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Interview: CENK ERDEM
A dancer with endless arms
One of Flamenco’s most forceful woman figures, Maria Pagés is bringing Turkish fans her famous show, ‘The Flamenco Republic’, at Istanbul’s Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall on 13 May.
Born in Sevilla, the home of Flamenco, Pagés, who has been dancing since she was four years old, has been dubbed by critics ‘the dancer with endless arms’. We talked about the dazzling world of Flamenco dance with Pagés, who gives followers a sense of endlessness as she dances.
Several critics have called you ‘the dancer with endless arms’. What do you think about that?
Dancing is my way of expressing myself. Since I was very small I have thought I could express myself very powerfully, especially by using my arms.
How would you define your own style?
Critics usually characterize my style as avant garde, because Flamenco has a traditional and conservative side. But at the same time it is such a profound art that it is always open to dialogue with the other arts, and that is why I found my own genuine form of expression as I gained experience. To my mind, Flamenco is a different language that enables us to establish communication, and I am able to express myself as I want in that language.
Your show, ‘The Flamenco Republic’, is going to be staged in Istanbul for the first time on 13 May. How did you come up with this title for your project?
‘The Flamenco Republic’ is an imaginary country in which everything is ruled by Flamenco. I took my dance troupe and my own life as a point of departure when conceiving it, because dance is the most intense form of communication in our lives and we do that through Flamenco. That is why I imagined a country in which every emotion from happiness to sadness is expressed through Flamenco.
You are a dancer who is identified especially with Flamenco more than with the classical Spanish dance forms. What is it that drew you to Flamenco?
I’ve never thought about that because I was born into Flamenco. I’m from Sevilla, which is the heart of Flamenco. Flamenco is a natural part of life in Sevilla. But on tours I understood better why Flamenco is such a powerful art form. On the one hand it’s so popular, on the other it is a tradition that originated in the street and in the human soul. It is not an experimental dance form that has come out of a laboratory.
You are going to introduce Istanbul to the Flamenco Republic on May 13th. How well do you know Istanbul?
How do I know Istanbul? The whole world is following what a major city Istanbul has become. Our President Zapatero was in Istanbul for the second Alliance of Civilizations Forum. Istanbul is very important both for Spain and for the whole world. Everyone is aware of its cultural richness.
You have been involved in a number of films, including the legendary Carlos Sauro’s ‘Flamenco’. Can you tell us about your experience working with Sauro?
Carlos Saura is my friend above all else. He loves Flamenco and film, and he uses the magical language of the cinema to acquaint more people with Flamenco.
How do you view the Flamenco tradition considering its standing in the world?
I believe Flamenco has a very special place in dance. A number of projects are being realized to combine Flamenco with the other arts in order to bring it to more people, and all these efforts continue to strengthen Flamenco.
Do you have any new projects coming up, either with your own or with another dance troupe?
We have brand new projects with the world famous dancer and contemporary choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and with the Cuban ballet dancer Carlos Acosta, who is a principal at the Royal Ballet in London. We are also going to cooperate with Placido Domingo on a very unusual project. We have a brand new show called ‘Self-Portrait’, inspired by my own life, which we put together at the same time as The Flamenco Republic. It’s going to premier in Tokyo. So far we’ve staged it only in Sevilla and Madrid. And now we are going to be in Istanbul with The Flamenco Republic. We have a very busy tour coming up.