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Sara Baras
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“I try to give what my maestros have taught me”


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Sara Baras

It was said of you in recent news that you're the “female flamenco figure for the masses”. Do you believe it's necessary for flamenco to reach the general public? Do you think it's even a responsibility that you all have?

I'm glad you asked me that question because the day they said that was at a press conference and, sincerely, I think they were doing it to insult me, to bother me. And how do I explain to this gentleman or this lady that if I have the chance to do big flamenco, it's better for me? If they're telling me that I'm capable of putting together a choreography to display where thousands of people fit, thanks very much. I've been doing that since I was a little girl in a room dancing through bulerías.

Besides, I don't think Paco de Lucía plays either better or worse because there are a thousand people or ten thousand people; he plays equally well, but he's reaching more people. I know that the thing about the great masses bothers some flamencos. Hang on, there's flamenco for everyone. I know how to distinguish a choreography for a flamenco peña from a choreography for a theater like this one (the Lope de Vega in Madrid). I know how to distinguish; I know which way it has to go. The more people who come to the theater, the more people who like flamenco and the more people who are devoted, even better. I take it as a compliment; I have never considered it an insult, even if it is said with that intention. Glory be.

Nor is it a new phenomenon. When La Niña de los Peines used to perform here in Madrid, the police even had to come in...

I lived near Camarón when I was a little girl, and who says now that he didn't use to sing well? They can't say it, because he had a music box in his throat. And look at how many people used to go and see Camarón. I don't understand it. Normally, even in interviews, I think things over a great deal. I try not to pick on anybody, not to insult anybody, not to create any controversy; I try just to be in the dancing and the happiness that flamenco gives me. I don't want anything else. And lately, I feel sorry because there aren't so many of us who are in this and... my God, let's unite and take flamenco all over the world which, thanks to Carmen Amaya, Paco de Lucía, Camarón, artists as great as them, we have the doors open to. Well no, if you triumph, they come out right away with pure flamenco... but, what pure flamenco? Pure, Rancapino. He's sung for me through seguiriyas in a show for the masses, he and I alone, in the Maestranza Theater in Seville packed with people. Pure is in his way of life.


Sara Baras

Do you think your colleagues see you from a distance?

There's a bit of everything. There are colleagues who I've known of course for many years and we've shared lovely times when we were nobody, when we used to see an artist in the festivals in the south, which was incredible. And I have a very good relationship with most of them. But afterwards yes, afterwards there are other colleagues that I don't and I feel that there must be something wrong in their life, in their personality. There was a poster in my brother's room, I don't know if I'm very pretentious to say this, which said: “Three billion flies eat poop; they can't be wrong”. There are many people, many maestros, many people who help me, very professional people, very important people, there are a lot of full theaters, a lot of reviews from all over the world... and I'm not going to sell myself out, because I don't need to either, but how can they come again and criticize the same thing? To dress up like Matilde Coral, there's Matilde Coral, who I adore with all due respect; but she was for another age. If another age comes now and there are others of us, let us be. We're not doing anything bad; we're working with all due respect. What a shame.

Do you know how happy you are when you go into a studio with a bunch of artists and create a show and premiere it and do four hundred shows and create a stable company? Above all, you have to tell yourself that you must have something to take a company all over the world for seven years, to work non-stop... and without acting the fool. I try to give what my maestros have taught me, beginning with my mother, continuing with Ciro, Manolete, Güito, Merche Esmeralda, Antonio Canales... with them all. And I have the privilege of working at what I like, and on top of it, of having recognition such as the National Dance Prize. I couldn't believe it. And I thought it was good for flamenco. Just like the Príncipe de Asturias (Award) for Paco de Lucía; I was with him when he was notified of it. And that's a proud thing for flamenco. We have to unite. There aren't so many of us; let's think a little and help each other out. There are really old things that still survive in flamenco and I don't know how the artists used to deal with it before. There's a gala, ten flamencos are gathered and the problem comes up: who opens? Who closes? The only thing that needs to happen is for you to like this, to be a flamenco lover, for your breath to be taken away when you see a flamenco moment...

Do you remember any of those moments?

