Renowned flamenco dancer Antonio Granjero will be performing Thursday, Nov. 30, at the Red Light Cafe. He will be a part of an evening of flamenco dance and music sponsored by the A Traves Project, which also includes singer Francisco Orozco “Yiyi”, guitarist Jose Manuel Alcanchel Ortega and dancer Julie Galle Baggenstoss.
Granjero began his dance studies at age 9 in his native Spain. He was recognized as one of the best flamenco dancers of his generation and toured the world with a number of prominent dance companies. He now resides in Santa Fe, NM where he is recognized as a cultural treasure. He is director of Entreflamenco Dance Company in Santa Fe.
Atlanta INtown interviewed Granjero to find out more about his work.
What influenced you as a child to begin dancing?
I am from Jerez de la Frontera, which is the birthplace of flamenco, most specifically, the flamenco song, so flamenco has been a part of my upbringing and a part of my life from my earliest memories. I am a child prodigy so by the age of 9 years old I started touring internationally.
Who were your teachers and what were some of their most important lessons?
My teachers were Fernando Belmonte, flamenco and classical Spanish dance, and Paco del Rio, classical ballet. It is difficult to narrow down to a series of the most important lessons that they both taught. They were both extremely demanding on dance etiquette, proper technique, code of ethics and logic for how to move onstage within a dance company. They also instilled a grand sense of respect for the art form and respect toward the stage and your audience.
What did you struggle with to become a master of your craft?
My struggle as a master or better stated, a cultural ambassador who represents my culture and art from my country, exists with the struggle that so many persons want to market themselves as flamenco artists. It is a tireless process which takes so many years of rigorous training, extensive performance experience. So many fellow countrymen or student level dancers who aspire to become professionals do not realize the unrepairable damage that they are doing to the art form as well as the professional market. Any person, just because they come from Southern Spain to the United States, consider themselves and sell themselves to the American audience as true flamenco artists when the majority of those individuals in fact are not. Most do not have any type of training, experience or credible credential that is factual. At the same time, any person that is a dance goer that has traveled to Spain to study flamenco dance markets themselves as master level artist when realistically they are of apprenticeship level. There is so much to learn about the art form and the profession. It is an endless journey.
How do you communicate with your audience as a dancer?
My communication with my audience as a dancer is expressed through the global collaboration of the artists onstage, the accompanying musicians and myself use the traditional structure of modern day flamenco song, dance and guitar to transport sentiment through my gestures and movement.
How do you relate to the other musicians you perform with? How do you achieve rapport?
When I am preparing repertoire I build a raw sketch of choreography with certain musical ideas and arrangements. There is a balance of traditional structure and arrangements that have specific motifs, dynamics and intentions that come together through endless hours of rehearsals in preparation for the stage that we develop together. Rapport is achieved through repetition.
How does the energy of a performance build to bring the audience into a state of heightened energy?
The energy of a performance builds through variation and color of a well balanced prepared show to build to a heightened energy. There must be an array of different types of songs/dances to convey different types of emotion through the performance material. It cannot be monotone or always the same sensation in each dance or instrumental number. Variety of repertoire is the key.
As a teacher yourself now what is important for your students to understand about flamenco?
It is important for my students to understand that flamenco is a living culture, the expression and tradition of my people. The learning process and organization of flamenco dance studies is a logical progression that one must be familiar with all of the layers of songs, rhythms and dances. It is crucial that students have a strong foundation of the rhythm(s), proper technique and alignment from the start. In Spanish we have a saying ” you cannot build a house from the roof down…”
Franklin Abbott is an Atlanta writer and psychotherapist. His new CD is Don’t Go Back To Sleep: New Songs and Selected Poems