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Sara Baras
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"My dancing may have become calmer, I may value the rests more, I may seek more moments of art, more feeling"


Sara Baras, bailaora. Interview

“Respect for the greats can't be forgotten, but nor
that they've given us the freedom to move ahead”

Silvia Calado. Madrid, September 2004

Like every day, Sara Baras' dressing room has its doors wide open. Bailaores, technicians, an admirer who comes to have her sign a photo... The procession of personages through this tiny little room does not halt. And she attends to all of them with the same smile. She seems at ease... as well she should. Between ‘Mariana Pineda’ and ‘Juana la Loca’, she has done nearly one thousand shows in the last four years. By popular request, she is bringing back ‘Sueños’ and there is always a line in front of the Lope de Vega Theater box office. A dream come true. Years ago, while the Cádiz-born bailaora was at the Apollo Theater, at this other venue in Spain's capital, the Spanish National Ballet was triumphing with ‘Fuenteovejuna’ by Antonio Gades. She closed her eyes and made a wish: “I hope I'm filling that theater one day”. And so it has been. That repose is also noted in her dancing: “I might value the rests more; I might seek more moments of art”. Although at the same time, she recognizes that success is scary, “is a daily challenge”. Paradoxically, she is criticized for her triumph above all in closed flamenco circles. “If they're telling me that I'm capable of putting together a choreography for thousands of people, thanks very much; I've done that since I was a little girl in a room dancing through bulerías”. And she has the capability, as is demonstrated by her already crammed agenda for next year, in whose final stretch she is scheduled to create a new show. With a storyline? Without a storyline? “I'm seeking like crazy”.

Sara Baras

Five years after its premiere, ‘Sueños’ is still running. What is this show's secret?

Well, I think it's the truth. It has a lot of truth. After doing ‘Juana la Loca’ and ‘Mariana Pineda’, which are big productions, it was the public who's asked for it again. A lot of people wanted to come back again to see the farruca, flamenco without stories. And we really felt like doing flamenco without stories. Of course, we've touched it up. In this time, thank God, we've learned a lot more things. And not only have we changed the show in itself, but also the company's level is much higher. We have a really top-notch guest artist, who is José Serrano; I have a dance corps with five gals and two guys, plus the musicians. There's devotion. And that show reflects that devotion and a respect for the same old flamenco, seen as we see it, because we're young and we have our own style. It's about dancing for the sake of dancing.

You seem more at ease. Has something changed in you? Has your dancing changed?

I think so; it's changed for the better. Although it wasn't so long ago, it has been a lot of shows since ‘Sueños’. ‘Mariana Pineda’ has already had over four hundred shows, and it hasn't been running for even two years yet, and ‘Juana la Loca’ reached four hundred fifty in two years. You share stages, rehearsals and everything with very important people such as Lluis Pasqual, Manolo Sanlúcar, Luis Olmos, guest artists... And obviously you learn, you learn a great deal... and of course, you improve. My dancing may have become calmer, I may value the rests more, I may seek more moments of art, more feeling... neither effects, nor speeds, though we also have them because we like them.

Some years ago you were criticized for just that... effusiveness.

Yes, and the desire and the quickness and to do the hardest thing. And not now; now you start to realize what's more important, what's there and you manage to achieve it through study, of course. Because not everybody studies.

Sara Baras

Do these shows with no storyline satisfy you more or are they different experiences?

They're very different. There are times when you feel like getting into the role of somebody, playing them. And there are times when you feel like getting away from the character, like right now. It's been four years for us between ‘La Pineda’ and ‘Juana’ (she thus refers to her latest shows informally) doing characters, but I really wanted to dance the farruca, dance a soleá poem... and do what I feel like.

The character imposes limitations, doesn't it?

The character in the script reaches the moment when she has to cry and you have to cry; if it says you have to dance sad, you have to dance sad. And not here; it's like the other way around. I'm enjoying it a great deal. People tell me that I play myself, but it's not even that... I do what I feel like, with the utmost respect, with the utmost care. 'Cause here you work and study every day!