"Why do they want to crush the one who's succeeding? I don't understand it"

Manuela Carrasco, speaking of purity, I'm an absolute fan of hers. I saw Manuela in New York last year and when the curtain was drawn and I saw her alone up there, she hadn't even begun to dance, and my God, who criticizes her? She was a supernatural power, a very pretty woman, grasping her vest and gazing with those eyes... It's a shame there are young people who don't even go far enough to admit that and go on about so much nonsense and things that are so trifling. And Rancapino sings a malagueña and I burst out in tears, he can sing it for you right here, 'cause he's always so well dressed and so clean, in a huge theater or in a small theater... And it's so true that it's what young people should defend. Why do they want to crush the one who's succeeding? I don't understand it. Well if things are going great for José Mercé, things are going great for Diego el Cigala, and I won't even tell you about the maestro - Paco de Lucía -... well, glory be. They're doing their job, they have vigor, they're rehearsing, they're working, they're traveling. My God, how can we detract from them?

I applaud what each person does; they must know why. When the curtain is raised, my company is impeccable and it fills me with pride. What keeps them going? Their own work. What is the greatest subsidy we have? The public. And the respect and affection that people treat me with; I wouldn't change that for anything. And that might be what I like the most. That mixed with you suddenly realizing you can do very pretty things, besides with culture, with people: a show to collect money for cancer, a workshop for children with Down Syndrome... thousands of things like that. And am I going to stop and think that this guy or that one doesn't like how I dance through soleá? Come on!

But yes, respect for the greats can't be forgotten, but nor that they've given us the freedom to move ahead. When I see a girl, I try to help her; if she's very good, it brings me joy. I don't think that she's going to take my job away from me; I already have mine. You have to push her, give to her, help her to see, to listen... because that's the only way for flamenco to keep on climbing.

And how do you view the upcoming generation?

"If there's a time when who you've gone to bed with matters more than how many hours you've been rehearsing"

The people dance very well... that's why I started off by speaking about respect. It might be because of how we're living in this country right now. You turn on the TV and the word respect has never existed before; it seems to influence everybody. It seems as if there's a time when who you've gone to bed with matters more than how many hours you've been rehearsing. And flamencos must watch TV like everybody. I don't think those pure critics don't have a TV (laughter). Look, but there are very good people. There's Raúl Fernández in our company. They're like young hopes and I see that they have the interest, the desire and the faculties. And what you have to do is open your eyes, soak up everything the maestros have done and see everything that's out there; not just flamenco, but everything. People learn from what they see and we have to be serious, very good and enjoy our art, which is the truest one there is in the world.

Are you already working on your next project?



I'm going half crazy because ‘Mariana Pineda’... When I did ‘Sueños’, I thought it was the most beautiful thing. ‘Juana la Loca’ came and it was so special to me, it was so successful that I thought I couldn't go beyond it. Next came ‘Mariana Pineda’ and I now believe that I've set my sights very high. Sometimes I think about doing a show with a storyline, sometimes I think about doing it without a storyline and there I am, seeking. The agenda's full; it's incredible. The company is very well-prepared, but there are times when you say uuufff. The year 2005 is packed. I normally like to do a premiere every two years, but since ‘Sueños’ has been repeated this year, since the people wanted it, well I don't think until the end of next year... And there I am half crazy.

Well, but it must be good for you to slow down a little...

Yes, you have to slow down a little, but imagine, this year we've had a week's vacation and it was the week of the Jimena Music Festival. We went there and I was able to see Paco de Lucía's concert, Serrat's, Pasión Vega's... and it was something very lovely. You happen to be on vacation and there's a flamenco concert and otherwise you couldn't see it. Besides, it's different for you, because you don't even have to take a nap to be strong at night. I can be tired and it doesn't matter; I'm sitting there enjoying myself. Instead of getting away from it all and going to the beach, I went there to see what Paco was doing and to take notice of, oh, those lights he has... because I am a thief! (laughter)

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More information:

Special feature. ‘Mariana Pineda’ by Sara Baras

Photo gallery. Sara Baras' ‘Mariana Pineda’, by Daniel Muñoz

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