Great friendships can nurture and inspire an artist to make greater work. Think of Pablo Picasso and Wifredo Lam, James Baldwin and Toni Morrison, and Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Such is also the case for flamenco dancers Francisco Hidalgo and Anabel Moreno, who will perform this weekend at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium as part of the ongoing FUNDarte collaboration with the Madrid-based Casa Patas Foundation.
Hidalgo says via phone that he met Moreno at his very first gig in Madrid, when she shared the stage with him at the famous tablao Corral de la Morería. The two became fast friends. “There’s rarely a day that goes by that we don’t talk on the phone or get together,” Hidalgo says. “We’re neighbors too.” They live just a few minutes' walk from Casa Patas, which is an arts foundation, conservatory, and flamenco venue.
Familiarity, in their case, has bred only respect. Hidalgo describes Moreno as “a dancer who is very personal, very versatile... I admire her very much for her artistic quality.” He says the artistic affinity they have for each other was the inspiration for Binomio, the concert-length choreography they will be perform together, joined by guitarist José Almarcha, hand drum percussionist Wafir Gibril from Sudan, and singers Ana Polanco and El Trini de la Isla.
The piece is an extension of their friendship. “Let’s say it’s something of a conversation between the two of us, dance-wise,” Hidalgo says. “I know her way of dancing; she knows my way of dancing... Everything comes about because of how well we know one another.” They have worked together so often in Spain that they can often predict each other’s movements onstage: “With a look she knows what I’m about to do; I know what she’s about to do. It’s chemistry; it’s the energy that flows between the two of us.”
Though they are personally and professionally close, their dancing styles are quite different. Hidalgo is an exceedingly elegant performer who looks as aristocratic as Spain’s King Felipe. His line is as graceful as that of a classically trained ballet dancer, every angle of his neck and limbs precise and clean. With his Zen-like focus, he can dance very slowly and never lose the audience’s interest. His dignified style contrasts starkly with the theatrics of contemporary bailaores (male dancers) such as Farruquito, who often throws himself into the air and shakes his long mane like a wild colt.
Though also a master technician, Moreno, unlike Hidalgo, occasionally lets on that she knows how to get down and dirty. Hidalgo explains it more eloquently, pointing to regional geography: “Anabel is from Granada. It’s a more savage style. I was born in Cadiz but I trained in Seville, so I consider myself more Sevillian in my dancing. Every city [in Andalusia] has its own imprint.”
In a promotional clip for Binomio, Moreno does a slow, sensuous vuelta quebrada, a so-called broken turn, her back beautifully arched. But she adds a repeated suggestive flick of the shoulder that comes off as both funny and flirtatious. Later she exits in a deep backbend, throwing her head back all the way so that she is looking at the audience, upside down, as she goes off. Moreno is unafraid of laughing at herself, but she also makes sure to let the audience in on the joke.
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In contrast, it is difficult to imagine Hidalgo cutting loose and improvising, but, in fact, he says those unplanned moments are precisely the ones he most looks forward to onstage. When flamenco artists improvise as a group, how they stay together, down to the final beat, is always a mystery to the uninitiated. “Within flamenco there are codes that you must know,” Hidalgo explains. “It’s like a magical language that comes up in the space, and that’s where everything happens. Think of it: In tablaos, nothing is choreographed. One day you have one singer and one guitarist, the next day you have another singer and guitarist, and you don’t rehearse anything. You know your profession, you know the codes, and it is all improvisation."
In Binomio, Hidalgo left space for just such passages of pure inspiration. “There are some parts in all concert performances that I always like to leave a bit free so that we don’t feel limited to a series of movements that we’ve learned,” Hidalgo says. “You let yourself go.”
– Helena Alonso Paisley, artburstmiami.com