Inspired by a new energy and burgeoning generation of young dancers, A Flamenco Catharsis illuminates the traditional Spanish art-form of flamenco with a modern twist and an emblematic nod to the future.
Poem: F.G Lorca
The interpretation of dance through film and photography is a new horizon for the art form, one that captures a tangible energy that inspires and moves.
Photographed in the hills of Barcelona, we fall for flamenco in our latest Stella Kids collaboration, discovering that this passionate dance goes beyond traditional dress and convention. Emotion and passion are vital factors in flamenco and we capture artistic glimpses of these beautiful expressions.
Lolo Gonzalez, the creative driving force behind A Flamenco Catharsis takes us further into his world in our Q&A explaining how he’s getting a new generation involved, what he thinks are the biggest misconceptions about the art-form and what the future holds for flamenco. Lolo also tells us about the poem he adapted for the project that is recited over the film.
Read the conversation below.
Lolo, you are the force and drive behind A Flamenco Catharsis. Tell us a bit about your work.
A Flamenco Catharsis is a common, fertile space where multiple contemporary explorations and creative collaborations fearlessly take place with no rules, bringing a fresh take on Flamenco.
We have set out to find original concepts and expressions for Flamenco that occur beyond the stage or the recording studio. A Flamenco Catharsis is the result of me having a particular vision of Flamenco, but no clue of how to express it through singing, dancing or playing the guitar.
How are you getting the younger generation involved in Flamenco?
First, by being amongst that generation. A Flamenco Catharsis takes several formats in various settings, and importantly, in the digital environment where the younger generation spend a lot of their time.
Secondly, once we are closer that they can see and hear us, we can make Flamenco attractive. For them Flamenco may still be a dusty art that belongs to their grandparents’ generation… but if you suddenly apply interesting storytelling and powerful aesthetics, Flamenco and its artists will progressively sneak into their Spotify playlists, into their followings, and even onto their bedroom walls.
This is the idea of A Flamenco Catharsis: filtering flamenco from a present-day perspective, and — by making it appealing through codes they are familiar with — bringing the young to flamenco’s doorstep.
Is it true that there is little written down about the flamenco technique?
I’m not sure if ‘little’ is the word, but it is definitely not enough.
All the fields of performed Flamenco — singing, dancing, and guitar as the representative instrument — can be studied, analysed, and transcribed into a technique to be taught afterwards, but it wasn’t until several decades ago that there was a serious interest in doing this. Considering that Flamenco — as we know it — is 200 years old, it seems a little late.
The reason? Perhaps it is a combination of its hermetic origin, the stigmatisation of Flamenco as music from the slums, and the old romantic idea that Flamenco belonged exclusively to the sphere of inspiration, to the divine. To that “mysterious power that no philosopher can explain” like the poets used to say. I don’t know.
There are obviously some more gifted than others, but in my opinion the true flamenco artist nowadays is closer to a student than to someone touched by a higher power. In fact, Flamenco is taught at Berklee, the most prestigious music college in the world.
Shop the Story
What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about Flamenco?
Well, I could go through some of the classical misconceptions — some of which remain today. For instance, the idea that Flamenco belongs exclusively to the gipsy ethnicity and that they are somehow the only capable of sublimating it — who hasn’t ever heard of Paco de Lucía?
Another misconception: it is musically poor. From the moment some scholars looked inside and discovered the richness in it, Flamenco became considered as intellectual as any other styles, and their artists began to act in the temples of music from all over the world. Have you heard about Stravinsky? He once recognized Flamenco as “the most cultured of the traditional music genres”.
Another one: the poorly defined concept of pureness. Flamenco was born from a tremendous mishmash of different heritages, and its history is a constant appropriation of external artistic elements, later reconverted into something authentic. Therefore, saying “pure Flamenco” is almost contradictory.
One more yet: wanting to impose traditional over modern Flamenco, or vice versa. They are both necessary; the first one, to let us remember where it comes from, and the second one, to show how far it can go.
And lastly, a very personal one, that Flamenco must be sung in Spanish. Isn’t there, for example, French rap which is as genuine as the American?
Your photographs have an almost tangible energy. How do Flamenco and that energy feed into one another?
Flamenco is largely energy. Sometimes it unleashes through an interpreting body, and others it is the stillness — even in the biggest silence — that contain high doses of energy. This is why we decided to take pictures of the children in both attitudes: in some photos we see their exuding an extraordinary power through their bodies, while in others it concentrates in their gazes.
I like Adrián Catalán’s photography very much because he knows how to capture that invisible energy. In his portraits, those who stand in front of the camera aren’t simply looking. Somehow through their eyes we can perceive an intense mental activity taking place.
Does the art of Flamenco go beyond costume and traditional dress?
Luckily for everyone it does! You only have to look at the children. Would they be more flamencos if we had dressed them with traditional costumes? Absolutely not. Stella McCartney’s clothes can be as flamenco as any other. It is closely related to an attitude and to how people move or use what they are wearing.
Of course I think some traditional costumes are beautiful, and I believe there is a need to wear them in order to preserve the flamenco costume; this small heritage of ours. But I would also like to say that — throughout my life — none of those who have made me feel the most intense flamenco experiences wore the traditional costume.
Tell us about working on this content story – how did you find the participants?
We were sure about the fact that the children had to be real dancers — not actors or models. So the guys of Manson talked to Rosalía, the singer, — they directed a music video for her last year — to ask her if she could pass us some names from the current flamenco scene of Barcelona. And so she gave us a first name, Manuela, and a couple of YouTube home videos. We fell in love the minute we watched them and we knew that she was going to be one of them.
From her, the people of Canada, the production company, discovered that a collective show of flamenco schools was going to take place at the end of the year where — besides Manuela — many others would be dancing. This is where we discovered the talented Alexia, Lola and Álex, who completed the group.
The shooting day was very easy going because they knew each other and they had a tremendous connection that you can feel on camera. It was a lovely experience for the whole team, but it was particularly moving to see how these children turned from a childish naiveté during daytime into powerful creatures when they danced at nightfall.
The poem for the project which is recited over the film. We’d love to know more about the inspiration behind the words.
The poem is the adaptation of a fragment from a lecture that the poet Federico García Lorca gave on February 1922 called “El Cante Jondo: Primitivo Cante Andaluz”.
Lorca is undoubtedly one of the greatest Spanish poets in history, and certainly the most flamenco. He and some of his essential poetry works have been one of the greatest —maybe even the greatest— sources of inspiration of Flamenco for the past century. Even today the influence is still inexhaustible. The Flamenco he saw and discovered found the deepest and richest poetical shades. The way he saw Andalusia and the flamenco universe was unique; full of intuitions and secret essences brought to light.
What is next for A Flamenco Catharsis?
After this first brand collaboration with Stella McCartney, A Flamenco Catharsis will appear in the publishing sphere with a printed publication. Both my long-term collaborator, Jordi, and I are passionate about the magazine format. We think this type of media is ideal to convey certain thoughts and new angles from which to look at flamenco.
This way, following a contemporary, eclectic perspective and an honest editorial design, this printed edition of A Flamenco Catharsis will be free of archaisms and clichés. It will somehow be the stage to read respected words and look at considered visuals related to the art and culture of Flamenco.
After this publication, another one will follow, but we still don’t know what shape it will take. I am a little curious to know.