Interview: Sara Baras

Monday 17 February 2014

Flamenco star Sara Baras is renowned for bringing a vibrant, contemporary, style conscious edge to the passion and drama of traditional flamenco. She opens this year’s Flamenco Festival London at Sadler’s Wells on Saturday 1 March with a show which is close to her heart. La Pepa is based on the history of, Andalucia, her homeland…

Sara, what do you love about flamenco?
I love the freedom of flamenco dance. It has a wide language without having to forget your roots.

..and how do you think your style of dancing has changed over the years?
I haven’t stopped learning in all that time – and I still do, of course! It’s thanks to the characters, choreographers, theatres, shows and projects that keep the experience alive.

Flamenco is different to other forms of dancing in that maturity is celebrated and revered. That must be a wonderful feeling?
Yes, you feel like you’re growing. Your dance becomes more mature, with more sense of purpose and with more artistic weight. You have a lot more fun!

Do you ever feel that performing in such large venues rather than tableos affects the intimacy of the performance?
No, I don’t think so. I think flamenco can be adapted to any space.

And what about spontaneity and innovation, which are considered so essential to flamenco? Do you feel that it’s difficult to convey such attributes in a well-rehearsed production?
With flamenco there’s a place for everything. Improvisation comes into play when you let yourself go, not only with your dancing but also when you’re singing or playing the guitar.

How do you put together a production? There are so many threads – costumes, storyline, music and choreography – how do you tie it all in together?
The first thing is to research – to read, to travel and to dream about it. The next step is to create a script illustrating the storyline, the message, style and the texture etc. Once you’ve put together a good team it comes down to just hours of hard work and rehearsing!

In previous productions you’ve drawn inspiration from historic Spanish females. Does La Pepa draw on the same influences?
Flamenco is a very rich art form. It gives you the freedom to perform any type of character. In La Pepa the opinions of the citizens are represented by the main female character.

So what is La Pepa about?
It’s about Cadiz, which is my hometown. The name refers to the Spanish Constitution of Cadiz, regarded as Spain’s first constitution. It was signed on 19 March, which in Spain is Saint Joseph’s Day or La Pepa (a nickname for Josephine).

The show recreates scenes from the 1800s until the present day, using the constitutional monument in the Plaza de España as the focal point. It commemorates the horror of the war, the importance of a historical constitution – hope, happiness, life and freedom.

I know your a great lover of fashion, how important are costumes in the flamenco experience and at what stage do you start thinking about what form they should take?
Each person has a specific order in which they like to work. Sometimes a feeling can come right at the start of a new piece of work. In my case, the first costume ideas come from the choreography, then the music, the scenography and the lighting. For me it is very important to tie these together, it helps you to dream, and to make the audience dream!!

Ballet Flamenco Sara Baras
Sadler’s Wells, 1 – 8 March 2014
Part of Flamenco Festival London

Interview: Carolyn Everitt
Photo: Santana de Yepes

Carolyn Everitt is a freelance writer and graduate from Warwick University and the London College of Fashion.

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