Flamenco as a Space of Possibilities
Flamenco as a Space of Possibilities - Translation from hebrew
The Contemporary Eye – Dr. Idit Suslik
Espacio Potencial (Potential Space)
Dance, Choreography and Artistic Direction: Adva Yermiyahu
Contemporary flamenco reflects artistic processes and aesthetic tendencies that began to emerge in the early 1990s, exemplifying the manner in which artists rethink their craft and broaden the boundaries of the genre through the integration of flamenco with external influences, evident in various levels of the performance: choreography, musical composition, and stage design/scenography. These changes are part of a deeper process that raises questions about the role of flamenco - a traditional art form that had established over time as a manifestation of Spanish identity – in Contemporary Spain, which is postmodern, global, and multicultural.
The changes in flamenco have also become evident outside of Spain, in places considered centers of the practice of this genre, such as Israel. For almost a decade, dancer and choreographer Adva Yermiyahu (Israel/Spain) has been producing performances defined by her as 'visual flamenco', alongside site-specific works that place the dance within various contexts, while examining the dialogue established between the art, audience, and place within these unique conditions. Her new work, Espacio Potencial (Potential Space), a Spanish-Israeli co-production created in collaboration with guitarist and musical director Manuel Cazas and guest dancer Abel Harana, represents an attempt to structure the performance following a visual-formal guiding principle, thus opening the essence of traditional flamenco beyond its function as a musical dialogue between three basic elements - song, guitar, and dance.
The show's title reveals the 'key' to Yermiyahu's choreographic motivation - 'Potential Space', a term coined by psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, "refers to the intermediate zone that lies between reality and fantasy, without these poles interfering with one another and without having to choose between them" (from the program of the show). Yermiyahu translated Winnicott's idea into an arranging aesthetic principle that creates a complete form by connecting different artistic 'languages': flamenco, performance, and visual theatre. Accordingly, the show opens with an image not necessarily associated with typical flamenco imagery - Yermiyahu statically stands on the side of the stage, barefoot and dressed in a shiny pink dress, with her arms raised over her head while holding the long tail of the dress, thus framing the outline of her body within a field of color.
From this static image, the choreography gradually develops as a movement across space, as the tail of the dress seems to 'paint' a trail of color on the floor. Yermiyahu interrupts the movement through a series of gestures perceived as an updated commentary on the language of flamenco: at one moment, she sits down and taps the rhythm on the floor with her fingers - a musical gesture often seen in traditional events where musicians mark the rhythm by knocking on the table or another surface. At another moment, Yermiyahu realizes a familiar bodily position from the flamenco repertoire but raises her arms in a fragmented manner as if they aim to counter the flow of movement usually defined with the woman's dance in traditional flamenco. This entire segment is accompanied by a pink fluorescent light, which stands out because it resonates with Yermiyahu's dress while contrasting the neutral colors of the musical ensemble, wearing black and white.
The color-code of the stage gradually becomes clear when Abel Harana joins the dance, dressed in black and white tones, with a polka-dot shirt that highlights the presence of traditional flamenco. Accordingly, and in contrast to Yermiyahu, his movements demonstrate the language of flamenco devoid of external stylistic and/or aesthetic influences, while relocating the dancing body as part of the musically-based communication, within which the song and music are translated into the plasticity of the body its physical dynamics. During Harana's dance, Yermiyahu remains on stage, sitting on the floor as a kind of observing witness, while the actions she performs - folding the dress-tail she disconnected from her dress and the jacket taken off by Harana - create an additional layer to the liminal space defined by Winnicott. They blur the boundary between the performed and the functional, Harana's performative presence within the artistic action and Yermiyahu's 'being' in space, symbolizing in many ways the twilight zone between life and stage.
This intermediate state is manifested throughout the performance in additional layers: uncommon transitions between distinct flamenco song forms, which generally do not develop organically from one another due to different musical characteristics; the implementation of elements identified with ethnic music or alternatively, distinct Jazz fragments, into musical compositions clearly guided by the principles of flamenco (Contrabass: Gal Maestro; Percussion: Maayan Doari); Abel Harana singing with Shuki Shveiky while being present on stage as a dancer. But mostly, the changes in light design during the musical segments performed without dancing, framing the pink space that accompanies Yermiyahu's presence as the landscape of her consciousness, embodying the manner in which she perceives and experiences flamenco.
The concluding segment of Espacio Potencial completes Yermiyahu's choreographic idea, as she appears on stage in a traditional red and black tail-dress symbolizing the transformation of the abstract image of the flamenco female dancer into the recognizable and familiar image. Consequently, Yermiyahu and Harana perform together with the most traditional dance of the show, both in movement aesthetics and musical accompaniment. However, the pink light that continues shining on stage, even after the performance has ended, leaves the audience in the ambiguous state of Yermiyahu's liminal space, where flamenco is, first and foremost, a color palette of possibilities.