Pamela Moberg

Ballet and dance in Spain

19 posts in this topic

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:

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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.invisionzone.com/index.p...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:

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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.

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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...

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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.

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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 ?

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

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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. :)

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

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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.

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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."

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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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In April Duato did not renew his contract to lead Compania Nacional de Danza. According to this article, which was published in Links on 17 April, "Observers say that Duato has only included contemporary choreography, while the National Institute for the Scenic Arts and Music, INAEM, also wanted to see classical ballet performance."

In yesterday's Links, dirac posted an article about an upcoming CNdD performance in Montreal, for which the Montreal Gazette interviewed Duato. Among the quotes,

"We ended on very bad terms," said Duato, 53, referring to the company administrators in a telephone interview from his home in Madrid on the day after Spain won the World Cup...

"I offered to stay as artistic adviser so they'd continue doing my work, but they said no. They wanted to change completely."

"They're really destroying a company that was really very important."
"I've been having a hard year. There've been many disappointments."

Considering how dismissive he was of the classical ballet company run by Plitsetskaya and its dancers when he took the helm of the Company, replacing them with his own dancers and choreography, it's hard for me to shed tears that it's possible that everything's come full circle.

After years of having the top dancers in Spain leave the country to enrich companies elsewhere, it's also hard not to note that until Angel Corella established his company, The Powers That Be did not start a pizza parlor across the street from the existing one.

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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!

I've always been curious about Petipa's Spanish period. I read that in 1843 he was offered the position Premier danseur at the King's Theatre in Madrid, where he stayed for three years before leaving for good after being challenged to a duel by the French Marquis de Chateaubriand, whose wife was he having an affair with at the time. What happened to all those works he created...? Carmen et son toréro (Carmen and the Bullfighter), La Perle de Séville (The Pearl of Seville), LAventure dune fille de Madrid (The Adventures of a Madrileña), La Fleur de Grenade (The Flower of Grenada) and Départ pour la course des taureaux (Leaving for the Bull Races). It is hard to believe that he left no balletic trace behind whatsoever.

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One has to recognize that the CND got a great recognition worldwide. Duato created very good works and his dancer are very good and committed to him and his way of movement. But it is also true that he always said that he didn’t like the classical ballet and destroyed anything ballet related that could have been in the company he inheritated.

Now, I remember a recent interview of Duato for Dance Europe (I think) when he compared Corella Ballet as a pizza and said that they had had very bad reviews, etc… while in the very same magazine there was a very good review of CB in NY. The interviewer said that the CND also had bad reviews and then he said that he didn’t trust critics much… He was quite pathetic there… :blushing:

Later on at the same speech, he said that Spain had no culture, no tradition about ballet and that the classical Spanish dancers were only virtuosos, nothing else…

I liked the CND very much and found Nacho Duato first works really beautiful, but I do not like the way he has evolved, too dark, without that beauty, joy and musicality of the beginning. Anyway I think it’s a pity he leaves in such a bad terms with everybody.

On the other hand, the aim of the government to convert the CND in a company able to dance also classic, only demonstrate the poor knowledge about dance our responsible for culture have :wallbash:

I think it would had been better to leave the CND as a contemporary company, dancing Duato and also more Ek, Kyllian, etc… and giving more support to Corella for his to be our classical ballet company.

And if one day there is more money for dance, then maybe they could think about creating a National Classical Ballet Company.

But will see how all this evolves :unsure:

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Google Translation:

Jose Carlos Martinez, the new director of the National Dance Company

Rosana Torres / Roger Salas - Madrid - 17/12/2010

ELPAIS.COM

. . . José Carlos Martinez has been named today by the Minister of Culture, Ángeles González-Sinde, artistic director of Compañía Nacional de Danza (CND). . .

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