Flamenco, on the way to global domination | Bettina von Brockdorff

Incorporating poetry by Walid Nabhan and Nobert Bugeja, flamenco dance performance poesiaFlamenca will seek to take full advantage of this rich Spanish dance form’s potential. We speak to Bettina von Brockdorff, artistic director of Inspiración Flamenca, who will be staging the event at St James Cavalier on September 18 and 19

Bettina von Brockdorff
Bettina von Brockdorff

How does poesiaFlamenca differ from your previous shows? Would you say it marks an evolution of some kind?

This is Inspiracion Flamenca’s second performance following the success of ‘Pasion’ in 2013. Pasion dealt with a reflection and portrayal of the passionate dimension of flamenco and Spanish dance – passion through expression. The main idea revolved around the idea that passion is the most marked and striking aspect of flamenco and Spanish dance.

This upcoming production is entitled poesíaFlamenca which forms part of the Spazju Kreattiv programme and is happening at the Theatre, St James Cavalier. poesíaFlamenca is a fusion of Spanish dance, flamenco and contemporary flamenco with Maltese poetry.

The concept of poesíaFlamenca differs from Pasion as it deals with a journey to the soul of Spanish dance and contemporary flamenco, it reflects an emotional and philosophical journey that is expressed through dance and poetry which have been fused together in this journey… and understand its profundity.

Furthermore, there are several other elements that make this production unique; including innovative choreographies with several styles of music as well as exploring the contemporary aspect of flamenco. Contemporary flamenco and Danza Estilizada are gradually becoming globalised. For this reason, contemporary flamenco is thriving much more on a global scale.

This production may be considered as being evolutionary for this reason. The fusion itself between Spanish dance and Maltese poetry in equilibrium with each other may also be considered to mark an evolutionary path. Flamenco is an ever-evolving art and many artists are exploring several ways to be innovative when ‘transporting’ flamenco to the international stage.

The company’s dancers will be performing both Danza Estilizada and Flamenco as they have all professionally specialised in these niches. The members of Inspiración Flamenca include: Bettina von Brockdorff, Caroline Caruana, Marisha Bonnici, Robert Scicluna (dancers) and Caroline Mattocks (percussionist: cajón). The two guest artists collaborating with Inspiracion Flamenca are acclaimed authors and poets Norbert Bugeja and Walid Nabhan.

What led you to decide on fusing poetry and dance?

Poetry forms a very large and vital part of flamenco, particularly in flamenco’s song or ‘cante’. The cante is comprised of poetry, whether it is traditional or modern. The cante is reflective of its particular and unique expression in each rhythm or ‘palos’. The concept of poesíaFlamenca originates from this fact. Fusing our work with poetry felt like a natural choice for me, really. 

Each palos or melody, form and rhythm portrays a particular expression or theme. This theme would be reflective in the poem which is sung by the singer in the cante during a flamenco dance. The Maltese cultural identity, by means of Maltese poetry, was an interesting option to fuse together with Flamenco.

How did you set about choosing the ‘rightpoets for the occasion, and what were some of the main challenges of putting the whole exhibition together?

The selection of poetry for poesíaFlamenca was an important key to the production’s progression. As artistic director, I sought for features such as rhythm, musicality and depth of thought in the poems – which is what ultimately led me to choose Walid Nabhan and Norbert Bugeja. The two poets have distinct literary styles. I had read several poems by Norbert which all dealt with Spain and I believed that they truly reflected Spanish scenarios and places, which I found inspiring.

On the other hand, Walid’s poems are very musical, rhythmical and deep which complemented the themes embedded into the production of poesíaFlamenca extremely well.

There were a few major challenges when undertaking the process of fusing the dance, music and poetry together. The first was to select the music that would reflect the particular theme or expression that one would be exploring. The second, to build a choreography that reflects these two aspects and finally, finding an equilibrium between reciting the poem, the breath of its themes, and including all the aspects within this process.

What are the themes that youve chosen, and what led you to choose these themes in particular?

There are three themes present throughout poesíaFlamenca. The three themes include: ‘fuerza’ or strength, ‘vida’ or life and ‘ritmo de fusion’ or rhythmic fusion. The dancers choreographed together as well as separately, in their respective specialised Spanish dance – danza estilizada and flamenco specialities. This led to innovative choreographies that are all distinct from one another. This factor makes poesíaFlamenca an extremely versatile production.

The focus of poesíaFlamenca is dance. However, in those choreographies which are fused with poetry, the poetic expression is portrayed through the dance choreography simultaneously. The three themes reflect the journey that is portrayed in this production. Furthermore, they are some of the most reflective and striking elements in flamenco, today.

Why do you think flamenco is so popular among the Maltese?

I believe that flamenco has increased in its popularity over the past few years. Even though flamenco is mainly associated with Spain, over the past few years, Flamenco has been undergoing an evolutionary path. This stems from the fact that flamenco is being performed in the international dance festivals all around the world and the larger dance companies are touring their productions on a global scale.

Moreover, flamenco is honoured with being an example of intangible world cultural heritage by UNESCO. Flamenco is a passionate art, and although is associated with Spain, its main significant ‘hub’ is the southern region of Andalucia.

Its Mediterranean culture and warmth could be a common feature with Maltese culture, and this could be a reason why flamenco is popular in Malta. However, saying this, flamenco has also become extremely popular in Japan. Therefore, this has made me believe that it is flamenco’s vibrance, movement, passion, colour and depth that has made it such a powerful art; not only the dance, but also the song and music. 

What do you make of the local dance scene?

In general, the local dance scene is flourishing. Quite a number of dancers are studying dance on a professional level and this is the basis for a bright and exciting future that will give Malta a greater number of successful dancers and artists related to the dance scene. I believe flamenco has still not yet reached a broad audience as contemporary dance or ballet have, though awareness about flamenco as well as the different forms of Spanish dance is increasing and flamenco’s audience is growing.

Whats next for you?

As the artistic director of Inspiracion Flamenca, I intend to produce more productions in the future with my company. I aspire to tour with the company abroad, should there by an opportunity to do so. On a final note, I wish to expand Inspiracion Flamenca as far as possible, both from the artistic side in Malta, as well as in collaboration with Spanish artists.

poesiaFlamenca will take place at St James Cavalier, Valletta on September 18 and 19 at 20:00. The dancers include Bettina von Brockdorff, Caroline Caruana, Marisha Bonnici and Robert Scicluna. For more information, contact 2122 3200 or log on to http://www.kreattivita.org/event/poesiaflamenca/