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Ballet and dance in Spain


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18 replies to this topic

#1 Pamela Moberg

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Posted 29 June 2006 - 03:41 PM

DefJef asked me to clarify my thoughts about dance in Spain. I am real glad that you are interested in the subject!

I am starting a new thread as this will be totally off topic in the "cissy" thread.

Spain really has a long and glorious past dancewise. (So has Sweden, but that will also be another thread).
To start with, there were the old court dances - stately sarabands etc. There is an old book, probably out of print but could maybe be found in the library. I have it, cant find it (my library is in disarray), but the book is by Caballero Bonald, publ. late fifties, and it explains everything very clearly.
Speaking of folk dance, jota is one example, being danced in the center and north Spain. Flamenco was purely a southern dance form, influenced by Moorish and Oriental dancing.

Flamenco is often compared to the blues as it was the song and dance of the poor and the oppressed. At various times flamenco has even been banned in Spain.
There are masses of different types of flamenco, from the very grave to the more jolly like sevillanas and bulerias; those dances are danced - more or less expertly - by ordinary people at fairs and parties today.

When I started teaching classical ballet in Andalucia I was the only one doing so. I remember having one summer course pupil from Madrid who had been to ballet school there. She was very lacking in basic knowledge, it must have been a Dolly Dinkle type school.

But all was not black and sombre. I have heard about one teacher, in Zaragoza, Maria de Avila, and she enjoyed a good reputation. Judging by her pupils - some have taken part in the EBU competition for young dancers, she really knew what she was talking about. Many Spanish dancers have won major competitions in the past ten years.
Then along came Victor Ullate towards the end of the sixties. Now I think one can justly say that Spain has become a dance nation one could take seriously.

I first traveled to Spain in the early sixties and naturally I sought out both flamenco and ballet. I can only say that as far as I remember the standard of the ballet was abysmal (OK, I am being polite here), so it must be concluded that enormous progress has been made in a very short time.

One thing I find very interesting is that many old ethnic Spanish steps have found their way into the classic ballet vocabulary. Pas de basque (northern Spain) and renverse (flamenco) are originally Spanish folk dance steps.

Personally I am not so worried about the dance scene in Spain and I try to follow it from my cold north as closely as I can. There is an awareness and they seem on the right path. What worries me no end is ballet in Sweden, I fear they are forgetting their classical vocabulary because of all the modern stuff they do. But that will have to be yet another thread.
Hope the mist has lifted a bit now, DefJef, but try to get hold of that book and you will find yourself an expert on theatrical Spanish dancing! :wink:

#2 bart

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Posted 29 June 2006 - 04:30 PM

Thank you, Pamela, for bringing up this topic. I hope others will join in.

We've had several previous discussions of Spanish ballet, including this thread on Victor Ullate's company:

http://ballettalk.in...l=victor ullate

We've also had discussions about the numerous excellent (even brilliant) Spanish ballet dancers in recent years -- dancers who were trained in Spain, but so often have to leave that country to have careers worthy of their talents.

But, when you're talking about a country with such a rich visual and musical culture as Spain, there can never be enough sharing of information and thoughts. Que bravo! :wink:

#3 Helene

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Posted 29 June 2006 - 05:02 PM

I've wondered what the classical ballet scene in Madrid would be like today if Nacho Duato hadn't changed Compañía Nacional de Danza into his own, contemporary company. Ullate was the first Director, followed by de Avila, and then Plitsetskaya in 1987, before Duato became Artistic Director.

#4 Pamela Moberg

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Posted 03 July 2006 - 02:28 PM

Bart is right, unfortunately, I would like to add.
Spain has produced some fine dancers who work outside Spain, by necessity as there isnt all that much worthwhile work in the country.

That reminds me of Sweden a couple of centuries ago -the artistic climate was pure awful to say the least and people with ambition had to decamp. (This sort of goings-on you have today as well, the difference being that today's sports stars decamp because of the high taxes).

Just think of the ballet stars being born in Sweden in those days. Marie Taglioni born Stockholm 1804, Didelot born Stockholm 1767, and Johansson born Stockholm 1817. They were all Swedes and became icons elsewhere.

When will managements and governments learn to hang on to their stars...

#5 Paul Parish

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Posted 04 July 2006 - 10:08 AM

Spain's loss is our gain -- here in San Francisco, sometimes it seems like new Madrid. The company is chock-a-bloc with dancers from Spain, WONDERFUL dancers, so much so that SFB can dance Don Quixote as if to the manner born. With Spaniards and/or Cubans in salient roles, they really make it feel Spanish, down to the tilt of hte eyebrows, the opposition of jaw and shoulder (which is as characteristic of Spanish line as it is of Egyptian), and the stretch of the arms across the body (that spiralling line where the hand goes to the opposite hip), the fan and cape-work, the knives stuck in the floor, etc --


The corps of course don't make a flawless back-drop.... but if they drop out occasionally and the suburban kid peeps through, they DO keep getting back into it.

But with the Martin brothers, Ruben and Moises, Gonzalo Garcia, a corps dancer whose face looks EXACTLY like Goya's Maja, Jaime Garcia Castillo, Katita Waldo (born in Spain), to name only the most salient, and the Cubans Lorena Feijoo and Joan Boada, they COULD WELL TOUR THE PRODUCTION (edited by PP july5) and be fairly confident that they'll have a hit, and I'd be surprised if audiences don't love it, for they dance it with tremendous spirit and flair and fabulous backbends and love of its Spanishness.

