Flanders goes flamenco

Photo gallery, by Daniel Muñoz

Silvia Calado. Amsterdam, October 26th, 2008

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Andrés Marín (Photo Daniel Muñoz)

These days, a full-size Osborne bull is welcoming the extravagant Hotel Lloyd. And it is just one of the signs that in Amsterdam the second edition has already kicked off of Flamenco Biennale 2008, a festival interconnected with the cities of Rotterdam and Utrecht (or as the enthusiasts from here call it jokingly, Northern Utrera) which wants to show that tradition and innovation go hand-in-hand. The first thing that happened was to put this artform in perspective. And to do so, nothing better than taking a look at one of the most faithful documents of what this art used to give of itself thirty years ago: the television series ‘Rito y geografía del cante’.

One of its authors, José María Velázquez-Gaztelu, made his way to the downtown cinema The Movies, where a children’s film festival was being held at the same time. And in a cute movie theater covered in ancient red velvet, he spoke not just about how he was cajoled as a boy by cante in Arcos de la Frontera, but also about how and with what aims the now valuable audiovisual document was forged between 1971 and 1973. No fewer than 186 cantaores appeared before those cameras which sought to portray the naturalness of flamenco in its own ecosystem, to rescue some from oblivion, to highlight the bravery of others. At night there were still neophytes commenting on the impact which the footage of Fernanda de Utrera had on them.


José María Velázquez-Gaztelu (Photo Daniel Muñoz)

And the thing is that there is still an audience to enamor after a hundred-some years of the internationalization of this artform. Not just that. It also has to be informed and shown that there is much more than polka dots and magic and passion and fury. Here lies one of the missions. That is why festival director Ernestina van de Noort aims to “reflect flamenco’s current trends, to sketch a panorama of the avant-garde and the risky” with this lineup. But she knows that “even here in Holland, it isn’t easy; I know that if I put up a ‘gypsy party’ bill, it’d sell out”. But according to what was seen on the night of the opening show, the audience is currently as receptive here as in Seville. As much as the Parisians were at the beginning of the past century when the futuristic adventure occurred to Vicente Escudero of dancing to the sound of engines.

Flamenco Biennale 2008
(Photo Daniel Muñoz)

The adventure continues, luckily for this flamenco which boasts of evolving. And it does so with the devotion of those who create and the complicity of those who receive. The bold experience of merging the personal body movement, the sound of Llorenç Barber’s bells, José Valencia and Segundo Falcón’s cante, Salvador Gutiérrez’s toque and Antonio Coronel’s rhythm which Andrés Marín performs in ‘El cielo de tu boca’ (recently premiered at Bienal de Sevilla 2008) ended up bringing the diverse crowd at the Muziekgebouw ann’t IJ to its feet. Something doubly important, since this auditorium is a real temple of contemporary music.

But there was something more in that ovation, something dear in the audience’s response. Especially from a part of the crowd consisting of enthused young women. And the thing is that the Sevillian bailaor has been coming to this land for twenty years to share his knowledge. “I’ve trained all of them myself”, the artist confirmed, still touched by the affectionate ‘Happy Birthday’ he was sung by them between rounds of applause. They even took him some cakes to the cocktail party following the performance, in which a ham cutter and a manzanilla wine waiter delighted the guests. Among them was even the Spanish Ambassador to Holland, Juan Prat y Coll, a Catalan who understands that “flamenco is a sophisticated artistic expression which has to represent Spanish culture in the world”.

Andrés Marín (Photo Daniel Muñoz)

Photo gallery, by Daniel Muñoz

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Further information

Holland features the cross between tradition and avant-garde at the Dutch Flamenco Biennial 2008
Andrés Marín, Diego Carrasco, El Pele, Isabel Bayón and Chicuelo perform from October 26th to November 2nd, 2008 in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht

Bienal de Flamenco de Sevilla 2008. Andrés Marín, ‘El cielo de tu boca’ (premiere). Review, photos, video

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