As versatile as they come, Jerez dancer María del Mar Moreno has a number of professional angles going at once: she performs in various works with her own company, appears with others as guest artist, regularly gives dance courses… For her, dancing is the fruit of much hard work, but also the strength and depth of her feelings. Although she’s not closed to the diversity of flamenco, her inclination is towards the classic type, which she defends with her elegant, passionate dancing.
Your most recent appearance was taking the show “Jerez Puro” to the Zaragoza Expo. What are you currently involved in?
“Jerez Puro” is a show we debuted three years ago in the Festival de Jerez, and it got many prizes and good reviews. It’s the company’s flagship so to speak, but we’ve also got shows like “María, María” which is two years old, and I also perform as soloist, often with Antonio Malena, it all depends on what people ask for.
One of the most recent show you took part in was “Viva Jerez”.
That was a show produced by the Villamarta theater, the first flamenco theater production they did, and there are various artists from Jerez, I’m one of the guest performaers, along with Antonio Malena.
Does the Festival de Jerez regularly count on your participation?
It’s been very good for us artists from Jerez. We’re the first generation to open frontiers in the area of dance, because this has always been singing country. The generation of Grilo, Pipa and myself, we’re the first ones to open up to the concept of a company, and we became impresarios and performers at a very good moment in time. The Villamarta theater has been working for us for twelve years, and this has been very important, because to triumph at the Festival de Jerez, is to triumph at the international level. The thing is, it’s very hard work, it’s not something you can do every year, you can’t keep creating new shows, it takes many hours, you need a production, an idea, and so on…we need about two years to put show together.
“Not all classic flamenco is good, nor everything contemporary is necessarily good, there has to be some process of elimination”
What have you tried to express with your shows “María, María”, “Jerez Puro”, “Septiembre”…?
I think each show, it depends on your personal situation, because you acquire experience, each show is a product of a certain point in your life, and reflects how you feel. I’ve always been a person who loves to study, not only flamenco, I wanted to enrich myself with other disciplines, theater, literature, and I try to give each show something of that moment in time. “Septiembre” was the first, more theatrical. Two years later I developed a purely Jerez show, with the most classic sort of flamenco. “María, María” was a sort of hybrid of that María from Jerez who grew up with gypsies, and the other María who loves theatre and opera. I’ve always been trying to grow, and to create in accordance with my spiritual needs, always growing and learning.
I suppose it’s not easy to maintain your own company…
It’s very hard, and it’s not that we’re in a panic right now, but the fact is the economic crisis is affecting everything. Everyone, producers, individuals, they’re all nervous, and it has an effect. Everyone’s trying to cut back the budget, and for a company, to do things right, at the very least you have to be working with ten or eleven people, technicians, artists, etc… Then get it all moving, daily living expenses for everyone, lodging, travel costs, it’s more difficult when you’re working with a set amount, but easier on your own. I danced in the recent Seville Bienal, it was easier for me to collaborate with Macanita and be a part of her show with bulerías, soleá, because you adapt to what she wants, but moving your own company is very complicated, because you have a big responsibility, as far as social requisites, taxation and such.
“Any personal situation helps me create my universe, and that’s my escape route, dance is a way of channelling it all”
So is it worth it in the end?
Of course, it’s very stimulating to be with other artists in that creative moment, nothing compares to it.
Do you also enjoy collaborating with other dancers, like el Pipa, Joaquin Grilo…?
There comes a time in life when you say: “I’m going to concentrate on myself”. But also with experience, there are friends you’ve been with all your life, and you have the good fortune that they’re great artists and wonderful people I’ve known since I was a small child, so they enrich me, because working with Tomasa, the way she sings, and having her sing for me for siguiriyas, it’s incredible, because my approach is different from hers. Then, I was also able to work in a production of the opera Carmen, I worked with an impressive mezzo-soprano, Nancy Fabiola Herrera, and being in a show like that, nothing to do with flamenco, it’s theater, a great experience that helps your creativity.
Throughout your career you’ve always given much importance to teaching, you give classes, made a DVD…
I think it comes naturally, because I was a very good student. I had a wonderful teacher, Angelita Gómez, the only one I had from the age of ten to sixteen, I’ve never been disconnected from her, I liked to help her in the classes, to learn how she teaches. It’s very complicated to give classes, the hardest thing there is in my opinion, it requires much more commitment. When you dance, or create, you’re acting, the payback is more direct than when you give classes, because sometimes the students aren’t that receptive, it requires psychology, knowing people by how they dance flamenco. There are people who don’t want to be dancers, they just want some personal attention, like therapy, and at the same time it helps me channel what I have inside.
photo: Rafael Manjavacas
Angelita was important for you, but were there others?…anyone in your family?
