Feeding the flamenco fire

Keren and Avner Pesach are debuting ‘Tiempo de Mariposa,’ combining Spanish dance with contemporary emotions.

Keren Avner in ‘Tiempo de Mariposa' 370 (photo credit: Elad Duby)
Keren Avner in ‘Tiempo de Mariposa' 370
(photo credit: Elad Duby)
There’s much more to flamenco than theatrical makeup, puffy dresses and flowers in your hair.
When it comes to “flamenco puro” – the pure or authentic Spanish dance – Keren and Avner Pesach would argue that there’s nothing fake or exaggerated about it.
“We will break the stigma,” says Keren, a flamenco dancer and one half of the Remangar Flamenco Dance Company in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem’s Ramat Rachel, which she runs with her composer and dancer husband.
“[Flamenco] is the way that life comes... you are really bringing yourself.”
The emotional, dramatic angles of yourself. In Remangar’s new show, Tiempo de Mariposa, (Time of a Butterfly) showing at Suzanne Dellal in Tel Aviv this week, a woman is caught between her competing desires to please those around her and to pursue her passion for dance. In a frenzy of quick and sleek moves, Keren, the lead dancer and co-artistic director with Avner, who also wrote the music, transforms from being the woman into a flapping butterfly. With four other dancers, two vocalists, two guitarists, a percussionist and spoken text, the show promises to be an energetic feat.
“It’s a very creative, very sexy outlook,” says Keren, adding that she brings sadness, happiness and every other emotion to her performances. A year and a half ago when their second child, a daughter, Shachar, was born, Keren got to thinking about the swift passage of time and how she balances the high emotions and stresses of being a wife, mother and artist. She realized life was moving all too quickly and she was constantly asking herself if she was making the right choices in her career and for her family.
“Many, many questions,” she says. “It stays with me until today.”
Like the butterfly who has a very short, intense lifespan, Keren was finding life complicated, aside from its fast pace. The company even put the show together much faster than usual (three to four months rather than the usual eight). She admits that at times she felt that common and occasional urge to just run away from it all.
“The subject of time is very present,” she says of the 80-minute show.
Keren, who was born in Ra’anana and is half Polish and half Persian, started dancing at the age of 10. She went on to study flamenco for a decade in Spain, including at the Amor De Dios Academy in Madrid. It was there that she met her husband, who also moved to Spain in 1996 to study at the academy.
Avner, a Jerusalem native born to a Bolivian mother, spoke Ladino at home. At 13, he began learning to play the classical guitar, but moved to dance after he suffered a hand injury. Together, Keren and Avner danced in the prestigious La Farruco dance company, and had their first child, a son, Yarden, in Spain. In 2006 they decided to move back to Israel to be near family.
Wanting to further the place of Flamenco dance in Israeli culture, the Pesachs decided to open their own dance company in 2006 to teach their craft to all ages and to continue performing.
“They didn’t have a place to progress,” says Keren of a small community of dancers in Israel. Starting out with only eight girls, today they teach 150 students in Tel Aviv twice a week, Rishon Lezion once a week and Jerusalem twice a week. “They come from the North to the South,” she adds.
Teaching dance holds a special place in Keren’s heart, after a charismatic teacher introduced her to different varieties of dance like modern and classical, and eventually to Flamenco. “I think that I fell in love at the first meeting,” she says. It was because of the teacher, she says, that she quickly developed a personal connection to flamenco. “A teacher is a very, very important thing,” she says. “I think the essence is the teacher.”
Keren also was drawn to the rhythm of flamenco music and the extensive coordination and balance required, making it more challenging for her than other types of dance.
Despite the stereotype Keren says she has noticed of flamenco in popular culture as a less serious art form, she thinks its popularity is growing in Israel. Also to help with its popularity, Keren says audiences leave her company’s shows seeing things they had not expected.
“It’s not easy for us in Israel,” she says. “Receiving support took time.”
Tiempo de Mariposa will be held August 16 at 9 p.m. and August 17 at 10 p.m. at Suzanne Dellal in Tel Aviv.