María Pagés portrays herself when she thinks of October 28, the day she will receive the Princess of Asturias Award for the Arts together with cantaora Carmen Linares: “I will have my head in Bilbao, on the 29th we will premiere By sheherazade in the [teatro] Arriaga and it’s assembly day. I’ll keep an eye on the cell phone. It gives me courage!” She is a flamenco dance worker, as she likes to say to the bailaora, and that afternoon will be no less. This 58-year-old Sevillian is clear that the prize is for flamenco, which is a way of honoring it. She not only honors him, she claims him. She does it from the position of reference for her after almost half a century of career. She knows she is responsible, with a weighty role that does not weigh her down. She has a commitment to dance and flamenco. She assumes it, she wants to do it.
But this responsibility has not been acquired over the years ―in any case, it has increased―, he says that he felt it since before arriving in Madrid when he was 15 years old. She moved to the capital from her hometown, where she already knew that she wanted to dedicate herself to dance. She “was aware that she wanted to be a dancer. Flamenco dancer. When she went to class she thought: ‘I have to make an effort, to improve myself’. I remember discipline and seriousness since I was a child, when I was eight or nine years old; but not as something hard”. There she began a career full of productions, tours, teachers like Antonio Gades or roles in the cinema, she was directed by Carlos Saura in Carmen, The love wizard Y Flemish. The distinctions began to arrive years ago: the National Dance Award, the Medal of Merit for Fine Arts… And the most recent, the Medal of Honor of the Granada Festival, awarded at the beginning of June for “its commitment to the international dissemination of flamenco dance and her ability to renew this art with her personal creations”, a similar reason to the one argued by the jury of the Princess of Asturias to grant her the award. It is the recognition of a work that does not stop.
Now she is immersed in moving forward From Sheherazade, premiered at the Liceu in Barcelona at the end of May. “It is the postpartum moment. The creature has just started walking, it needs its upbringing and that takes dedication, ”she explains. From the Catalan capital, the company flew to Salzburg to take part in the Pentecost Festival with Ode to the orange blossom. Its director, the mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, dedicated this year’s edition to Seville and for the first time on those Austrian stages, Mozart’s birthplace, clapping and stomp your feet. Pagés highlights a sentence that was published in the press after his performance: “Salzburg shows that flamenco is also contemporary art”. She felt understood. That is her goal: to build a bridge between tradition and modernity. She has the place: the María Pagés Choreographic Center, in Fuenlabrada (Madrid), where she conducted this interview on June 9.
And, suddenly, to hear this choreographer talk about the importance of having a decent place to create, that dance must have a space, a position that it does not have, is to go back to Virginia Woolf’s own room. To the importance of that own place to be known and recognized. Because it is more difficult to get anywhere if there is nowhere to start. “We would not know Velázquez if there were no museums to welcome him. The same thing happens with dance. We lurch, they are still looking for a place for the National Company or for the National Ballet. Specific places are needed to rehearse, that do not depend on the ability of each one to manage their precariousness. It cannot be left to a personal effort. An institutional environment that protects, supports and promotes dance is lacking. We have the talent, the cultural baggage, a very rich dance culture, but there is no will. In political campaigns there is no talk of culture and that is already a fact, ”Pagés vehemently defends. After recalling the award of the Silver Lion at the Venice Biennale to Rocío Molina ―which coincided in time with the appointment of Tamara Rojo as director of the San Francisco Ballet―, or the recognition of flamenco, as she considers her Princess of Asturias , it saddens him to think that they are only bursts that come to nothing.
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The day after this talk with the bailaora, in the space that bears her name and in whose development as a place for meetings, rehearsals, creation, generator and agitator of ideas she is totally immersed, a national meeting of choreographic centers took place. Pagés considers it fundamental to “create community”: “To be stronger, to have a clearer discourse. I understand dance as a creation of creators, it is not only the choreographer and the dancer, it feeds on many other professionals”. She creates organically: “All the elements are part of the same body”. She explains it by telling about the construction process of By sheherazade: “We composed music, we introduced an Arabic voice…”. There is no first this, then… The elements intermingle. How the montages of his company that are on tour are intermingled. A gear that he founded 32 years ago and that can be considered a Rare avis by the amount of personnel that moves. His last show will be at the Teatros del Canal in Madrid from June 22 to 26. On June 28 she will visit the Granada Festival ― “how is that going to be? Sheherazade with views of the Alhambra!” exclaims the creator. He will perform for the first time at the Mérida Festival (July 29-31). Pagés assures that any staging in the Roman theater of that Extremaduran city is special, “a challenge”.
He has as many pieces touring around Malaga, London… He talks about Brazil, where he would go with an ode to time ―as in the British capital―, but it is up in the air: “Difficult times are coming, people are going to continue going to nearby places, but to distant ones… Purchasing power is going to be lost, who is going to be able to buy tickets”. As part of the centenary of José Saramago, this summer also in the Canary Islands “she will dance and move everything around her”, as the writer said of her. On July 10 he will pay tribute in Lanzarote to the literature of the Portuguese Nobel with The temptations of Blimunda, character from your book Convent Memorial. From July 13 to 17 he will be between Tenerife and Gran Canaria with Scheherazade.
The intense conversations about his future and the possibility of not getting on stage so much ―”It’s not definitely getting off the stage, but maybe not continuing at this level, it’s a huge effort. I always have pain, but it is something that is part of me”, he explains ― they alternate in this conversation with talks about the business aspect of By sheherazade (and the more than 20 people who work on the work) and the creative part of this proposal, which is vital but addresses fear, violence, a tired society, democracy in the process of exhaustion. The interview takes place in a setting that graphically captures much of what Pagés wants to express: the costumes they used in Salzburg are dried freshly washed in the courtyard of the choreographic center. These more mundane aspects, such as a place to hang out, a space for the washing machine and to store the company’s material, are also a fundamental part of the creation.
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