'Endless Arms' of flamenco on Istanbul stage
María Pagés, who played a leading role in the rise of Flamenco and won international fame as the “dancer with endless arms” will perform at Istanbul’s Cemal Reşit Rey (CRR) Concert Hall with her dance company on Nov. 30.
Pagés introduced the Flamenco tradition from New York to India and from Mexico to Japan with her dance company founded in 1990. Since then, she received many prestigious awards from the Andalusian Medal to the National Dance Award.
In an interview, she speaks about her passion for dance and her current show, “An Ode to Time.”
We are very happy to have you here in Turkey once again. What is it that you like the most about Turkey and Turkish audiences? What are your impressions?
Pagés: In Turkey, I feel like home. We share the same light, culture and the Mediterranean fraternity. My memories are linked to the amazing people I met there. They promote culture in the best way, and there are two things that defines them: They defend with generosity and passion the eternal Turkish hospitality and universality, that of [Orhan] Pamuk to Rumi and so many other geniuses that made Turkey the great nation it is. I am really happy to be back at home.
What are your very first memories about dancing?
I am the daughter of a mathematics professor and a businesswoman who studied in the 1940s in Spain, born in Catalonia but who ended up in Seville by accident. I am a flamenco choreographer because my grandparents fell in love and got married in Seville and decided to stay. And Seville has as cultural essence flamenco, that you can breathe and fell in every corner of the city, in every house and every celebration. Flamenco is a way of life. My mother took me to a dance school, because every respectable family takes their daughters to dance courses. As I am the only girl among five boys, the obligation was even more important. I had to do dance, or it was going to be some kind of martial arts like my brothers.
Your Flamenco choreographies, your dancing language have a contemporary and unique style. How is the reaction to your innovative approach?
My flamenco choreography is contemporary because flamenco tradition, just like any other tradition, is contemporary. Modernity is our capacity to put into movement tradition, ours and that of others. We all have a place in humanity.
How do you create your shows?
I work with El Arbi El Harti, my husband and creative partner. I come from the dance world and he comes from that of literature and university. We complement each other. The fact that we come from different backgrounds makes our creations even more interesting.
As for your latest show, “An Ode to Time,” how do you explain this show for us? What has inspired you while creating the choreography, music and lyrics?
“An Ode to Time” is a piece of grand ballet. We will be 17 on stage: nine dancers and eight musicians. A friend of mine and connoisseur of dance told us once that we had created a piece that was a “dancer-killer.” And it is true: “An Ode to Time” is basically strong rhythms, all along, increasing and decreasing as the show goes on that eventually ends up. We end in euphoria, drunk in love and happiness.
You have worked with many important names around the world. Do you feel yourself lucky?
We have collaborated with important figures of the art world such as Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago, architect Oscar Niemeyer, choreographer Mikhail Baryshnikov and Placido Domingo. I have learnt a lot from them, but there is one thing to remember: We are not alone in this world, and the best way to grow is to work in teams.
Could you, please, tell us about your collaboration with Plácido Domingo?
He is a very good singer and one of the most important figures of opera in Spain. He participates in my show, “Oyeme con Los Ojos” (Hear Me by Your Eyes), singing a poem. He collaborates recording a poem. It was exciting to be with him and admiring his voice and person.
You are granted many important awards and acclaimed both by the authorities and audience. What is the secret of your notable success?
The truth is that the awards are a complement to the profession, and when it is given from the authorities, it means that they recognize my contribution to the culture and profession. For me, the best prize is to be able to go on stage and see that the public is excited and motivated by my work, fruit of the daily effort. The secret of success is perseverance, rigor, respect for the profession and art.
You also have a keen interest in poetry. Whom are your favorite poets? Which poem do you like the most?
I like José Saramago. He is more a novelist but also a poet. I like Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Fray Luis de León, San Juan de la Cruz, Ibn Arabi, Rumi, Juan Agustín Goytisolo, Tagore and Mario Benedetti. I cannot say one.
Do you have any special ritual to relax before going on stage?
Nothing special just 10 minutes before staying alone in my dressing room and concentrating. Of course, before that rehearsal for me is important even if I do the show every day.
You are a very productive artist. What are your future projects?
We are currently working on two projects: On one side, we have created in Madrid the Maria Pagés Choreographic Center of Fuenlabrada that is a home for dance and aims to host and accompany young choreographers, in addition to research, creation and formation. On the other side, we are in the last phase of our last choreographic work centered in the theme of frontiers and everything that leads us as humans to lose our humanity.
What do you advise for people who would like to learn Flamenco?
Flamenco, as any other form of dance, notwithstanding with the difficulties, has a wonderful future. Human beings, we, have always danced, we have always performed and created. I don’t think anyone can fight against human nature.
What needs to be done to be a part of your team? What are your criteria?
Honesty, discipline, initiative, commitment, respect and teamwork.
Do you have any messages for the Turkish audience?
I would tell you to relax and forget the stress of everyday life. Enjoy what I have to offer with my fantastic musicians and dancers from my company. Every time I return to Turkey, I get excited and feel at home. I love to be able to show something so important from Spain.