The 19th annual Flamenco Days Festival kicks off on March 14, with a glittering array of musical and dance talent lined up for the three-day program.
The linchpin is the Bajo Un Mismo Cielo (The Same Skies) show, which will be performed on all three days, with Israeli guitarist-vocalist David Broza teaming up with some of Spain’s foremost flamenco artists, including dancer Juan de Juan, guitarist Nino Josele and cajon (percussion instrument) player El Pirana.
The festival was initiated by the Adi Foundation, which was established in the memory of Adi Agmon, who died at 23 and dreamt of going to Spain to learn flamenco dancing. Each year, the festival includes the Adi Foundation Competition.
This year, the two stages will take place on Friday and Saturday, with the first place contestants receiving grants. A Young Discovery award will also be given to the best young dancer. And the Cervantes Institute in Tel Aviv will award the competition winner a free Spanish language course.
Adi’s mother, Eva Agmon, says the event has grown over the years, although she set her sights high from the start.
“Other than the first year, when there was only the competition and one gala evening, we started out from the highest possible level, with [renowned flamenco dancer and actress] Cristina Hoyos, and we have maintained the three-day format at the Suzanne Dellal Centre ever since,” she says.
The entertainment element has evolved as well. “We added a children’s show, and we have special productions with Israeli and Spanish dancers, such as the In the Flamenco Language production with Manolo Marin, and top Israeli dancers like Sharon Sagi, Michal Natan, Netta Sheizaf, Natan Shelly, and the ‘godmother’ of flamenco dance in Israel, Sylvia Duran,” she says.
Flamenco Days also does its best to cover as much cultural ground as possible.
“We have had special productions, such as a show called Ladino Flamenco and between Them, with Einat Saruf, Sharon Sagi and musicians from both genres,” Agmon continues. “And we had a show based on songs by Garcia Lorca, with Yossi Banai, who was a member of the foundation association and a close friend.”
The festival places particular emphasis on budding youngsters. “Israeli Flamenco Morning has become a staple of the festival and is a sort of curtain raiser for very young groups and soloists,” she explains.
“Ostensibly, it is a show for children who are not too professional but offers them an opportunity to gain some experience of what it is like to per form on a professional stage. For some years, now we have held auditions for dancers from studios who want to per form at the festival,” she says.
The work is yielding fruit. “We see higher quality at ever y audition, and the studios are becoming highly professional, and the young dancers prepare well for the festival curtain raiser. For me, this is of great artistic and educational importance, and the audience always gets to enjoy a show that is magical and exudes youthful charm.”
Agmon feels we have a bond with flamenco. “We are a Mediterranean people, with the stormy temperament that goes with it – just like the Spanish – so the connection is natural.”
And the link goes even deeper, she adds. “There is a connection in ancient sources. There is a Jewish character in flamenco, a beautiful woman called Petenera, who goes out of the ghetto and bewitches men. They also say that Spanish song has a connection with Jewish liturgy and prayer.”
Flamencologist Hipolito Rossy has also suggested that the palo flamenco rhythmic format may originate from the songs of Sephardi Jews.
Agmon notes proudly that Flamenco Days is well regarded in professional circles around the world, which makes it easier to bring in top artists like Juan de Juan and Nino Josele. She says the genre’s popularity and the way the foreign artists are received here also contribute to the festival’s marketing efforts.
“Flamenco Days is very well known among flamenco artists in Spain – the ver y personal hospitality we provide, the wonderful ambience at the Suzanne Dellal Centre and the audience that appreciates and understands the art form and responds enthusiastically. Flamenco artists really come to life when there is applause or members of the audience call out at the right moments,” she explains.
Agmon says it is generally a matter of the artists’ asking to per form at the festival rather than the other way round. “For years now I have received requests from very well-known artists who want to come to the festival. We’ve had a fantastic runs of shows in recent years, with dancers like Rocio Molina, Pastora Galvan and Manuel Linan.”
David Broza, who spent part of his formative years in Spain, is a natural choice as Israel’s best-known proponent of flamenco guitar and vocals.
“We have worked with David for a long time,” says Agmon. “We talked about doing something really special, something that traverses all sorts of boundaries, and we worked through the year on his show with the Spaniards this year. David has a ver y strong bond with Spanish culture, and there is special energy between him and the artists he chose to per form with this year. They are the crème de la crème.”Flamenco Days Festival, March 14–17, Suzanne Dellal Centre, Tel Aviv. For tickets and information about Flamenco Days or the Adi Foundation: (03) 510-5656; www.ticketnet.co.il; and www.keren-adi.org