The following is the complete transcript of my recent interview with acclaimed Spanish dancer and choreographer Jose Porcel, who brings his Ballet Flamenco production to the Lucas Theatre on Sat., Nov. 8, at 8 pm.
You became involved with dance at an early age. What led you into this art form? Were your friends or family already dancers, or did you see a performance that inspired you to make this your life’s work?
José Porcel: My family was always involved in arts and music. My family is from Andalucía, my father was a bull fighter. I was exposed at an early age to flamenco and began studying when I was just 13. It is a family tradition, my daughter, just 8 years old, is already dancing and studying flamenco.
For those who may be unfamiliar with traditional Flamenco dancing, how would you describe the look and feel of a Flamenco recital?
José Porcel: Flamenco, unlike many forms of dance is a unique and almost perfect fusion of the music and dance. Flamenco is full of passion and overflowing emotions. In the purest of flamenco – the music feeds off the dancers and the dancers feed off the music, it is a circle. Of course in a show, like you will see in Savannah, majority of the dance is choreographed, but leaving some parts open for improvisation. When I started creating the show I began with music created especially for this, then added choreography then costumes and lighting, everything working together to create unity.
This stage show mixes traditional Flamenco with more contemporary styles of dance. Do some purists frown on blending styles in this way, or are such creative notions widely accepted throughout the dance community?
José Porcel: My show is based on traditional flamenco with contemporary elements. There are many flamenco companies that do meld flamenco with modern dance or with ballet or other types of dance, I lean more towards traditional flamenco with adding modern elements, different musical elements, contemporary costumes or traditional costumes with contemporary flare. Flamenco has gained popularity due to its ability to accept modern elements and blend with other forms.
Have you discovered any places in the world where Flamenco dancing is especially popular, yet which do not have a large Spanish influence or population? If so, why do you think this style of dance has caught on in those areas?
José Porcel: I have traveled many places across the globe performing flamenco and have found that the audiences have loved it, not because they have been of Spanish descent or of Spanish influence but because flamenco, both the music and the dance, is so universal. Flamenco is about emotions, feelings, passions, the people feel all of these watching the show, they see and feel the dancers and musicians open up their hearts and souls to them and because of that, they love flamenco. Unfortunately, touring does not allow me to spend a lot of time in any one city we perform in, so I have not gotten to know the communities particularly, but based on the audiences reaction and speaking to individuals after the shows, this is what I have come to learn. Most people that come to the shows know nothing about flamenco or very little, but they walk away with an appreciation of flamenco and a little bit of understanding of the Spanish culture.
Dancing at your level of technical expertise and finesse must be tremendously difficult from an athletic perspective. What sort of physical training regimen must you endure in order to maintain your degree of skill as you age?
José Porcel: At this moment, we are on a US tour of 76 days, in that time we will perform 54 shows in 25 states & in Canada. While on a tour like this with all the travel, there is little time or need for addition physical training. Performing every night is training enough. However when I am not touring, I teach and practice 4 times a week in addition to working out in the gym 5 days a week.
If you had never found the world of dance, what is one other profession that you can very easily imagine yourself dedicating yourself to?
José Porcel: That is a very difficult question because I cannot imagine my life without flamenco, it is my soul, it is the beat of my heart, not just a job or a career or something like that. It is my life.