Photos: Ana Palma
We're talking to Rosario Toledo about her new show “ADN” which debuted at the Festival de Jerez and was recently presented in Seville within the series Flamenco Viene del Sur.
“There's too much tension in flamenco dance”
We jotted down this headline before seeing the show she's telling us about, as if sensing what the idea is behind this show of Rosario Toledo's, who has here her best find. She herself realizes you have to build a career to hit the right buttons of who you are and what you want, to know what makes us genuine. Then, you also have to deal with the answer intelligently, and convince the audience with what we have to offer. Precisely what the dancer has achieved digging deep into her “ADN” (DNA), the name of her new work with which she had enjoyed tremendous success at the Festival de Jerez, and in the series Flamenco Viene del Sur in Seville. And that was indeed written after the fact.
Obviously, this woman from Cádiz is not the only creative conceptual dancer on the current flamenco scene with a flourish for acting. Nor is she the only daring, avant-garde innovator among her peers. But Toledo has known how to use all that to build a personal style, and become the most modern of all the flamencos, and the most flamenco of all the moderns.
In other words, the Teatro Central was all sold out the day of her debut in the capital of Andalusia, with the most varied assortment of spectators, and many professional colleagues, because Rosario generates surprise and brings people together. She has managed to build a bridge between purists and cultured theater-goers with her luminous, street-smart, natural and naughty dancing that goes from humor to the tragicomedy that is life. Be it in her noctural concept of the milonga of Pepa de Oro with her clutch and disco lights, stripping to tanguillos, laughing at her own shadow in the fandangos del Chacarrá, being inspired by the strong singing por soleá of Juan Villar or turning happiness into pain, and pain into happiness. She could only be from Cádiz…
“ADN is an initial voyage in which I manifest who I am as an artist”
-Why “ADN” (DNA)?
-Well, because I wanted to find my essence, and I realized that in addition to being a woman and an artist, one of the things that determines your personality is your place of birth. So I began to look at what I inherited from my hometown as far as flamenco, how it affected the idiosyncrasy of who I am, and in my way of dancing.
-And as a result, this work became an ode to that survival spirit so typical of your town…
-Exactly. In fact, the hardest thing on stage were the continuous dramatic ups and downs called for in the script, and which can only come from wanting to reflect the reality of one's life. I knew from the start that in that personal search, there had to be the sense of humor that has saved me so many times – in the broadest sense – but also the loneliness and insecurities that you face as an artist. “ADN” is a way of saying, well here we are, and nothing to do but keep moving forward.
-So do you think that it's now necessary to defend this truly Cádiz art-form?
-I think that now there's a new generation of artists who make me very proud, and if my work contributes to getting people to know the flamenco of Cádiz, all the better.
-In this regard, whom do you look up to?
-Many people… Chano, Beni, Manolo Vargas, La Perla, Mariana Cornejo… I like them all, and feel they're all very different while sharing the same characteristic. They are creators of flamenco, they do things their own way.
“I'm interested in Cádiz as a place of creation”
-And from the current generation you said you're proud of?
-Well, in singing for example, my good friend David Palomar, who for me, represents a new and different Cádiz compared to the maestro Juan Villar, whom I was lucky enough to include in the show, he's pure knowledge. In addition to David, there's José Anillo who is the proof that the umbilical cord of traditional Cádiz cante has not broken. Neither of them copies anyone, and they carry the name of Cádiz wherever they go. There's also Encarna Anillo, who is a wonderful artist. And in dance…Eduardo Guerrero, María Moreno, Ana Salazar, Juan and Pili Ogalla, El Junco… A really impressive group to choose from and to suit every taste. I'm very interested in Cádiz as a source of creativity.
“The tanguillo La Guapa de Cádiz is a tribute to Mariana Cornejo, and the Cádiz sense of humor”
-Earlier, you mentioned Mariana Cornejo. The tanguillo of the Guapa de Cádiz included in the show is for her?
-Of course. In this tanguillo, somehow, there is the Cádiz capacity, not for singing, but telling a story. So it's actually a tribute to her, but also to the grace and wit of Cádiz. I adapted the verse to my own needs as a personal response to all the criticism we get to say that enough is enough.
-Seeing the audience's response to the most humorous pieces, would you say flamenco is in need of humor?
-It's possible. The fact is, it's difficult to manage, and hasn't always been equally valued. But what cannot be is someone dancing alegrías from a stance of tension. You need to see the dancers with relaxed faces, enjoying what they do. That's my way of understanding flamenco dance. If Juan Villar is singing for me, I try to live that moment intensely, and express all the feelings it produces. Not just keep to a choreography that constricts me.
-You are always talking about the creative process, the concept…
-Yes, but that's how I'm used to working. Dance is the outlet for my emotions. I like things to flow. My pilates teacher helped me a lot with this [laughter].
“If it weren't for flamenco, there would be moments I wouldn't know where to go”
-And after looking for your genetic heritage, what was your best find?
-I discovered that if I didn't have my dancing, my art, my flamenco, there would probably be many moments I wouldn't know where to go. I mean, it's almost been an initial voyage which has been useful to manifest who I am as a persona and an artist.
-So, could the Rosario Toledo of before possibly have carried out this kind of show?
-Not at all. It takes a certain maturity. You have to look back to see what you've done, to the side to see what you have and forward to see what you're looking for. In the beginning, you're more spontaneous, and this is a show that requires control. Now I know what I have to offer.