia Pérez Cruz and a 4th lady participate (I suppose a guitarist, but there was always a bit of secrecy in the interviews about this 4th person, so I am not 100% sure who she is). Considering the fact that Rocío is 7 months now, I may not see this production in its current shape and form, so I can only wish for one thing:

Long continue the career of Rocío, so we get to enjoy more of her spectacular creations!

Chapeau, mon amie.

Andalusia Flamenco

Is it a Hungarian tradition? A Catholic tradition? Or perhaps a Hungarian Catholic tradition? I am not entirely sure about the origin, but we most certainly go to the cemetery frequently, and bring flowers to our lost beloved ones. I grew up with this tradition and I find it a nice way of remembering our people. I also find comfort and piece in the process itself: going to the cemetery, buying flowers, refilling the vase with water, taking a walk under the big trees providing shadow on a sunny summer afternoon, while thinking of the person, whose tomb I am visiting. My memories are mostly from the cemetery in my hometown Szombathely, but in the past few years, I combined this tradition with my flamenco interest, and whenever we are in Spain visiting my in-laws, we take trips visiting Andalusian towns and it’s cemeteries. We walk around the town, looking for memories of the artists, have a coffee at the main square and visit the cemetery. I like getting to know the atmosphere of these little towns and villages, imagine the flamencos sitting at the same square, walking the same streets. It’s not only sightseeing but paying a visit/tribute to the flamenco artists, either alive or already passed away.

This is how I first went to San Fernando in Cádiz, to see the resting place of José Monje Cruz, or better known around the world as Camarón de la Isla (San Fernando is also known as ‘La Isla’, The Island). Camarón’s tomb is a piece of art. There is a massive statue above the grave, remembering Camarón at its best, singing. It felt special being there, in a small cemetery of a small town, somewhere in south Spain, and stand beside the memory of a flamenco legend, known all over the world for his voice and his revolution in flamenco. Cliché but true: music knows no borders. Felipe Benítez Reyes, the poet and this year’s ‘pregón’ of the Bienal of Flamenco, put this much nicer in his opening speech of the Bienal: “music makes us universal by allowing us to fly through space and time”.

Besides the cemetery, we also visited the Venta de Vargas, which is the restaurant outside San Fernando, where Camarón started singing as a boy. The place has not only kept its original function as a restaurant, but also serves as a museum of Camarón; full of his memories, fotos, cards and flamenco in the air. I recently heard that the Venta also participates in a festival organised in San Fernando, called ‘La Isla, Ciudad Flamenca’ (“The Island, City of Flamenco”). The festival celebrated its fifth edition this year, starting at the end of July with flamenco concerts throughout the whole month of August; the Venta de Vargas being one of the locations.

Throughout the years, we have visited many places in Andalusia: Cádiz, Jerez de la Frontera, Chipiona, Utrera, Lebrija, Algeciras, Granada. Nothing compares to a coffee on the streets of Utrera, a vermut in la Plazuela in Jerez, or a ‘pescaito frito’ (fried fish) in Cádiz.

Next stop: Morón de la Frontera!

The finishing thought is a quote from the singer, David Lagos. I came across this quote on the photo blog of Rubén Camacho, whose day job is lighting technician in theatres and festivals, and he has a photo blog. The post on David starts with this thought that connects here brilliantly:

“In singing, the cemetery is a must visit, but never a place to live.”

La Bienal de Flamenco 2018

LaBienal3

The summer of 2018 will always be remembered in the UK for its exceptional weather: temperature above 30 degrees for long weeks without rain, wind or any disturbing factor. They called it “extended heatwave”. I call it my best summer in London. We have spent every single day outside, in parks, gardens, on the English seaside, bathing in the sea(!), having a brilliant time. There was clearly no time for blog writing. Now, with autumn around the corner, I am back. The days are shorter, more time is spent inside again, in front of screens. So what better topic to come back with, than the Bienal of Flamenco! Although summer is over, there is nothing to be sad about, the Bienal is just starting!

As it’s name suggests, the Bienal is a flamenco festival organised bi-annually, in Seville. It started in 1979 and with time, it has grown into one of the biggest (if not the biggest) flamenco festivals in Spain, celebrating its XX. edition this year. It provides an excellent opportunity for singers, dancers and guitarists, be world famous or only at the start of their career, to present their latest creations in the different theatres of Seville throughout the month of September. Artists representing the pure, more traditional flamenco perform side by side with the artists representing a more innovative, new flamenco.

