The film Carmen (1983) by the director Carlos Saura and the dancer & choreographer Antonio Gades played a significant role to make flamenco popular in the world. I figure many people started learning flamenco dance after watching this movie. The film is based on the novel by Prosper Mérimée, the French writer, in 1845 and recreated by Georges Bizet, the French composer, in 1875.
The film consists of several levels of representation: world view created by Mérimée and Bizet, dance theater by Gades and his company, and realistic world of flamenco artists written and directed by Saura. Although some documentary aspects can be seen in the movie, the documentary elements do not stand out in the movie. Instead, the life of Antonio and Carmen as dancers in the movie crosses with the characters of José and Carmen in the fiction of Mérimée, making the viewers wondering between fiction and reality.
The character of Carmen, a Spanish archetype today, is actually a creation of Mérimée and Bizet and the cultural product of historical moment, reflecting the literary tendency of the era – Romanticism. The characteristics of the Romanticism include freedom, emotion, “culto de yo” or subjectivity, and individualism. The director Saura, in fact, modernized the exotic and romantic vision of Spain found in the Carmen of Mérimée.
Antonio and his company play realistic interpretation of the play Carmen, and this forms the second level of representation. Antonio looks for the character of Carmen and dance studios and tablaos. He found his character Carmen (played by Laura del Sol), also working in a tablao where the foreigners expect to see the exotic Spanish dance. The contemplative look of foreign tourists in the film Carmen could be associated with the look of romantic French citizen towards Spanish women in the 19th century.
This fusion of Saura’s dancer Carmen and Mérimée’s Carmen takes place in the mind of Antonio who plays the role of Don José. Here the director Saura makes the parallel between two stories. In the movie, after the practice of the scene in which Don José renders to the seduction of Mérimée’s Carmen, Carmen of Saura’s film takes an initiative to have a romantic relation with Antonio. After the affair, Antonio who is abandoned by her and confused enters to his studio and faces the mirror. Here for the first time this Saura’s Carmen appears in the mind of Antonio as an embodiment of romantic vision of stereotyped flamenco. In his fantasy, Carmen shows up as a “coquette” like French romantics’ stereotype with fan, flower, comb, and “mantilla” of laces. From this nodal point on a number of components converge the reality of Antonio with the fiction of Mérimée to create meanings to a new Carmen.
The life of the artists intertwines with the theatrical production. The viewers end up wondering between “reality” and the “fiction.” Particularly this confusion occurs because theater production of Antonio’s Carmen only can be seen in the rehearsal segments in the studio. Between these rehearsals, as the third level of representation, Saura introduces the life of the artists. Before the nodal point (the mirror scene), Saura treats the life of the artists almost like a documental. In the movie, real name of artists are used except for Laura del Sol who takes the name of Carmen. Antonio Gades, Cristina Hoyos, and Paco de Lucia keep their real first name. In this part of the movie we see the process of creation of the production. When Antonio listens to Bizet’s music, the guitarist Paco suggests Antonio to make the piece a rhythm of buleria. This adaptation of blueria shows the desire of the flamenco artists to transform the French play to something real, Andalucian and flamenco.
Also, the scene of the birthday celebration represents the flamenco artists’ “real” life and their authentic art. Later the Bizet’s music superimposes the pure flamenco music and takes power over it. Carmen appears with stereotypical flamenco costumes and exaggerated makeup. Carmen and Cristina dance also in an exaggerated way with a lot of contortions, which remind the dance of zarzuela. Later, the member of the company wear costumes; one as bull fighter and the other as bull, and do a parody version of the scene of Toreador in the Mérimée’s opera.
The inversion and the transformation of the role of Antonio and Carmen can represent a new disposition and attitude of women during the transition period in Spain from the dictatorship to the democracy. Carmen in the movie is not submissive but independent and sexually more open. In fact, Saura’s modern Carmen seems analogous to the Carmen of Merimee, but Saura’s Carmen is, without doubt, much more free than the romantic vision of Mérimée of the Spanish women. Saura and Gades, in collaboration, created a new Carmen. In this new Carmen Saura and Gades played and manipulated reality and fiction through the production pieces by flamenco artists, Mérimée and Bizet’s visions. This new Carmen fascinated the viewers and inspired and attracted many to the world of flamenco.
Sometimes unexpected thing happens, and this is is one of them. Along with wonderful sites below, this blog was listed as one of 40 top flamenco blogs (the last 35th:) by Feedspot. Wow!
