Intensity and Clarity

Starting August 1 this article will also be part of the print version of Magazin im August, available for free at all festival venues.

High energy in a small space: In “OneTwoThreeOneTwo”, the dancer and choreographer Albert Quesada looks for a way to approach Flamenco artistically.

Interview: Esther Boldt

Esther Boldt: What did fascinate you about flamenco?

Albert Quesada: Above all the intensity, the sense that every action comes from within; be it from a place of pain or a result of pleasure. Whether the motor of each action is real or imposed, it’s a different question, but it looks real on a first look.* I was also attracted to the clarity of movement of the dancers, their sharpness and precision, and the way they relate to the audience. And of course, their music, this was in fact the first thing that attracted me to the flamenco world: the apparent simplicity of their singing (which is actually not so simple), and the complex rhythmical patterns.

*I haven’t been able to decipher whether the intensity we perceive from the singers and flamenco dancers is real or imposed. But something I can’t question is how what flamenco dancers and singers can make us feel is definitely real. Maybe this is what matters?

EB: How did you undertake the transfer of a folkdance to a contemporary dance stage?

AQ: First we tried to understand some of the formal aspects: the above-mentioned frontality, clarity, verticality. We used these as our frame and departing points, we approached them with our trained dancers’ bodies. Later, we dissected the principles of flamenco dancing: the use of spirals, movement endings, isolation, dynamics, and integrated them into our improvised dancing. We translated that intensity into physical tasks and linked them with existing flamenco music. The result we were looking for is the intensity and clarity of flamenco dancing, but in the form of a less recognizable body.

It was indeed a challenge to tackle such a recognizable genre, and treat it with enough distance and respect, to both not pretend to make fun of it, and to not look ridiculous attempting to do something we can’t, or be someone we are not. We are not gypsies, we are not from the south of Spain. We understood flamenco our way, and I have come to accept that it’s the only way to approach flamenco.

EB: In contrast to most flamenco-presentation, the dancers are quite close to the audience. Why?

AQ: Flamenco singing and dancing started as improvised family parties, in homes, and later into small stages in cafes. Proximity and intimacy were key elements, common as well to the studio working periods we artists go through. We often spend months in a small space, seeing every little detail, witnessing shifts in the eyes, sensing the smell of the body, the sweat and listening the sounds the body produces. Often later, we distance too much the dancers from the viewers, and many details become too small, they get lost. We wanted to recreate this proximity, and offer the audience a very private experience. This meant a shift for us as well. We limited the space for our dancing, thickening our experience of the air, so to affect our travel on stage. The four sides surrounding audience of an 8x8 meters square forces us to be aware of every single angle of our dancing, and makes the space both compact and endless thanks to our spirals.

EB:  Which role does (working with) music play in your work, in your way of working in general?

AQ: Music is often the starting point of my stage work. I always say that my primary goal is to help the audience to listen in a particular and different way. For each creation, once I have identified either the music genre (classical, pop, operatic, flamenco) or the particular piece of music (the Goldberg Variations, a Beethoven Sonata, Tanhsauser’s overture), the goal is to construct a musical journey for the audience, that serves as a skeleton for the dance to thrive.

I look for music that either deserves and withstands several listenings, and becomes richer the more you hear it. Or music that might seem too opaque on a first listening. I set myself on the search for the best mechanisms to invite for a new, or a first accompanied listening.

My last creation for example, “Flamingos”, explore different aspects of flamenco that exists in other music genres, in artists as different as Whitney Houston, Maria Callas and Elton John.

My relationship to the music is always curious and respectful, looking for the possible entries for movement, and the overall drive of the composer. I believe music shall not there to accompany the dance. Music must be as present and important as the dance.

Albert Quesada & Zoltán Vakulya


21.8., 19:00 | 22. + 23.8, 21:00 | 24.08, 19:00 | HAU3