There are no artists in my family, well, yes, my brother Santiago is the company guitarist, he plays for many singers and dancers, but I was the first one to go professional, although in my family they are great flamenco fans. As far back as I can remember I’ve been hearing cante and seeing dance, I’m learning to sing, and then I was lucky enough to have Angelita. And from very early on I was with people like Manuel Morao, Parrilla de Jerez… My first fiestas were with Morao, Sordera,Terremoto, Tomasito… I’m not from any dynasty of singers or dancers, but I’ve been linked to all this since I was very small.
”I was lucky enough to have Angelita. And from very early on I was with people like Manuel Morao, Parrilla de Jerez… My first fiestas were with Morao, Sordera,Terremoto, Tomasito… “
Supposedly you defend traditional flamenco, but I’ve read where you highlight the importance of respecting all flamenco performers.
I like when they say that, because at this stage of the game, I’m not defending anything. At my age, everything is relative. I’m a very open person, I studied Hispanic philology, my friends are from all different fields of art and music, but at this point, a tremendous evolution is taking place, especially in the form more than in the material. I’ve always liked the most classic flamenco, it’s what attracts me. I defend cante, in order to dance you have to have good cante, the way they sing in my hometown, but also Seville, Málaga… I don’t like to become too attached to specific concepts, I like the essence of things. I also like to study theater, but certain things are untouchable.
Do you think diversity is good for the evolution of flamenco?
I think that’s always going to exist. It’s always been that way, historically and culturally, at every point. From the Renaissance until now, it’s always existed, and will always exist, in flamenco and in all the arts. What’s true is that there has to be a certain weeding-out process, because not all classic flamenco is good, nor everything contemporary is necessarily good, there has to be some process of elimination.
You said before, you studied Hispanic philology, it’s not very common for a flamenco dancer…
My family isn’t common, we’re not a flamenco family, although they are followers of the art and are open-minded. At six, they gave me my first book, “El Romancero Gitano” of Lorca, and we’ve always been linked somehow to the world of art, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have crossed paths with Manuel Morao and Parrilla de Jerez, they taught me to read poetry and appreciated theater. The people who’ve influence my career had a lot to offer, I’ve been very lucky in that way.
“It’s very complicated to give classes, the hardest thing there is in my opinion, it requires much more commitment”
Studying is also important to you, you also play piano, don’t you?
I don’t think you learn to play piano…it’s very hard, but in fact I’ve always been interested in the piano, taking classes, also ballet, theater, I’m still in the learning process. I tried to make good use of my time to enrich myself, I can’t be listening to flamenco all the time. I’m a big opera fan, that’s another passion of mine.
You always place a lot of importance on feelings…
A performing artist is moved by feelings. For me, flamenco is a very visceral art, you have to have a certain equilibrium that comes from being intellectually prepared, but the real strength of flamenco comes from gut feelings, the most profound part of human beings. When you’re on stage you show what you’re feeling inside at that precise moment, the good and bad experiences of your life.
What are your sources of inspiration?
I can be inspired by many things, by a state of mind, an experience, a memory, nostalgia, dreams, a book I’ve read or a film that moved me. Any personal situation helps me create my universe, and that’s my escape route, dance is a way of channelling it all.
”I think each show depends on your personal situation, because you acquire experience, each show is a product of a certain point in your life, and reflects how you feel”
You mentioned how important cante is for you, even mentioned you would have liked to be a singer…
Yes, I’m a frustrated singer, but a little less now, because in “Viva Jerez”, the Villamarta show, the director put a lot of faith in me, and I sang for the first time. I was able to sing a nana to piano, and a bulería song, “Piensa en mí”, quite an experience, wonderful.
Are you able to combine both things?
I don’t think I’m going to put cante to one side, now that I’ve tried it…I’m not going to be a singer like Macanita, nor even close to that, please! But in actual fact, I can include it in my shows, it gives more variety to what I do and enriches the whole, and I mean that as respectfully as possible.
Have you any project on the horizon right now?
We have shows coming up, and our courses…I have a very nice thing for next year, because now we aren’t presenting anything for the Festival de Jerez, last year we were involved in “Viva Jerez”, and I think we need a rest, but if it’s not for the next Festival, it’ll be for the other year. I think it’s going to be a new concept, and I’m working on it….I hope it works out and is a big success.