.......................................
By the way, if you're bookish, there's a LOT about Spanish dancing in Carlo Blasis's GREAT book, "The Code of Terpsichore" -- check it out. As it did later with Petipa, Spanish dancing affected Blasis at a gut level, he's never really coherent about it, but he's crazy about it.

..........................

I got my wires crossed when I first saw posted on BA that SFB were taking Don Q to Edinburgh -- it's of course the OTHER SFB (Suzanne Farrell Ballet) taking Mr Balanchine's Don Q to Edinburgh. I KNEW better, when I read the Farrell Ballet thread I corrected myself, but I have to KEEP reminding myself that SAN FRANCISCO's SFB is NOT going to Edinburgh, and in the middle of the enthusiasm of thinking about Madrid West I forgot again and posted the erroneous thought.

I'm sorry.

#6 Lynette H

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Posted 05 July 2006 - 05:15 AM

Spain's loss is our gain -- here in San Francisco, sometimes it seems like new Madrid. ....

But with the Martin brothers, Ruben and Moises, Gonzalo Garcia, a corps dancer whose face looks EXACTLY like Goya's Maja, Jaime Garcia Castillo, Katita Waldo (born in Spain), to name only the most salient, and the Cubans Lorena Feijoo and Joan Boada, they're taking the Tomsasson/Possokhov "Don Quixote" to the Edinburgh festival fairly confident that they'll have a hit, and I'd be surprised if audiences don't love it, for they dance it with tremendous spirit and flair and fabulous backbends and love of its Spanishness.

SFB at the Edinburgh Festival ? I'd love to see them there again, but isn't it the Suzanne Farrell Ballet appearing there with Don Q this year ? Or are you talking about future plans ?

#7 Farrell Fan

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Posted 05 July 2006 - 08:21 AM

I'm sure Suzanne will say a prayer for you, Paul.

#8 BalletNut

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Posted 05 July 2006 - 07:32 PM

SFB (as in, San Francisco :beg: ) is performing at Lincoln Center this summer, and there is no indication that they are performing at Edinburgh this year.

But they do have some spectacular dancers from Spain, like Garcia, naturally, and corps dancer Clara Blanco. :)

#9 Paul Parish

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Posted 05 July 2006 - 09:41 PM

Off-topic, but -- anyone know a good way to get egg off your face?

#10 omshanti

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Posted 05 July 2006 - 09:48 PM

I was thinking about the history of Spain , wondering what it is about Spain that attracts so many people. The muslim Arabs not only ruled the country for 8 centuries, but also after the reconquista many of them converted to christianity , adopted the local languages such as Catalan ,Castilian(Spanish) and stayed on in Iberian peninsula. This means many people who are considered to be Spaniards (and Portuguese)today are actually Arabs and many cultural things that are considered Spanish today have their roots in Arabic culture.
Maybe it is this foreign muslim(and Jewish) exoticness and its aesthetics within christian European Spain that attracts so many people to Spain and makes it a little different from other west Europian countries.
By the way the word Ole! which is very famous comes from the Arabic word Allah meaning god.

#11 Helene

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Posted 05 July 2006 - 09:57 PM

Off-topic, but -- anyone know a good way to get egg off your face?

I read the original thread on SFB brings Don Q to Edinburgh Festival as "San Francisco Ballet" so many times that I finally added a subtitle of "Suzanne Farrell Ballet."

#12 zerbinetta

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Posted 06 July 2006 - 12:03 AM

Off-topic, but -- anyone know a good way to get egg off your face?


Actually, it is my understanding that an egg facial is excellent for the complexion.

#13 bart

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Posted 06 July 2006 - 04:03 AM

omshanti, what an interesting thought.

Spain has always been -- despite the centralizing efforts of Castille-based monarchy and the Franco dictatorship -- a country of deep and intense regionalism. Some of it is definitely connected to the long Moorish presence, but some of it has developed and defined itself as resistance and in opposition to Moorish influence.

How does this affect ballet? I guess I had always thought of classical ballet as a cultural imposition on Spain from the French-oriented court society, especially after Louis XIV's grandson became King early in the 18th century. This may explain why, in the present, Spanish dance seems to be fragmenting, throwing off classical (imported?) forms, and either returning to folk roots or embracing new, "modern" forms of movement from from other parts of the world.

I hope there are readers more knowledgeable about Spanish dance culture today who might help us out on this!

#14 omshanti

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Posted 06 July 2006 - 10:23 PM

omshanti, what an interesting thought.

Spain has always been -- despite the centralizing efforts of Castille-based monarchy and the Franco dictatorship -- a country of deep and intense regionalism. Some of it is definitely connected to the long Moorish presence, but some of it has developed and defined itself as resistance and in opposition to Moorish influence.


Thank you bart, but we should not forget that apart from very small areas in the north west (above Duero river) and north east (above Barcelona), Iberian penninsula was under Moorish (Arab) rule for many centuries, and this was long before the concept of Spain as a country was born. This means most of the regions and peoples in Spain apart from very small areas in the north were influenced by the Moors. After all you can not erase centuries of influence so easily.
By the way guitar which is associated with Spain so much was brought to Europe by the Moors.

How does this history affect Ballet? Ballet was developed in the courts of France (which neighbors Spain) at a time when most European monarchies were connected with blood ties and were families of each other. So I think there is a little connection between this history and the development of ballet.

#15 Herman Stevens

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Posted 24 July 2006 - 12:41 AM

Dancers have to be one of Spain's main export products.

In the Dutch National Ballet, too, there are quite a number of very good Spanish dancers: Ainara Garcia Navarro from Zaragoza; Rosi Soto from Barcelona; Juanjo Arques from Murthia and Jaione Zabala, to name a few I like a lot. They're incapable of performing a routine step.


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