Certamen Consorcio Artist Q&A

Xianix Barrera

A:  COVID-19 has had an enormous impact in the arts community specifically in live performance. Flamenco, like many arts, thrive on the living, breathing, proximal audience. Although many, including myself, have quickly adapted to performing live without an audience, it’s just not the same. In fact, it’s awkward and strange. This summer I performed at my alma mater, Iona College, for the camera, not a live audience. After each number we’re accustomed to applause. For the first time, after I did a strong final pose, there was nothing. No clapping. Jaleos. Shouting. Nothing. And while this is our “new normal” I do hope we will return to the stage and our audiences very soon. We need them as much as they need us. This time has forced artists to innovate in their expressivity via video art. Artists can now perform, create, direct, and express without the live audience and without the ephemeral experience. Now the art can live on forever.

A:  All art forms evolve and that evolution is a natural one. Evolution occurs for many reasons from advances in technology that give way to new forms of expression to access to information, music and styles that may not have been known. Flamenco, like any other art form, will continue to evolve. Artists today who perform and produce contemporary flamenco, do so, I believe, because they have practiced and performed traditional flamenco for decades. At some point you’ve “been there, done that” and your soul wishes to see what else is out there, what’s outside the box. Your training and bodily or vocal expression is and will always be through the flamenco lens of rhythm, music and dance. However, your influences and inspirations can come from other sources. The argument is, “can this contemporary expression still be considered flamenco”? In my opinion, I say yes. Is it 100% flamenco? No. But what is? If you think about it, what is 100% pure? Nothing is. Everything has come from something. Any art form, in order to survive, must evolve in some form. Does it make it any less authentic or beautiful or true? Absolutely not. Each individual has every right to expression and demonstrate what is true to them. It is always within our choice whether we accept or not.

A:  From experience, wherever flamenco has been seen, heard or experienced it was greatly valued! Unfortunately, the only place I have heard that flamenco is not always valued is in Spain! There are many “vecinos” that complain about the Peñas and bars that stay open late or attempt to have them closed down because it is seen as déclassé which is so unfortunate. It seems like flamenco thrives and is most appreciated in cultures where expression is not part of the norm. Flamenco is for everyone and there is something for everyone in flamenco. There does exist a limit in where and how artists can succeed. If you live and work in a community where you are the sole flamenco artist, it is difficult to perform flamenco in its truest form as it is a live art form. You would have to invite artists, whether singers, guitarists or dancers, to your city for performances. This is a great financial strain on the artists. There is an increased pressure to sell tickets in order to cover costs, plus rehearsing in a few days can be stressful. Teaching my be easier however you are missing the live component. If you’re teaching dance, you need a singer and guitarist to play for classes so that students can fully experience and understand flamenco as its true essence. If you’re a singer, you need a guitarist to accompany you. A flamenco guitarist may have the most success as they can easily perform as a soloist. Building a flamenco community from the ground up takes years of hard work, networking, and fostering to make it successful. An endeavor that can be difficult for one person.