I visited Granada in my early 20s for the first time. After that I was in Granada in the summer of 2002, 2006, 2010 and again this summer in 2017. Granada has a magic that makes me feel at home. I love staying in Albaicin, the old Moorish quarter in front of the Alhambra, old palace & fortress of the Moorish monarchs. Albaicin is a very attractive and exotic neighborhood – narrow winding roads, Cármenes - typical houses in Granada with a garden, a breathtaking view of Alhambra and Sacromonte, Plaza Larga that is full of life.
Granada is a special place for me because flamenco is everywhere. You can encounter flamenco – all kinds – all over in Granada: at schools, in tablaos, bars & restaurants, peñas, at plazas, on the streets and even in the balcony. There are many toursits visiting in Granada, and this allows space for many venues and different kinds of performances. And the quality of performances is very good.
Today is a full moon. I’m looking at the moon next to Diamond Head and remembering the full moon that I was looking at along with Alhambra a few months ago. I met Ji, one of my flamenco flat mates. She is a sweet and intelligent young woman who has grew up overseas and is studying in Scotland. She frequented Granada and became a good friend of Manuel, a gypsy guitarist who not only plays well but also sings. Through Ji, I got to know Manuel and I was taking some private cante lessons from him.
On that day of full moon, he was going to play at a bar called Tacón flamenco. Several of us from the school went with him. He accompanied a young singer named María. I was a bit surprised because she does not look what I thought of a typical flamenco singer - She has dread hair and tattoos. The lace top that she was wearing looked like tattoos on the upper body. When she started to sing, I immediately liked her. I had an opportunity to chat with her between sets and asked her where her powerful voice is coming from. She told me that it is coming from here, placing her hand on her heart. She grew up in a nearby city of Guadix, listening to Camarón. We felt her love for flamenco in her cante. The small bar was full house, and many had to sit on the floor as there was hardly any space left in the bar. The show was very intimate, and the bar was filled with olé and flamenco energy.
After the show, we returned to Albaicin and walked up to the hill in the dark to go to a flamenco peña that has a spectacular view of Alhambra and the full moon. The moment I spent there was private and special. Alhambra, moon, music, good company, and nightly breeze… What an incredible night… What a magical place… I always miss Granada… ¡Olé y viva Granada!
Going to flamenco festivals is one of the most enjoyable experiences. I had opportunities between 2002 and 2016 to go to several festivals: the Festival International de Música y Danza de Granada, Los Veranos del Corral, Festival Flamenco Cuevas del Sacromonte, Festival de la Guitarra de Córdoba, and Potaje Gitano de Utrera, and in the U.S. , Festival Flamenco International de Albuquerque. All festivals have different charms and allures. In Festival de Granada, you could see flamenco shows or concerts in the most amazing venue: Alhambra - you can enjoy a concert and show in the Palace of Carlos the 5th and the Generalife, the beautiful garden of Alhambra. Also, there was a concert in front of the intricate facade of Cathedral of Granada. In Los Veranos del Corral, you can see a series of shows of well-known artists in an intimate setting in the Coral de Carbon, 14the century monument in Granada. In the Festival flamenco Cuevas del Sacramonte, you enjoy flamenco concerts or films in Cave Museum from where you can oversee the spectacular view of Alhambra. In the Festival de la Guitarra de Córdoba, you can take not only guitar classes but also dance and singing classes and during the festival there are concerts of major flamenco artists. And in the Festival Flamenco International de Albuquerque, you can take a variety of classes and see top-notch flamenco performances every night during the festival. You meet inspiring people there not only from the U.S. but also other countries! All festivals are in fact unforgettable.
But the Potaje Guitano de Utrera was the most unforgettable and a bit adventurous one. At that time I was a big fan of Pitingo who was singing his version of “Killing me softly” and “souleria” songs. I found out that Pitingo, along with my favorite female singer Esrtrella Morente, Esperanza Fernández, and Antonio el Pipa were going to perform at this festival.
I already had bought a ticket of the festival from Hawaii although I was not sure if I will be going by myself or with someone. At that time I was taking classes at Carmen de las Cuevas, Flamenco & Spanish language school in Granada. I was very fortunate to meet Monique and Natsuki from France in the same dance classes. We had fantastic two weeks, going to the Jardines de Zoraya, watching World Cup soccer, going flamenco shows and a concert of Miguel Poveda in Alhambra. I mentioned about the Potaje Flamenco and they wanted to go too. Great! On that Saturday, we went to the school to use the Internet and to buy their tickets but the box office was closed. Because the trip from Granada to Utrera takes about 4 hours by bus; 3 hours to Sevilla and another hour to Utrera, we wanted to make sure that we all could get entrance tickets to the festival. Somehow we ended up calling a flamenco store in Malaga, and the owner suggested that we would give it a try although there was no guarantee for the entrance. He said the people in Utrera are very nice and somehow would take care of us. So we decided to go.
