Interview with Carmen Morente
Born in Granada, Carmen Morente began her artistic studies at the early age of ten. She grew up among flamenco professionals in the city's tablaos and theaters, where art flows between two rivers.
Sister of the great cantaor Enrique Morente, Carmen lived flamenco from the cradle. Now her passion is sharing her culture with the world. A dancer, designer, teacher, and choreographer, Carmen takes us to the world of flamenco full of passion and emotion; and also explores the process of creation and design where dance, music, and color are essential for the show.
Today, we discover a little more about Carmen Morente.
Infinite Spur - Good morning, Carmen, it’s a pleasure to be able to count on you in this cultural space and for you to share with us your passion for flamenco. Welcome, how are you?
Carmen Morente - Very good, thank you for having me here. I am very excited to be here to talk, share and teach about the wonderful art of flamenco.
IS - Who is Carmen Morente?
CM - Well, I was born in Granada, and I'm a flamenco dancer and teacher. Flamenco has always been part of my life; I grew up with flamenco in my house, it is still present. I believe that my homeland and my family have a lot to do with it. For me, flamenco is a way of life, of feelings and emotions.
IS - Carmen, why flamenco? Can we talk about a flamenco culture?
CM - As I mention, I believe that flamenco is a way of life. I think it has to do with the place where I was born, Andalusia. We have an exceptional talent for art. I believe there are more artists per square meter than in any other region of Spain. I imagine that it is due to our rich history and the mixing of cultures over the centuries; flamenco is a living art, and it has always been assimilated and enriched from this cultural exchange.
Also, in my land, art is a way of being, feeling, living, voicing what you hold inside, and flamenco is one of the best tools we have to express all these. Of course, we can and must speak of flamenco culture. Remember that since 2010, flamenco has been recognized as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
IS - What can you tell us about the terminology of flamenco?
CM - It's true that when we talk about flamenco, we also have our way of expressing ourselves and naming everything. For example, the tablao is where a cuadro flamenco is staged. All flamenco styles or palos are different rhythms, movements, or steps. Each of the elements, guitar, singing, clapping, percussion, and the dance, can be played independently, but together, they all make up a cuadro flamenco. When dancing, we make music with our shoes, different rhythms, sounds, and tones that make up the taconeo. The clapping of palms is a musical technique, and dance is the ultimate way to express our emotions with the body. You have to experience it.
Each way of singing or dancing is what we call palos, and they express different feelings, happiness, or sadness. Everything is emotion, the lyrics, the music, and the dance; everything blends to enhance and express the feelings.
IS - In addition to tradition, Flamenco is also a show, costumes, accessories, colors, a world of senses and connotations. What can you tell us about this?
CM - Of course, in addition to the dance and music, there is the beauty of the costumes, bringing a world of meanings. In Andalusia, the flamenco dress is called de "faralaes", which means the dress of joy. The Ibero-American Exhibition of 1929 opened professional flamenco to the world and, with it, its dresses, especially the women's gown, which is particularly striking. Men's suit is a little more austere. That does not mean that it is not beautiful, but the women's dresses are spectacular, and they have many more accessories than men's, like the tailcoats, combs, flowers, earrings, and the range of the colors is immense.
The dresses are part of the dance's expression, and each gown has a meaning, and depending on the emotion, you wear one or the other. For Alegrías, you wear a more cheerful dress or, for example, with Tangos, the gowns have ruffles. The colors, also brighter and intense. For the more serious and bluer pieces, we wear darker colors. It is a whole world of meanings. In addition to the dress, the accessories: shawl, fan or castanets, also play an essential role in the show.
IS - Carmen, tell us about the course you teach in our program, "The Magic and The Duende." What can you tell students who are interested in learning about flamenco?
CM – This is a great course that will introduce students to Spain's culture, and Andalusia in particular, through the magical world of theater and flamenco. In this course, I present a general vision of flamenco based on historical texts, poems, the dance. We also explore the show's technical aspects, such as choreography, lightings, audiovisual technologies, o the importance of live music. The goal is to initiate students into the art and soul of the flamenco culture and invite them to learn more about its traditions, because this world of flamenco is vast.
Students will learn to understand and critically analyze different sources, including historical documents, theater pieces, music, or films, such as some by Carlos Saura. As part of the course, students will also create an interdisciplinary flamenco theater project, expressing their interpretation of a particular piece. This work aims to teach students an alternative way to express their inner feelings and emotions, making them art.
IS - With this COVID situation, I am sure you also had to adapt to the so-called "new reality." What has been your experience during the pandemic? Do you think that we can teach online?
CM - Of course, it is possible! In this situation, we all have had to adapt. Human being has an incredible ability to overcome difficulties and adapt to new circumstances. In any case, before the pandemic, professionals already used digital technologies to facilitate virtual meetings, exchange work, and save time. All show professional is always working, and one day you can be working in one part of the world, and when you finish you have to hook up with another company, in another place. With this busy life, we cannot misuse time and have to be very practical to prepare ourselves and the shows. We work online and exchange the themes, videos, and music and prepare them before we meet. This way, we optimize our rehearsing time. Therefore, in a way, those are tools that we were already using.
It is not the same to give a live class where you interact with the students than to do it in a virtual format, but this is what we have had to live now. We cannot let this situation stop us from taking on new challenges, and now, we must adapt to continue learning and working on those things that we like and want to do.
IS - What advice would you give to students interested in this "The Magic and the Duende" course?
CM – Well, I tell them that they shouldn't let this situation stop you from learning and experiencing flamenco and that you can take this course online and still have a great time. Dare to immerse yourself in this intense and rich world of flamenco. Tenacity and perseverance are essential to developing ourselves. So, just come and join us.
We will listen to the cantes, the toques, learn about the flamenco history and traditions, and, why not, learn how to dance to those antique sounds transmitted over time. Expressing ourselves through the essence of flamenco is a unique experience, so I invite you to start now, even if it is online. I am optimistic that we can also meet in person in the future, and his experience will be even more extraordinary.
IS- We want to join Carmen in inviting our students to explore and discover more about the fascinating world of flamenco dance and culture. Carmen, thank you for your time and your passion, a pleasure to be with you, your experience, and your art. Thank you very much.
CM - Thank you. I'm delighted that you can meet my flamenco soul.