On August 19 and 20, when Maria Juncal steps onto the stage at the Suzanne Dallal Center in Tel Aviv, performing in the Spanish Dance Festival, audiences will be privy to the art of one of the great flamenco dancers of our times.
She is the embodiment of the inherited talent and spirit that come with being the living legacy of several generations of authentic Spanish flamenco dancers and guitarists. She performs in the US, Canada and Mexico, in Cuba and along the Mediterranean, as well as in China and Japan.
Juncal’s grandmother, great grandmother and great-great grandmother are etched into Spanish flamenco history, as are her aunts and uncles. Her tía Julia (Aunt Julia) lives on in Madrid’s Prado Museum, captured, mid-dance.
“The women in my family have been painted by Julio Romero de Torres, for example in the Prado. La Algeria, that is my Aunt Julia,” she said.
“All my family on my mother’s side – Miguel Borull, Julia Borull, Concha Borull – were famous figures of flamenco.”
Famous guitarist Miguel Borrull took over the Singing Cafe Villa Rosa in 1916 and was to rank it among the most prestigious of the 74 tablaos (flamenco jamming-shows) in Barcelona.
His daughters became the dancers Julia (in the Romero de Torres painting), Concha and Isabel; his son Miguel a famous Spanish guitarist, father to dancer Mercedes Borull, La Gitana Blanca (The White Gypsy).
“I am from the Canary Islands,” explained Juncal, “and there is not much flamenco tradition there, but I come from a flamenco family as a descendant of my maternal grandmother.”
Juncal grew up in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, far from the Spanish mainland, so when it was time for her to express the family passion for dance, she studied Classic Spanish Dance. One of her teachers was her great aunt, Trini Borrull.
Juncal’s mother did not choose the path of flamenco for herself, but has always been supportive of her daughter’s love of dance.
“And I always listened to my grandmother’s stories.”
At one point Juncal was appearing with the flamenco dance company Pura Pasión (Pure Passion) at the Teatro Novedades in Barcelona, directed by Joaquin Cortes – arguably a flamenco genius.
“One day I was sitting with my grandmother, who had come to be with me in the city, and she was telling me about el tío Miguel (Uncle Miguel), and mentioning mi madre (my mother). A man overheard us and approached, in awe of meeting my grandmother. He was writing book about the Borull and wanted to interview her. I hadn’t realized what great figures these people were in the world of flamenco.”
Juncal’s grandmother agreed to the interview on condition that the writer include her granddaughter’s name as the next generation of the Borull legacy.
After that, Juncal moved to Madrid, to study at the Amor de Dios Center for the Art of Flamenco and Spanish Dance.
“The place was a tremendous discovery. I was blown away to be there. There were dancers at such an amazing level and people from all over the world go to study there. When I arrived, I was sometimes in tears over all the catching up that lay ahead.
“It was very clear to me that I had to make up in days for what I hadn’t done in years. But there was no sacrifice involved and all the effort I invested was worth it, because it has brought amazing rewards. I am so grateful to them [the teachers at Amor De Dios].”
Today, Juncal is also a sought-after teacher at Amor de Dios and performs and teaches internationally.
Interest in flamenco in Israel is currently at a high, and Juncal holds annual workshops across the country.
“The idea is to provide annual access to flamenco workshops for those who cannot make it to Tel Aviv,” said Juncal’s representative in Israel, Silvia Baro, naming the North, as far as Haifa, and the South, as well as Alfei Menashe, Jerusalem, Modi’in and Tel Aviv as part of the regular annual workshop route.
In 2011, Juncal released her documentary Flamenco de Raíz, (Flamenco at its Roots) nominated in five categories at the 2015 Goya Awards (aka the “Spanish Oscars”).
“The root of flamenco is so deep that it belongs to everyone,” Juncal said.
“Maria Juncal is great artist; but she is also an excellent person and an exquisite human being. She is very charismatic and does a lot of TV interviews; she has things to say. It is an honor to have her perform at Suzanne Dallal,” Baro said.
In 2014 Juncal premiered a flamenco version of The Story of Anne Frank, which she took to the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Germany.
“I think that the story of Anne Frank belongs a bit to all of us. It has always fascinated me. I feel a particular sensibility toward that time in history and for the suffering of millions of innocent people,” she told The Jerusalem Post.
Juncal decided to create a flamenco version of the story after seeing a modern dance interpretation of it in Mexico, while on tour.
“At first, all I knew was that it had to be a monologue, but that was all. It took me five years to dare to carry it out and then many months of research and work. Flamenco is very elastic and generous,” she said, “and you can use it to tell any story. And as Anne, of course I didn’t wear flamenco dress, which was new to audiences.”
For Juncal, “Doing the [Anne] monologue always makes me very emotional, and I was very touched to dance in the country where it all happened.”
She combined flamenco and klezmer music to express Anne’s moods in captivity.
Juncal told the Post that she was not put off coming to Israel by BDS or the opinions of others.
“I have never thought twice about coming to Israel. Although the first time I went there I had problems when some of my musicians decided not to go, and it was a bit worrisome as we found ourselves without any musicians. But we were able to replace them and El Al assisted us by agreeing to change the names on the tickets. We had a wonderful time and the entire group was made up of those who really wanted to be there.”
Since her original visit to Eilat, where she participated for the first time in the Eilat World Music Festival, followed by a week of flamenco workshops, Juncal has been returning to Israel on occasion for over a decade.
Performances: August 19 at 9 p.m. and August 20 at 7 p.m. Spanish Dance Festival, Suzanne Dallal, reserve online at suzannedallal.org.il or call (03) 510-5656.
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