Compass says dance

Flamenco is a lot more than black shoes, fabulous dresses and magnificent music.

Interactive flamenco show (photo credit: RONEN ROZENBLAT)
Interactive flamenco show
(photo credit: RONEN ROZENBLAT)
Surgeries and iron on her bent legs during childhood never deterred Michal Natan from pursuing her dream dancing. She always knew that she would be a professional dancer and make a difference. Today she is 52, married and the mother of three children, two of whom are doing their military service. She grew up in Rehovot and lives in Sde Itzhak, a moshav in Emek Hefer. She founded Compas, an Israeli flamenco troupe that is unique in Israel. In an interview with Style, she talks about her consistency, being a mother and female artist and her unique method of creation.
When did you start dancing? When I was five, I danced classical ballet and modern dance. When I was seven, I started saying that I wanted to be a dancer and dance teacher. All my years of dancing were dedicated to that purpose. After my military service, during enrichment classes in ballet, I got to know flamenco. I loved it. It opened my eyes.
How did you become a professional flamenco dancer? For the first year I did everything in tandem, and then I decided to become more professional. After three years of dancing flamenco in Israel, I got married and moved to Spain with my husband. There, I studied and worked.
I danced flamenco in a club every evening. I even began to teach students at the University of Madrid. After two years, when the Gulf War broke out in in Israel, my husband and I decided to move back to Israel. It was also his turn to start a career.
Was it difficult to launch a flamenco troupe here? I had to think about what I was going to do with flamenco in Israel. It was clear to me that I wanted to have an artistic troupe that would also be professional and high quality. Students started to come to me, and I paved my way here. The flamenco troupe has existed for 17 years now, and a decade ago we became a foundation. We are supported by the Culture Department of the Tel Aviv Municipality. Our home studio is on Hamasger Street.
Does your style of flamenco have a connection to Israel? Yes. My personal style developed into my own language, which is influenced by the many years I studied modern dance and classical ballet. It is a language that is richer than just flamenco. It is evidenced in my use of music, in the movements, which are wider, and in the abilities of the dancers. My dancers can do everything – even barefoot movements that have nothing to do with flamenco but are related to the stage.
You recently started a new show, Agua Dulce (Sweet Water). What characterizes this show? The show is based on ida y vuelta, or ‘round trip,’ the era when the Spaniards left South America and went back to their homeland, Spain. They were influenced by popular art, and a new culture was created. The flamenco people in Spain took that, and in this show I bring back the rhythms of South America. Instead of having the traditional flamenco singer in the show, I host Cuban singer Yana Rodridez and a couple of Argentinean tango dancers. The dancers have solos. All those elements give the show a much more melodic style, less hard and spicy. It is a much more intimate show, more feminine and round.
Who is in your troupe? We are six women, and we invite male guest dancers from Spain. I also dance in the shows, and that is one of the nicest things about flamenco that differs from other types of dance. A flamenco dancer can dance from youth to a mature age, and it doesn’t lessen his or her ability. In classical ballet, people dance up to age 40, maximum. In flamenco, one can grow up into the dance.
I teach kids from five years old up to adults aged 75. We have classes in Hadera, Modi’in, Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv.
Why are there no men in the troupe? Today, if a man has dreams of being a dancer, he keeps hearing that it is not a profession for men. We live in a society that it is not masculine enough to dance, and it is hard to make a living. That’s why when I need good dancers for a show, I have to invite them from Spain.
This is the reality.
What else do you like about flamenco? It is a part of me. The dance and the stage are my lifestyle and the way I express myself. It is an inseparable part of me. There are also many crises points along the way and other things to cope with, but that is just me.
I am not driven by money. To me, success doesn’t mean making a lot of money. In art, one can succeed and still not earn a lot of money. That is one of the reasons that I have been doing what I do all these years. My motives are different.
everybody told me that after I gave birth, I would stop dancing. But I believe that a woman doesn’t have to change her life when a child comes along because the child enters her life and becomes a part of it. Every year when I go to Spain, the kids come with me. I breastfed my first child for three years and always got help from my mother or a nanny. I arranged my schedule so that I could always be a mother and fulfill my dreams and myself. Of course, a supportive husband is necessary.
Besides my work with the troupe here, I also dance with a professional Spanish group, the Miguel Angel Espana Ballet. I recently performed with them in shows in Japan for a whole month, and my husband stayed home with the kids.
Is it difficult to survive in this field of art for so many years? In art, the one who survives is the one with the ability to survive because just being talented is not enough.
You need to have a strong positive attitude to withstand failure and put your shoes on and keep going. I see many talented girls who dance but feel that their mission in life is to raise children, and they put their dreams aside. I, too, think that having children is very important, but it is not the only thing that is in my soul.