In the bus to Utrera it was hot although there was air conditioning. We booked a hostal in Utrera. An old man on the phone said the hostal was only 5 minutes away by car from the festival site and he could give us a ride to and from the concert. By the time we arrived to Utrera it was already 9:30 pm and we were in front of the concert site. We called the hostal, and he came driving to pick us up to bring us to the hostal but we decided not to go to the hostal right away due to time constraint and we just dropped off our bags in the car and headed out to the ticket window. Surprisingly we all got great seats, although the enormous outdoor site became full of people.
El Potaje Flamenco de Utrera is considered to be the oldest flamenco festival in Spain. It started as a meal and a little flamenco organized by a local church Brotherhood in Utrera in 1957; after finishing their procession in Holy Week they celebrated with a dinner of potaje (garbanzo soup/stew). This get together was the origin of all the flamenco festivals that later developed. Each year this festival pays tribute to a famous flamenco artist. The year 2010 paid tribute to the Fernanda y Bernanda de Utrera, well respected flamenco sisters of the town of Utrera. Also, we had a chance to see the great dance master Matilde Coral dance, showing respect to Fernanda y Bernarda.
The concert took place in a huge patio of Colegio del Salesianos and there were many big tables where you share el potaje with people on the same table, reminiscent to the origin of this wonderful flamenco festival, sharing the love for flamenco through a pot of ‘potaje.’ All the performances were great. Pitingo sang pure flamenco, showing his knowledge of flamenco and that his arte is more than his “souleria” songs.
By the time the event finished it was already 4 in the morning. The venders were selling churros for breakfast. As agreed with the older man at the hostal, we called his number, but he did not pick up the phone (of course he was sleeping!). We asked a civil guard if we could pick up a taxi but was told that there was no taxi in Utrera! Sleeping at the bus station came to our mind, but the civil guard was kind enough to ask a couple he knew to take us to the hostal. The couple was very nice and patient helping us to find the hostal where we’ve never been. (The hostal in fact was more than 10 minutes by car, and not 5 minutes away as the old man told us.) After we found the hostal, it took us a while to find an entrance and after knocking the door, the light turned on in a room on the second floor and finally the old guy came down and opened the door, still half dressed.
It was a long but exciting day with good flamenco. I took a shower and could finally go to sleep. Then I heard “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” It was dawn already! Well I had two hours to sleep as we were supposed to take 8:30 am bus back to Granada so that we would not miss class on Monday.
With sleepy eyes we had breakfast in the café of the hostal. We did not see the old man and told a waiter there that we had to take a bus to Sevilla and then Granada. The waiter took off his apron and grabbed a car key and took us to the bus station. On the way, he did a mini guide of the small town of Utrera, showing us the statues of Fernanda y Bernarda and also Enrique Montoya, singer also from Utrera. What the flamenco store owner in Malaga said was true: the people in Utrera were truly kind and hospitable.
I don’t remember the tientos choreography or footwork I learned. But I remember the moment we practiced footwork while waiting for the bus. I vividly remember the thrilled flamenco adventure I had with Monique and Natsuki, and warm people in Utrera and the taste of the potaje.
I am learning to sing Pata Negra’s “Bodas de sangre “ played by a nuevo flamenco group, Raimundo & Rafael Amador, gypsy brothers from Seville. The song is in an album called Blues de la Frontera released in 1987. As the title indicates, the song is inspired by Federico Garcia Lorca’s play Bodas de sangre. He has always been my favorite poet and maybe the favorite of many flamenco lovers.
Listening to the song naturally reminds me of Lorca’s play Bodas de sangre. When I was a student, Bodas de sangre was the literature that I read most eagerly and that excited me most. Maybe this was because I had read the play in English many years ago, maybe because I had studied Lorca’s poems from the collections of Romanceros gitanos and Poema del cante jondo, and maybe because I had seen Carlos Saura’s film version Bodas de sangre. I felt I understood the play well, and it made more sense – more real, more powerful and more alive, reading it in Spanish. I was so fascinated and absorbed by Lorca’s world.
Lorca’s drama describes a rural tragedy – a frustrated life through betrayed love, excessive passion, honor, restrictions caused by family traditions in an Andalucian village in the 1930s. The play is full of Lorca’s symbolism - death, horse, horse rider, the moon and the color green.
