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Stomping out of the island | Francesca Grima

‘No man is an island’ – John Donne’s now-cliché line will be given vivid expression thanks to Puerto Flamenco’s ‘Isla’ – an upcoming performance forming part of the Malta Arts Festival.

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
26 June 2013, 12:00am
Francesca Grima:
Francesca Grima: "Flamenco puts you back into your body, back into the shared moment."


We speak to Francesca Grima, dancer and co-founder of the company, ahead of the performance at the Royal Opera House on June 30 and July 1.

How did you work the 'island' theme into the show? What was the process like?

It was a very organic process this year, with everyone collaborating, putting in ideas, there is an exciting feeling of being involved in the project on another level. On some level the concept speaks to everyone, everyone has a vision of it, there are so many possible interpretations. Isla develops from contemporary, solitary and individualistic towards something close-knit and communal, an island as a return to primordial... a paradise lost.

You've said that 'Isla' will have a 'satirical' element to it - could you elaborate on this?

John Donne urges us even in the 1624 that no man is an island, a truth we so easily seem to neglect. Egocentricity, so characteristic of our Western civilization has been spreading like a virus and in recent years it just blew out of proportion. Flamenco, traditionally the voice of the oppressed, with its focus on the immediate, the alertness that puts you back in your body, back in the shared moment, the awareness of each other and of the miniscule shifts of intent as the shared energy engulfs all, that for us is an antidote to the current lifestyle, a life-belt in stormy seas of surrogate and virtual.

Working within the quite 'visceral' dance form that is flamenco, was it challenging to incorporate a theme like 'islands' into the production?

Flamenco in general is going through changes, and faces constant challenges of needing to innovate and surprise, while somehow retaining its essence. There is a trend of strange productions at the moment that are leaving the traditional flamenco audience behind, and possibly finding a new, more contemporary one.

Artists are spending more and more time on their own, closed up in the studios innovating, developing technique, borrowing from other styles, and less time in spontaneous gatherings, sharing, enjoying and letting go, which is changing the genre itself. In the first part of the show we are trying to make this evident, also revealing the limitations of the new approach within the traditional context. As the show progresses, we move towards the visceral, the style and essence of the south, where we spent the past 14 years. This is what moves us most: the treasure of Andalucía that we always cherish, and which has recently been awarded the status of intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2010.

What drives you to return to Malta each year? How will the Maltese landscape and culture be incorporated in Isla?

Malta is home. It means dear friends and family, a sanctuary and a calm port and best place to be in summer. We soak in the sun and the warmth, the gorgeous sea, charge our batteries and get ready for the following year. Obviously we very often bring our company here in summer and are grateful to the Malta Arts Festival for giving us the opportunity to première our productions here in Malta, it has been a great boost for our repertoire.

We have always wanted to in some way pay homage to Malta in our productions. In Isla there are a few elements of Malta, some more recognisable than others, possibly in the future there will be a production that will do that much more comprehensively. Also the show and one of the dances in particular - Soleá for Sharon, is dedicated to the late Sharon Sapienza, a dear friend and mentor who recently passed away: a feisty fellow islander who left a big mark on the international flamenco scene.

Isla features dancers Francesca Grima, Antoñete, Abel Harana. Andrej Vujcic will be on percussion with Reuben Romero on guitar. Encarna Anillo Salazar will complete the lineup as special guest singer. Tickets at €20 (€15 concessions) can be purchased from the Royal Opera House, Embassy Shopping Complex or www.ticketline.com.mt. The performance starts at 21:00.
teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...
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