In recent years, the festival started to invite artists to prepare a choreography for a flashmob, which opens the Bienal. This is distributed well in advance, so everyone can learn the steps and dance along the people in Seville. This year’s choreography is from dancer Jose Galán, and it draws our attention to the importance of diversity, inclusion and tolerance. The flashmob will actually be performed by the statue of tolerance.

Throughout September, the theatres of Seville fill up with flamenco ‘aficionados’, fans of flamenco from all over the world, and the air is filled with ‘compás‘, the rhythm of flamenco. If you ever have the chance to go, do not hesitate for a moment. Go and enjoy the gathering of flamencos, the late night concerts and the special atmosphere of the Bienal!

The festival finishes with the distribution of the ‘Giraldillo’. This is the award of the festival given in various categories (singing, dancing, guitar, best show, best moment, best choreography, innovation etc.) and it is regarded as a prestigious reward within the flamenco world.

The website has the full programme and updates are posted on all social media (worth to check out, especially if one cannot be there…):

Instagram

YouTube

Facebook

Twitter

If I had the time and money, I would probably go to every single show and spend the entire month in Seville : going from show to show, enjoying the late nights and the farewell to summer amid the smell of the orange trees in the Alameda. But until the time arrives of me having time and money, here is my “shortlist” for the 2018 Flamenco Bienal of Seville:

7 Sept – Israel Galván: Arena

9 Sept – Inés Bacán & Niño de Gines: Cien años de arte

9 Sept – Patrícia Guerrero: Distopía

10 Sept – Argentina: Hábitat

11 Sept – José Valencia: Bashavel

12 Sept – Lebrija, Luna Nueva. Al arte de su vuelo. XX. edición

13 Sept – Flamencos de la tacita. Al arte de su vuelo. XX. edición

14 Sept – Alfredo Lagos: Sonanta Club

14 Sept – El Granaíno: Granaíno Jondo

16 Sept – María Terremoto: La huella de mi sentío

17 Sept – Compañía Mercedes Ruiz: Tauromagia

18 Sept – Tomasito & Gipsy rappers

18-19 Sept – Rocio Molina& Sílvia Pérez Cruz: Grito pelao

19 Sept – Compañía de Israel Galván con Pastora Galván: La edad de oro

19 Sept – Tomás de Perrate: Soleá sola

20 Sept – Rafael Rodríguez: Dejándome llevar

20 Sept – La savia del tronco “Utrera”

20 Sept – Bolita Big Band: Caótico

21 Sept – David Carmona: Un sueño de locura

21 Sept – Compañía María Pagés: Una oda al tiempo

22 Sept – Santiago Lara: Una guitarra de dos caras

22 Sept – Tomatito: Viviré

23 Sept – Antonio Rey & Diego del Morao: Guitarras de Jerez

23 Sept – Leonor Leal: Nocturno

25 Sept – María Moreno: De la concepción

26 Sept – David Lagos: Hodierno

27 Sept – Tía Juana La del Pipa, Remedios Amaya, Juana Amaya: Gitanas. Al arte de su vuelo. XX. edición

27 Sept – La Moneta: Granada solo tiene salida por las estrellas

28 Sept – Ana Morales: Sin permiso

28 Sept – Rosalía: Rosalía

29 Sept – Compañía Eva Yerbabuena: Cuentos de azúcar

29 Sept – Isabel Bayón: Yo soy

30 Sept – Nano de Jerez & Anabel Valencia: Cien años de arte

30 Sept – Dorantes: La roda del viento (with the one and only Javi Ruibal!)

Global world with global responsibility

Migration and immigration have recently become burning issues all over the world, even though they are not new topics. People have always been moving around the world in smaller or bigger numbers, from south to north or east to west, for one reason or another.

The books about the history of flamenco talk about the different possible routes how the gipsies – originally from India – reached Andalusia. Via land through Turkey and Europe or via land and sea, through Africa and through the Mediterranean. This was the first major migration relating to the people of flamenco and at that time, they were not even called flamencos yet, they were just people moving in the world. After this journey, as the gipsies settled down in Andalusia and their culture mixed with the locals and the local traditions, flamenco evolved and surged.  Throughout history, people of flamenco had to leave their homes many times in the search of a better life (and mostly simply for survival). Famous example of migration is the one around the Spanish Civil war. Lots of people, including the flamencos, left Andalusia when the Spanish Civil war started, and many of them settled down in Catalonia. They are called ‘charnegos’ in Spanish. Flamenco examples of the people leaving Spain in 1936, at the start of the Spanish Civil, are Carmen Amaya, the gipsy dancer from Barcelona and Sabicas, the gipsy guitarist from Pamplona. During the ’30’s and ’40’s they first toured together South & Central America, then the United States, and while Carmen Amaya returned to Spain a decade later, in 1947, Sabicas settled in New York permanently, and didn’t even visit his native Spain until 1967.

