In my second post as a guest blogger here at Lisner, I’d like to introduce local flamenco dancer Sara Jerez, a very active performer in the DC area since 1996 in Spanish restaurants, clubs, theaters, festivals you name it. Sara has also given dance workshops in Lisner’s Flamenco Festival several times over the years. And it just so happens that many of the flamenco artists she mentions (highlighted in bold text) in this interview have performed at one time or another in Lisner’s Flamenco Festival.
Miguelito: Who is your favorite well-known flamenco dancer/musician? Why?
Sara Jerez: As for dancers, I think it goes back to Carmen Amaya because she was so innovative and really broke the mold in terms of what would later be expected of women dancing flamenco. Prior to that, it was all about upper body movement, women didn’t have the power and the prestige that men had until Carmen Amaya showed that she could be as strong, if not stronger than any man on stage as a presence and as an artist.
And in terms of musicians, I greatly admire Paco de Lucía as a real pioneer of modern flamenco. I also love Manolo Sanlúcar. His music is just so artistic and complex as well as lyrical. There are many other guitarists that are from a newer generation that I admire: Gerardo Nuñez, Vicente Amigo, Tomatito.
M: I should mention to our readers that you are married to a flamenco guitarist. Has your husband Richard Marlow influenced your tastes?
SJ: Yes of course he’s influenced me…if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t know the singers like José Mercé, Duquende and Potito. And the older ones too: Caracol, Mairena, Chacón and Platero de Alcalá, this older generation that I would never have been exposed to had I not been married to Richard.
I can’t think of all of the names, but there’s so much through osmosis that I’ve learned. He just is so…flamenco is such a 24/7 passion for him. For me, it hasn’t always been that way. As much as my life has been dedicated to flamenco, I’ve had other varied passions and interests, a bit of a Jill of all trades and a master of none. He’s really focused so much on it [flamenco]. I’ve learned most things about flamenco music and rhythm through him.
M:Full disclosure for our readers: I perform with you a lot. I recall one time when I was in the car with you on the way to a gig when you played a CD you had by a guitarist named Antonio Rey.
SJ: Oh yes…also a favorite of mine and another guitarist Richard introduced me to. Not only is Antonio Rey technically brilliant but he’s also so melodic in his musical phrasing. He’s got such beautiful compositions. I hear a lot of Paco de Lucía, Gerardo Núñez and Vicente Amigo influences in his music.
M: So you mentioned Carmen Amaya as one of your favorite dancers. Can you mention a favorite from the current generation of dancers?
SJ: Sara Baras in terms of female dancers…she’s always just been so strong, so powerful and so beautiful in the stuff that she’s done. Rocío Molina has such a uniqueness. She’s beautiful and lyrical as a dancer but in a very different way.
I think Sara Baras is little bit more into her body lines and aesthetics while dancing, whereas Rocío does not have the stereotypical ballet dancer body. And her movements aren’t that stereotypically flamenco either but they’re also very beautiful and she really puts so much thought and energy into it…really innovative, really outside of the box, on the edge.
Israel Galván is a very interesting dancer who makes one wonder where in the world flamenco is going in terms of the dancing with influences that are so modern and non-stereotypical of what we think of as flamenco. Is it evolving to something else? You see so many external influences that it’s almost…can we still call it flamenco? Obviously we can because it’s what’s evolving in Spain but it’s really deviating very quickly, especially in the last ten years, from what we’ve come to know of as flamenco dancing.
M: How has the Flamenco community grown in DC over the last 10 years artistically and economically?
SJ: In terms of the economics, we are so fortunate that there have been a lot of restaurants that have been able to sustain flamenco shows for many many years…Las Tapas, La Tasca, Jaleo. We really have been able to count on those jobs for a long time and when some of those jobs dropped out, there seems to be something right around the corner that pops up to keep the business going. One thing I have learned is that nothing is forever and I could be out of a job tomorrow without warning. I’ve been extremely fortunate to sustain myself economically as long as I have doing this art form that I love so much!
I think that you (Miguelito) have been instrumental in terms of really getting the word out for all things flamenco in DC, publicizing everybody [at DCFlamenco.com]. I don’t know how long you have been doing it but it’s really about having a source that everybody can go to and know that you’re going to promote flamenco and not just one person but the whole community.
And I think that’s been really important in terms of getting the word out as far as where one can find flamenco in DC and where interested students can find teachers. I’ve always referred people to your website. It’s so easy. The info is all there.
To answer your first question regarding how artistically the community has evolved, I think that the more dancers and musicians that there are, the more everyone grows as artists. Personally, I’ve gained a lot from hanging out and working with our flamenco community, from novices to professionals. Learning from and emulating attributes from other dancers to make my own performances better. We are also constantly challenged to keep on top of our game. I see the younger generations coming up and technically they’ve become proficient in flamenco more quickly than when I was starting because the bar of knowledge has increased exponentially and is being disseminated so quickly.
The flamenco teachers brought in constantly for workshops are influencing all of this because it makes us grow that much faster and work that much harder. Edwin Aparicio has been instrumental in bringing in external artists to give dance workshops keeping us grounded into what flamenco really is from top notch professional Spanish dancers like Manuel Liñan, Domingo Ortega, La Tati and Carmela Greco to name a few.
M: Who are local dancers/musicians that you respect/admire?
SJ: I have to say that I am very biased about those that I admire as all are my very good friends! As guitarist, I admire you (Miguelito) and Richard because I’ve been working with you guys for so many years and we’ve all grown and toiled side by side in this business! You both have worked hard to pass your knowledge to many aspiring flamenco guitarists and kept the business alive by getting jobs at restaurants, with government agencies and private industry throughout the years. It’s not only about the art of flamenco, but the art of business!! As for dancers, Edwin Aparicio has been a real powerhouse in terms of keeping flamenco at a high level and advancing so many people as a teacher and as an artist and always doing shows that culminate in the highest level of flamenco artistry. Anna Menéndez I also respect greatly. She has also passed on her tremendous knowledge and artistry to many dancers and worked to advance her own dance company, Pastora, to highlight her own vision and interpretations of flamenco. Having a company and putting on shows is a lot of hard work! I admire anyone that endeavors into that! There other many other groups/companies in town and many individual dancers that are very talented that should get acknowledgement but there are too many to name! I am just really happy to be one of many in our DC flamenco community!