Playing the same role every day must be tiring...

"Maybe in time I'll learn how to, but for the time being, I don't know how to get up on stage and keep to myself even an ounce of strength that I have"

It's really hard work. With four hundred ‘Pinedas’ in a year and eight months, you don't have time to amuse yourself; you have to be there every day sweating like the rest. It's no joke; it's very serious work and sincerely, there are times when it's really hard. It was at the Calderón Theater in Madrid for five straight months, and of course, I didn't miss a single day, but nor did anyone in my company, either. Maybe in time I'll learn how to, but for the time being, I don't know how to get up on stage and keep to myself even an ounce of strength that I have. I give up my soul. The next day you get up and your body's shattered. It's the demand that you yourself make of taking it to the limit every day. The thing is that I do handle it with a great deal of strength and joy because the public responds. And I think that it's enviable for the theater to always be full of people, the reactions... And it's not that it gives you a peace of mind, but rather the opposite; it frightens the heck out of you. The theater is brought to its feet today, but tomorrow it has to be brought to its feet again. It's a daily challenge.

How do tradition and today's flamenco dancing relate?

We flamencos have the freedom to be able to express yourself just the way you feel. Everything you learn, everything that encourages you... when you have that instant to express yourself, it comes out. It's not that I want to do a contemporary movement, because I respect my contemporary colleagues a great deal, but of course I know some things because I'm a bailaora, I'm a dancer, I devote myself to dance and everything that is dancing, I try to learn. If there's suddenly a movement that I like, why aren't I going to put it in the soleá? It comes out flamencoized at that moment, it seems incredibly beautiful to me and I don't know why I can't do it, but on the contrary. I think the same thing happens in music, for example, with Diego el Cigala. He's made an album with Bebo Valdés which is lovely and nobody argues that he isn't a flamenco. However, in dancing it seems as if it bothers people that modern or different things are done. I don't try to be modern; I try to be honorable and honest in my work. And I can't close my eyes and see just myself dancing. I see a great many shows, a great many choreographies, a great deal of music, a great deal of dancing, a great many plays. Everything influences me, everything sticks and what I like, you can imagine, I have to learn... without ever forgetting I'm a flamenco.

"Flamenco forces you to show your personality and that's what makes flamenco evolve from within"

But can flamenco dancing evolve from within without resorting to other genres?

I think that it's all been invented thanks to all those maestros we've had. What I do believe is that flamenco forces you to show your personality and that's what makes flamenco evolve from within, of course. To do my farruca I've taken notice of the maestros, of the same old farrucas; I haven't looked at a ballet dancer. However, you can see that it's a very present-day farruca. You can't ignore Antonio Gades' farruca. And there's neither any pretentiousness nor comparison nor anything. You can innovate within the same thing.

A lot of things get discovered by studying, don't they?

Of course, that's what Paco de Lucía says; that to play one brilliant note, you have to spend a thousand hours playing. Well it's the same thing here, working, dancing non-stop, listening to things non-stop, doing research; of course things come to you. It's not that you're trying something different; you're trying to do what you feel and it comes out as you work.

Not long ago a fellow guitarist told us that besides sweetness, you'd contributed a new image to flamenco...

When I began I was afraid the way a lot of girls are afraid nowadays. I'm not a typical flamenco because I'm not a gypsy, I don't wear make-up, nor do I have curly black hair, nor what we've turned into the typical. And I was afraid. When I was going to perform at some peña, they left me at the door at a great many places and they didn't believe I was the one who was dancing. And now the contrary happens to me; I uphold it more. Before, artists were artists even when they went and bought bread. And now you have to show you're an artist up there. It's normal; you're like the rest. And if my physique is not that of a very flamenco gypsy, I believe that my heart is. Nor do I try to be a typical bailaora on stage. I feel more comfortable in a simpler dress. Now, for example, I've taken to wearing my hair in a bun at the back and people tell me “oh, Sara, how nice”. I don't think it matters so much to me. I consider that the movement and what one feels is what truly matters.

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