The film director Carlos Saura and the flamenco dancer/choreographer Antonio Gades collaborated on the film, a flamenco interpretation of Lorca’s Bodas de sangre, which was first seen in 1981. The film is a beautifully made classic. One of the scenes that I always remember is where Leonardo, the man who ran away with the bride, (played by Antonio Gades) and the groom (played by Juan Antonio Jimenez) fought with knives, a dance of symbolic death, danced in complete silence in a long silence as if it were in slow motion, and at the end the palmas dramatically mark the moment of death.
I live in Hawaii, far away from Spain. At times, it is hard to feel flamenco. I miss being in my favorite places in Andalucia and I miss being close to flamenco. But when I close my eyes and listen to Pata Negra’s rumba “Bodas de sangre,” I’m immediately transported to the Andalucian village that Lorca describes. The landscape and images from Lorca’s drama appear in my mind and intertwine with imagery and music from Saura’s film. All this helps me realize that flamenco can be found not only in Spain or other places where you can find flamenco but also in myself.
I was really excited to find this website which is for all lovers of Flamenco in Hawaii. I have loved Flamenco ever since I saw a flamenco show when I was twenty and was so inspired by the dancing that I left home for Madrid so that I could study this wonderful dance form.
That was many, many years ago and I had some wonderful teachers. Estampio who was famous for his brilliant footwork. By the time I studied with him, he was a very old man. He had no teeth and so it was quite difficult to understand his strong Seville Spanish. He wore soft house slippers and didn't get up to show me the steps, but remained seated and just shuffled his feet, so it was also quite difficult to follow his complicated foot movements (zapateados). He was quite a grumpy old man and was always quarreling with his guitarist. In fact the only time he ever actually rose from his chair was to go and hit the guitarist over the head. In spite of all this, I felt very privileged to learn from him. His choreography was brilliant and I learned a lot.
Another teacher was La Quica, who was a wonderful performer as well as a teacher. She had a great stage presence and a lot of attitude which is a necessary part of Flamenco dance. I was also very privileged to know Antonio, El Bailarin, regarded as the greatest Spanish dancer of all time, and when he wasn't on tour somewhere in the world and was at home in Madrid, he would hold a Juerga (dance party) at his home and which I often attended. Everyone was supposed to get up in turn and go into the center of the circle in which we were sitting and dance a solo. This terrified me as most of the others were professional Flamenco dancers, but sometimes I couldn't avoid it. Those were the days!
Many years passed, I married and had children and lived in many countries but never found any Flamenco classes anywhere. Even when we moved to Hawaii there were no classes to be found. Not until much later when a few teachers came and went. Now there is only one, but the classes are authentic and enjoyable and I have been fortunate enough to have met several Flamenco sisters to share my love of the dance with. Viva flamenco. Ole, ole!!
I started this website in the hope that not only people who are interested in flamenco find teachers, classes, workshops and get connected in Hawaii but also flamenco professionals and aficionados elsewhere can find us. Living in Hawaii, for many of us it’s difficult to study this difficult art form, maintain passion and interest for flamenco, as we are located so far from the source. We would like to take any flamenco opportunities possible; we welcome more professional shows and workshops and hope that more people are interested in flamenco and that we get better and more flamenco scenes happening in Hawaii. I would like to help contribute to promote flamenco in Hawaii.
Flamenco is considered to be a way of life. It turned out true for me. I love cante; it made me cry even without understanding it very much. I ended up going back to school and studying Spanish language and literature at the University because I wanted to understand the lyrics and more about flamenco. As an aficionada of flamenco, I studied baile and cante in Jerez de la Frontera and Granada, Spain and also in Albuquerque, NM, where I met a number of inspiring flamenco artists, teachers and fellow students. While I was always complaining and lamenting the lack of flamenco presence in Hawaii, they encouraged me to start something, beginning with organizing a juerga (flamenco get together).
Currently, we have a visiting artist in town. Marco Van Doornum is not only a gifted flamenco guitarist but also an excellent teacher. We have been privileged to learn and gain understanding of flamenco better through his workshops.
Thanks to Marco and those inspiring people, here I am starting with this website, organizing workshops and last night we had a first peña sevillana. We began wtih a dance lesson by Vanessa followed by a fiesta. Thank you, Marco, for playing, and Vanessa, for teaching. Thank you everyone who participated in the spirit flamenco. I was honored to sing for the fiesta. What a fun night! ¡Mil gracias!
¡Viva Flamenco Hawaii!