16 FESTIVAL FLAMENCO CIUTAT VELLA
Schools and traditions
For a long time, flamenco found its natural transmission within the family. This is no longer true, nor is there any reason why it should be, but the fact is that this passing of information continues to preserve identifying characteristics that make it unique, both artistically or anthropologically. In the case of the final day of the Festival Flamenco Ciutat Vella, both visions came together.
The Agujeta family is a dynasty that can be considered fundamental in the development of flamenco, not only in the sense of elders to offspring, but even crosswise within the same generation. But what most characterizes the Agujeta “brandname”, is the absolutely savage vision they have of cante. Not even in the case of female interpreters, can you sense a speck of softening, at least in the basic styles. They go straight for the ‘duende’, no room for barroque twists, each cante shoots to kill. And there isn’t any sort of order within a set, but rather the ending just happens by intuition after tientos-tangos, soleá, fandangos and siguiriya. The primal scream as it appears in the Munch painting. Quite an experience.
One big difference though compared to her father, is bulerías, which Dolores manages effortlessly with the Jerez compás of her son Dieguito de la Agujeta on guitar. And the fiesta finale included six other children of Dolores’: the clearest example of the importance of upbringing in the transmission of flamenco traditions. And the audience went wild with them.
The evening ended with another dynasty: the Pelaos. Another parallel path of transmission of flamenco information. In this venerable school we can look back to Pelao Viejo, Fati, Faíco, El Gato and Juan El Pelao. Today, Toni el Pelao is the one who carries the family dance line, but we also have the lovely voice of Charo Manzano – special guest artist for this show – and the youthful guitar of Luis Miguel Manzano, both present on the stage of the Pati de les Dones. With el Pelao and La Uchi, don’t expect to see acrobatics and technical flourishes. This is a dance style full of feeling, poses and gravity where aesthetics are controlled right down to the last detail, where placement is angular, where hands clutch vest and the vertical line is everything, where costumes express themselves eloquently, where there is harmony between the feeling of the music and the meaning of the dance, but above all, where dancing is delivered slowly and with inspiration, like good bullfighting. Something truly difficult to find in this day and age.
They were together for the caña. Then Uchi danced alegrías. El Pelao did his ancestral farruca and they ended with romeras. In the midst of it all, Charo Manzano sang some tortured tarantos, and there was a moving soleá by Pepe Jiménez. The audience enjoyed seeing this nearly extinct school of dance.
The afternoon session at the CCCB opened with Paula Domínguez. Born in Málaga, but now living in Barcelona, this singer could be said to represent yet another school: the one you can only acquire away from the family. And in that respect, nothing was spared. There was nothing flamenco at all about the way she was dressed. This was her public debut as she admitted, and she was very brave about it, singing petenera. She has a vibrant voice and knows how to work it. She took on difficult cantes like soleá of Serneta, but perhaps she was a little short on emotion. I think nervousness made her be more concerned about technique than just communicating. It’s a question of lack of experience.
Jesús Méndez, from another flamenco dynasty, is long on experience and family background. With a hard Jerez voice, he is moving from the first moment, singing romance and the pregón without guitar. Jerez cante is another world of sensations. Pain, struggle, art, bringing cante right down to the gut. That’s how he sang soleá and siguiriya. In fact, Jesús Méndez should not even have been in the Hall, but rather in the Pati de les Dones, because this singer is mature enough by now to be considered a star.