A Spanish delight

For lawyer-turned-singer Maria Toledo, the art of flamenco has raised the bar on her outlook on life.

Maria Toledo 370 (photo credit: PR)
Maria Toledo 370
(photo credit: PR)
Maria Toledo makes a much better flamenco singer than she ever did a lawyer.
“I was a very bad lawyer,” she jokingly wrote in an email to The Jerusalem Post. “Flamenco is my way of expressing things that I can not put into words. I’m attracted because it is pure mystery, strength, improvisation. I can not imagine life without singing flamenco.”
Returning for the second time to Israel from her Spanish home, Toledo will perform on July 18, with her show titled, “The Way to Sing Flamenco.”
“I always imagined myself as a singer,” Toledo continued. “Not in an office, nor in court.”
Tel Aviv has the privilege of hosting Toledo and her musical charm at her performance at The Suzanne Dellal Center for Dance and Theater. Part of their “Madridanza” festival, it will take place between July 16 and 22, celebrating the art of Spanish dance and music. It will be the third year for the event and is a joint venture between the Center, the Spanish Embassy and the Institute Cervantes in Madrid.
This year’s theme is the relationship between flamenco and contemporary styles of performance art. Yair Vardi, the CEO of the Suzanne Dellal Center, emphasized that the Spanish dance is unique in its ability to incorporate contemporary styles with traditional Flamenco aesthetics. Vardi said that flamenco can be performed under any rules, “it’s connected to the avant-garde and the great masters, they are a source of strength and virtue.”
Toledo said she first wanted to perform in Israel because it is “a land full of nuances” and with a varied culture. Toledo first came to Israel in 2011 when she performed with Israeli golden-child Idan Raichel and Spanish flamenco dancer Rafael Amargo in Eilat. She said the experience was “wonderful and unforgettable.” Raichel, who also traveled to Spain to record with the flamenco singer, wrote in an email to the Post, “The power in Maria’s great singing and unique music, lies in a sentence we in Israel tend to say a lot – know where you come from and where you are going. Toledo keeps her unique flamenco roots and creates a true and original musical bridge to a new world, and touches the hearts of people outside of Spain as well.”
It’s true that when Toledo begins to sing, her voice is soft and even, but then a power takes over and builds – in great symbiosis with the dance she sings for.
“It isn’t hard to fall under her charm,” Raichel continued. “It was a great pleasure for me to play with her in Israel and in Spain.”
Toledo also collaborated with native Jerusalemite and singer of Judeo-Spanish music Yasmin Levy. The two performed together during last year’s Suma Flamenca festival in Madrid – a month long celebration of the Spanish art of dance, song and music.
“It’s difficult to explain in words what I felt singing with Yasmin,” Toledo says, but she explains in the performance it was possible to see the moment of magic between the two.
This experience built on her already positive view of Israelis, describing them as “warm” and “with a love of music.”
In her upcoming July performance, Toldeo said there will be many surprises. “I will not be alone with my guitar and piano,” she mused, adding that the opportunity to perform with Israeli musicians builds a true union of cultures.
Pablo Rosenberg will accompany her – the Argentinian-Israeli singer is a staple in the international arena and a major collaborator of Spanish and Hebrew styles of music – together they will perform a version of Toledo’s “I Come to Offer My Heart.”
Rosenberg most recently performed in this year’s Suma Flamenco in Madrid with singer Antonio Carmona and choreographer Alfonso Losa. Their performance was titled “Flamenco for Three,” a play on the union of Madrid-Tel Aviv-Madrid.
Toledo said that to better interact with the audience she is practicing a little Hebrew, “I will try to see how it comes out,” but she also believes that the connection to the performance will stem from the chords of her piano and the passion in her voice. “Music does not know borders, it is a universal language.”
Toledo is also looking forward to staying an extra few days to learn more about the country and its culture.
Flamenco is one of the few styles of dance where the woman performs without the assistance of a partner. It’s characterized by the dichotomy of a poised and graceful upper body and a fast-paced cadence of the feet. It’s a strong dance that is sexy in its movements and commands the attention of the audience.
The festival will also feature new styles of flamenco performed by the New Spanish Ballet and Aida Gomez.
The New Spanish Ballet, performing on July 16 and 17, will combine two styles of dance: flamenco and hip-hop. Artistic directors Angel Rojas, Carlos Rodriguez and choreographer Chevey Kurdany created the show. The show, named Titanium, is an updated flamenco blended with urban dance to continue on the avant-garde theme.
For more info visit www.suzannedellal.org.il