Perusing the catalog of the exhibition “La noche espanola: Flamenco, Vanguardia y Cultura Española (1865-1936)“, which took place at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid in 2008, I was looking for ideas for an image to characterize the show I’m producing with dancers Rebeca Tomás, Anna de la Paz and pianist Maria de los Angeles Rubio for Between the Seas Festival on July 24th of this year in NYC. Flamenco culture in the early part of the 20th century and Modernism (namely Art Deco) seem to go hand in hand in every way: the choreography of Antonia Mercé with her angular gestures, the costume designs that she wore by Nestor and the set designs and back drops of Bacarisas for ballets such as Triana and El amor brujo. In an article written by Jody Blake in this “Noches Espanola” exhibit catalog entitled Su peineta, su chal, su flor, I was most attracted by the fabulous images created by russian theatrical designer and painter Natalia Goncharova (1881-1962) for Daghliev’s Ballet russes. I gravitated to her Spanish ladies, which were called by one of her contemporaries “Cathedrals”, because of their statuesque larger than life tall hair combs, mantillas (analogues fashion image of New York 1920’s Vogue posters that correlate New York Sky scrappers with women’s high fashion).
This visual “language” or cue of Spanish dance accessories is noted by dance critic André Levinson in 1925:
“I would like to allude here, although its something already past, that the symbolism of the dress of the Spanish dancers, chosen by instinct and tradition. Each dance has its comb, its wrap, its flower, which is a rose or a carnation; the dancers wear a mantilla or sometimes not; and the kerchief knotted or loose”.
The Spanish dancer accessories gives play to the imagination of artists such as Goncharova, in terms of plastic composition and movement of the dancer, implementing another important accessory, the Spanish Fan.
I first met the Dominican artist, painter and theater designer José Miura ina production of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly ten years ago, and I had the pleasure of singing in a beautiful production of his design at the Teatro Nacional de Santo Domingo. José, whom I consider a friend, seemingly absorbed what I had in mind by osmosis: the colors chosen transmit the Deco spirit of the flamenco posters of Modernist Spain of the 1920’s and 30’s, the cubed figures interposed with the curvy and sinuous letters of “La nuit espagnole”, that form part of the composition of Spanish fan are wonderful, and exhibit to perfection the aesthetic of Antonia Mercé “La Argentina”: the sense of juxtaposition between angular and the “S” shape swishes of arms, mantón; percussion and curves are the dramatic effect that is sought:
In his own words, Miura comments:
The geometric principals of Russian Constructivism and its relation to graphic design, was my departing point for the realization of this poster, where I attempt to integrate the colors of the Spanish flag with that symbol that characterizes the art of flamenco, the Spanish fan.
The dynamism of those geometric elements – the triangle, the square and the half circle, pierce to establish the importance their own space within the design, with a result that is peculiar to that time in history, the meeting of the Spanish vanguard of the 1920’s and 30’s with Flamenco.
“Los principios geométricos del Constructivismo Ruso y su relación con el diseño grafico fueron el punto de partida para la realización de este afiche donde trato de integrar los colores de la bandera española y un símbolo que caracteriza el arte flamenco que es el abanico español.
El dinamismo de los elementos geométricos-el triángulo, el cuadrado y el medio círculo-pugnan por establecer la importancia de su espacio dentro del diseño, con un resultado tan peculiar como el que significó para la historia el encuentro de la Vanguardia española de los años 20’s y 30’s y el Flamenco.”
The music and dance show “La nuits espagnole: Flamenco and the Spanish Vanguard” opens on July 24 of 2013, presented by DROM and Between the Seas Festival in New York City