Of love, loss and Flamenco

In many ways, this year’s Flamenco Days Festival is the truest homage there could be to the festival’s founder and leader, Eva Agmon, who passed away last summer.

 RENOWNED FLAMENCO artist Adva Yermiyahu lives on the line between Madrid and Tel Aviv.  (photo credit: Natasha Shakhnes)
RENOWNED FLAMENCO artist Adva Yermiyahu lives on the line between Madrid and Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: Natasha Shakhnes)

The story of this year’s Flamenco Days Festival is one of love, loss and legacy. It involves COVID closures, the departure of a matriarch and a new generation of artists and leaders stepping up to honor the vision of a community that raised them. In many ways, this year’s Flamenco Days Festival is the truest homage there could be to the festival’s founder and leader, Eva Agmon, who passed away last summer.

The Adi Agmon Foundation, established by Agmon to commemorate her daughter Adi, has held the annual Flamenco Days Festival for the past 28 years.  

It is difficult to hold back tears when listening to choreographer and performer Adva Yermiyahu speak about her involvement in the festival. Yermiyahu, 36, is a renowned Flamenco artist who lives on the line between Madrid and Tel Aviv. Agmon’s tireless work to foster and support Flamenco artists in Israel played a major role in Yermiyahu’s development as an artist. 

In 2011, Yermiyahu won the Adi Foundation’s Israeli Flamenco Competition. Since then, she has been deeply involved in the foundation’s activities, working closely with Agmon. “I can’t say she was a mother or a grandmother, but she was family to me,” says Yermiyahu over the phone. 

In between explaining her various roles in this year’s festival, Yermiyahu stops a passerby to help her carry her son’s stroller down a flight of steps outside of the Suzanne Dellal Center. “I gave birth four months ago,” she says, slightly winded upon reaching the landing. 

 FLAMENCO STAR Israel Galvan (credit: NICOLAS SERVE) FLAMENCO STAR Israel Galvan (credit: NICOLAS SERVE)

It is early morning and Yermiyahu is jumping into a rehearsal of one the four artists who will present pieces as part of the Original Work platform, one of the five events on the program. 

“When Eva passed away, the foundation established a type of steering committee, which I am a part of. The Original Work project already existed, but this year the committee decided to make it more official, and I was chosen to be the artistic director of it. 

“We chose four female choreographers, who each received production, budgetary and artistic support to realize a new creation. Each is around 15 minutes long. Each artist has a very different approach and use of the Flamenco language,” she explains.

The importance of such a platform is nearly immeasurable for emerging Flamenco artists, and no one is as aware of the needs it meets as Yermiyahu. “Basically, since I graduated from the School of Visual Theater and began to roll through the existing contemporary platforms in Israel, I have dreamed of this project. 

“When I presented my work in contemporary festivals, I was always the strange bird. Everyone had recorded music while I had live, I came and made all this noise with my feet while everyone was quiet. In this project, the artists don’t have to explain why they need an acoustic stage or a professional sound man.”

The Original Work platform will be biennial, on years the foundation doesn’t hold the Israeli Flamenco Competition, and will further carve out a space for professional Flamenco choreographers. 

IN ADDITION to her role as a mentor and guide to a new generation, Yermiyahu will also open the festival with a one-time, large-scale production of “Espacio Potencial.”

“I created the first version of this piece as my finale at the School of Visual Theater and rolled on and on with it. There is an Israeli cast and a Spanish cast. In 2020, Eva invited me to perform in Israel with the Spanish cast and then everything was canceled due to COVID. 

“Last year, she invited me to present the work online, but I felt it wasn’t right for the creation. This year, now that there is a live festival again, we began discussing finally making it happen, and then Eva died.”

As part of the continuation of Agmon’s vision, the foundation extended the original invitation to Yermiyahu, and then some. “I am bringing both casts, the Israeli and the Spanish, together,” she says. This production, which Yermiyahu is audibly thrilled to work on, is only possible thanks to the foundation’s support.

“This is such a huge opportunity for me as an Israeli artist. Having 10 artists on stage, dancers and musicians, from Spain and Israel, is usually unthinkable. Now, I’m working with the Israeli cast, most of whom are artists who came up in the foundation. The Spanish cast will join later this week and we’ll have two days to put everything together.”

The festival will also host Flamenco star Israel Galvan, who many will recognize from the Netflix series Move. “Hosting Israel was a dream of Eva’s, one she didn’t get to see realized,” Yermiyahu reflects. 

The program also includes “Just Like You,” a Flamenco performance for the entire family by Ella Weich and the Israeli Flamenco Morning, which features performances by top Flamenco studios from around the country. 

The Flamenco Days Festival will take place on March 24-26 at the Suzanne Dellal Center. For more information, visit www.suzannedellal.org.il.