Sometimes, circumstances of life force us give up our current lives. Be it a desired change, or not! No one can be blamed for fleeing war or poverty, or for wanting to have a better life for themselves and for their children.

Some of us were lucky to be born in a country where there is no war or poverty, and some of us even had the luck of having parents who wanted and could care for us. But not everybody. Turning away from these people, building fences and walls, separating children from their parents, is not the solution. Over the past decades, the world has become global. We know now what’s happening around the world, because technology allows us to have connection and communication with distant parts of the world, not to mention the possibility of travelling there.

This is why I strongly believe that we should all realise that the responsibility is also global! The ones in a better position must help the ones in need.

After all, we are all humans.

Londro – Yo vengo de Hungría

(The song is a mariana sang by a singer from Jerez, his name is El Londro and he sings “I come from Hungary with my caravan searching for life”. The original was sung by Bernardo de los Lobitos, but I really like this version too. Interesting to think that the song could be about me, as well.)

Farewell

First I found notes on the community wall in English, then we met by the lift, chatted a few times, and soon after, we were having a coffee or beer together every afternoon. In the mornings I was doing my internship, in the afternoons I was supposed to be writing my thesis to finish my degree, so I had plenty of time…

She told me about Derby, the university she used to work for, how she moved to Budapest after she retired and her son got married to a Hungarian girl. I even remember when Luna was born. We talked a lot about Millie and Ebony, her beloved dogs; how she was learning Hungarian and trying to find her place in a new life. Oh and her delicious shepherd’s pie…

My friend, Jean.

I only realise now how we belong to different generations and although I believe death is part of nature, the news deeply shocks me.

I say goodbye with flamenco, with a tribute from one great flamenco singer, El Torta to another one, Luis de Pica. Interesting how the tribute is not a sad toned song but a tango, full of rhythm and life. This is also how I want to remember my friend.

Jean, good-bye.

Journey to heaven   (‘Viaje al cielo’)

‘Hola, qué tal?’

As a child, I learned German, English and French and by the time I went to university, I thought I had done my fair share of studying foreign languages, and should get along comfortably with my languages in the world. How wrong I was…….All I needed, was to fall in love with a boy from the south of Spain, and it started all over again. I took one semester of Spanish in university, just out of curiosity, and it proved to be very helpful knowing at least ‘Hola, qué tal?’ (Hello, how are you?) when I arrived to Spain. Despite my basics in Spanish and all my foreign language knowledge, it felt like being in China at first. I didn’t understand a word, could only catch some ‘pero’s and ‘porque’s, but’s and because’s (“but” most certainly with one ‘t’!).

Living and working in Spain I quickly realised, how much the Spanish appreciate when you try to learn their language. So I did. After the first difficult 6 months, little by little I could understand and speak more and more. Spanish is easy at the beginning, it gets difficult at more advanced levels, when you want to use the correct past sense, when you want to use ‘subjuntivo’ and so on. Until then, it’s quite easy to make progress and start conversing. A book of phrases & expressions would definitely help everyone, because they use so many of them in everyday conversations, one never stops learning new ones!

And how does all this connect to my flamenco blog? Let me explain.

Flamenco comes from the south of Spain originally. There are theories about the gipsy origin, the Andalusian origin, the mix of the two, but at the end of the day everyone agrees that flamenco is an integral part of the culture and tradition of Andalusia and therefore of Spain.

Learning Spanish helps understanding not only the lyrics of the songs, but everything surrounding. Because flamenco is not only the music, songs and lyrics, but a lifestyle! I’m afraid I will never even grasp half of what the flamenco lifestyle means or especially what it meant in the past, but understanding the language brought me one step closer to it. I am reading “A way of life” from Donn Pohren and I really enjoy his description of the flamenco lifestyle in Morón de la Frontera in the 1960’s, where he and his wife ran a flamenco centre.

Understanding what the songs talk about, being able to talk to the artists or to the people, who live flamenco every day, is fascinating! I think one can get closer to flamenco by understanding Spanish. I remember telling my friend, P. (who is a flamenco guitarist/drummer) the same thing, and him responding, there is nothing to understand, only feel the music.

So you decide. Do you need to understand or just enjoy?

‘Yo me quedo en Sevilla’

‘Abrázame’

‘Que nadie vaya a llorar’