José Galán, from Flamenco Inclusivo: "Flamenco does not understand age, race, abilities or barriers, because it is done with the soul"
We interviewed the director and choreographer of the short film "En mi piel", which reflects on the inclusivity of diverse bodies in the art of flamenco.
"En mi piel" is one of the most special projects for flamenco to date. At a time when art is thirsty for new proposals and protagonists, José Galán has taken his company Flamenco Inclusivo, made up of people with different disabilities, to the big screen. The short film explores disability not as a limit, but as a starting point at a creative level, which opens a new horizon of beautiful expressive possibilities. The short film will premiere this Wednesday, November 9th at 10pm at the Alameda Theater as part of the Seville Film Festival.
ALL FLAMENCO has been lucky enough to interview José Galán, who with wisdom, humor and purity tells us the ins and outs of this project.
E.: José Galán, tell us, how was the idea of Flamenco Inclusivo born?
José Galán: My path began as a dancer, working for artists like Sara Baras or Antonio Canales, although I have always had in mind inclusivity, far from academies and conservatories. But it was not until 2010 when I created the Flamenco Inclusivo project, as I needed specific pedagogical training. I work so that they have access to culture and flamenco art, since it is Intangible Heritage of Humanity, for everyone, so people with functional diversity cannot be left out.
E.: How has it been to take the company in front of the cameras? Has it been any additional difficulty for you?
J.: This is the first time we have performed in front of the big screen. Unlike the stage, where you act only once and it's more spontaneous, film is based on repetitions, which makes it more work for them. Even so, they have been professionals, they have dedicated hours and hours, and they and their families have been very dedicated. They have set no limits or barriers, saying "I can't do this". It is a challenge and they have approached it in the best possible way.
The most wonderful thing about them is that they are very authentic, they express themselves in a very true way, which is what flamenco is really looking for: not perfection, but being oneself. I call it identity-resistance: the dissidence of flamenco.
E.: Why de-normatize bodies through flamenco?
J.: Because the normative, the perfect, does not exist. They are bodies constructed with features that are not real. If we start from that basis, many people are left out. Through flamenco we expose the bodies as they are, with their imperfections and their particularities, which in reality is very flamenco. Flamenco uses a voice that is not clean like an opera voice, but rather it is rasgado, dirty. The same with the body, there are dancers who are overweight or older, and those bodies are admitted in flamenco.
So, although there is an academic and exclusive side, it can also be inclusive. It is that side that interests me the most.
E.: What is flamenco for you? What is technique and what is expression?
J.: Flamenco has been an expression of the people, spontaneous and natural. Nowadays I am also a conservatory teacher and it is also very academic, very technical, with a lot of rehearsals. But even so, what is then transmitted to the public is not that technique or that perfection, but the art and the emotion. That is something intrinsic, either you have it or you don't. Flamenco is visceral.
Flamenco is visceral. The singers can go with their ties, their jackets, very well dressed, but then when they open their mouths you can see their bells. I mean, there is nothing to tie flamenco down. Flamenco is not polka dots, it goes beyond aesthetics. It is a language that crosses borders, that's why it is liked everywhere. Because it is really made with the soul.
Matilde Coral sums it up: "flamenco dance is the most disembodied dance that exists". Even though she is older and has Parkinson's, who would dare to say that she is not a great dancer? No, flamenco does not understand age, race, abilities or barriers. People with functional disabilities have the right to do what they like, be it dancing, singing... In fact, we have a cantaora who appears in the short film, who has been totally blind since birth, but she sings like crazy, because she has absolute hearing, she doesn't study music scores or anything, but when she sings the saeta...
E.: This vision of flamenco is very present even in the process of creating the short film. How were the choreographies prepared?
J.: Even though I was the choreographer, I like horizontal relationships. We are tired of so much hierarchy in the workplace, in schools, in families. I wanted them to be participants and protagonists. I have been inspired by the body and the personality of each one: you can't ask a person in a wheelchair, for example, to tap his feet. Besides, I would be wrong to look for a person with a disability to imitate a person without a disability. On the contrary, the richness is in that, in diversity. Disability is not a limit, but a starting point. More than just putting together a choreography, knowing each one of them with their particularities, I try to bring out the essence that each one has through flamenco.
These projects, besides being artistic, are very human because the person can put himself in the place of another. Hence the title: "En mi piel" (In my skin), which speaks of empathy. We live in a society that needs a lot of these values.
E.: Speaking of the skin, we were surprised by the costumes you used.
J.: It is a unisex wardrobe, where men and women wear the same clothes and men also wear skirts. And the color is not the typical flamenco color, black and red, but it is the same tone as their skin, evoking that transparency, that nakedness of the body. Showing people as they are.
E.: And what about the space you have chosen?
J.: It is the Real Fábrica de Artillerías, an abandoned space that, although it has given us problems of comfort (because not having a smooth and flat floor, it was difficult for blind people or people in wheelchairs), it was worth it. It is a very beautiful and even metaphorical space: a place of great heritage value that is abandoned in Seville. The same thing happens with people, they have a lot of value but we look the other way.
E.: To conclude the interview, with what three words would symbolize this project?
J.: Art, Inclusivity and Life.