Carmen Cortés
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"Even though I might bring it up-to-date, I'm very
respectful of
the long
behind it"



Interview with Carmen Cortés, dancer and choreographer:

"Maturity leads you to behave in a more
sensible way and to feel more self-assured"

Carmen Jiménez. Madrid, May 2003
Translation: Gary Cook

True to her ideal of keeping the roots of flamenco alive and well, bailaora Carmen Cortés presents her latest production 'También muere el mar', in which the Catalan artists dances to poems written by the 'Generación del 27', a school of twentieth century Spanish poets. The poets to whom she pays homage in this show are Federico García Lorca, Emilio Prados, Jorge Guillén, Gerardo Diego, Manuel Altolaguirre, Rafael Alberti and Luis Cernuda. But the project is more than a mere tribute to this well-known generation of poets, and the experiences they shared in common. It's a showcase of the passion for freedom of expression passed down by flamenco's ancestry, and at the same time bridges the gap between tradition and the vanguard. "The poets who belonged to the 'Generación del 27' were at the cutting-edge, but they always transmitted their love for their culture, their people, and that's an idea I've tried to revive, to try and present the very essence of flamenco".


Carmen Cortés

Carmen Cortés presented her fourteenth production, 'También muere el mar', (Even the sea dies) at the Emociona! Mujer de Madrid festival on March 23rd 2003. The show, which had been premièred a few days before at the Berlin Opera House as part of a joint project named 'Magia de Maestros', is based around passages penned by poets from the 'Generación del 27'. According to the dancer, this is an attempt to take to the stage "flamenco in its purest form" and to this end she's drawn on the values and sentiments of a group of poets whose work and indeed whose very lives were marked by the tragedy of a war and the desolation of exile.

One of these artists in particular has had a profound impact on Carmen Cortés's professional career: Federico García Lorca. In fact, in 1995 the Catalan dancer and choreographer staged 'A Federico', a ballet which highlights the image of flamenco which so captivated Lorca. Later on, and under the direction of Nuria Espert, she presented a dance production of Lorca's 'Yerma', where flamenco provides the framework within which the story is told, by musicians, dancers and actors. And this is a formula the bailaora has opted for again in her latest project. Her fascination with the poet from Granada comes, according to the dancer, "from the passion he always showed for freedom of expression". The artist makes clear, though, that 'También muere el mar' (a line from Lorca's 'Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias') isn't a production about Lorca: "It's true that some poets, like Lorca or Alberti, are easier to adapt, but in this project I'm using all of the poets to the same degree".

'Tres Canciones' by Emilio Prados, 'El descaminado', by Jorge Guillén, 'Romance del Duero' by Gerardo Diego, 'Cita hacia dentro', by Emilio Prados, and 'Pueblo' by García Lorca are just some of the poems adapted here. As Carmen Cortés points out, in general the production centers around traditional styles of dance. "We begin with tientos and the familiar bata de cola dress - all very traditional - then continue with a seguiriya, which allows for a much freer type of dance, and for which we use a much lighter dress to show all the joy radiating from the body". But the fantasy, color and joyfulness of the dance and the costume gives way to colder, more somber tones later in the show. This happens with the portrayal of the moment in which the poets are exiled, "where the drums and contrabass come into their own. That's the point when we change to a colder, more austere wardrobe, with almost a religious air, in order to reenact the moment when the poets are forced to abandon their homeland and embark on a quest for their own identities". Between scene changes, cantaores Guadiana and Eva Durán offer a rendition of the Jorge Guillén poem 'El Descaminado', adapted to the rhythm of a taranto, and some verses by Emilio Prados sung as a vidalita. The show ends with a soleá, "where the costume is simply magnificent".


Carmen Cortés

In 'También muere el mar' Carmen Cortés has brought together a team of artists very dear to her. The artist freely shows her pride at the warm reception the show has enjoyed, and she feels satisfied, above all that she works with a "very well-integrated" group. And she adds that "there's a very good mutual understanding among all of us, and the whole group has a clear idea of what we're aiming at and the things we want to put across. Teamwork is something I'm used to". The production features the work of contrabassist Pablo Martín and drummer Marc Miralta, "whose contributions to the show have been essential in capturing the moment of exile and the transformation which the poetry undergoes as these poets are forced to abandon Spain". As for guitarist Jesús del Rosario, who composed the music for the project, she highlights "an incredible sensitivity" of expression. "And besides that there's always been an indubitable link between the two of us".

When it comes to explaining how theater, dance and music fit together in the project, Cortés casts her mind back to the days when she was starting out on stage, under the watchful eye of Mario Maya, "whose teaching has deeply affected me, and has always filtered through to my work. For all of my shows I always spent some time researching, salvaging what I can from the history books and from our ancestors, and my knowledge of the theater's always come in handy there".

In the pipeline

Looking to the future, she's preparing a new production with her own company based on Esquilo's play 'Las Suplicantes', adapted by Gerardo Vera. But among the Catalan bailaora's most ambitious projects, "looking to the future", is the creation of a foundation together with her husband, guitarist Gerardo Núñez. Under her and her husband's joint names, she hopes to create what will eventually be seen as a reference point for future flamenco professionals. She will be in charge of teaching dance, while her husband will take charge of the musical side of things. With this project she aims to make at least a small contribution to the struggle to save flamenco from losing sight of its origins. The Catalan dancer is dismayed by the lack of awareness nowadays with regard to flamenco and its roots. "That's the very reason I've chosen the purest forms of flamenco, and even though I might bring it up-to-date, I'm very respectful of the long tradition behind it". As part of her battle to defend the roots of flamenco, she gives courses overseas: "Outside of Spain, paradoxically, there's a greater curiosity about flamenco and the origins of its movements". During the Easter Holy Week vacation she's giving a one-week course in Munich, and in July another in Dresden - both cities in Germany. She'll also be giving her regular July flamenco courses in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, for the twelfth year now.

And her creative talent has served the same ends since the bailaora and choreographer took her first production 'Acontraluz' to the stage in 1988. From that moment to this, Carmen Cortés's artistic career has been characterized by an increasing maturity. "All of my productions have left their mark, and in a way that leads you to behave in a more sensible way and to feel more self-assured, which gives you a greater capacity for improvisation". And that's come through gradually in her work: in 'Memoria del cobre', in 'Cantoblepas', in 'Las Furias', in 'El amor brujo', in 'Los Gabrieles', in 'A Federico', in 'Yerma', in 'Salomé', in 'Así pasen cien años', in 'Racial', in 'Soleá, un son eterno', and in this piece 'También muere el mar'. And that progression won't stop here; the same values she uses to underpin this project will underpin those yet to come.

Carmen Cortés' group


More information:

'Soleá, un son eterno', at the 2002 Festival de Jerez. Review, photos and online video

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