It came to her in a dream after a twist-of-fate visit to Sevilla. “Forget the signed apartment lease in Madrid and never mind the years of intensive classical Spanish ballet studies,” screamed the voices in her head. Fanny Ara’s fate had been decidedly planned since her initial ballet and contemporary studies at the age of three in the French Basque country. That was until her ballet teacher took her to Sevilla days before her official relocation to Madrid.
“There was something about the city that I just fell in love with,” professes the classically trained dancer. “Before I officially moved to Madrid, I had a dream I had to go to Sevilla, I didn’t know why; I just felt it was the right place to go. So I left everything behind in Madrid and told my mom. She wanted to kill me,” Ara laughs.
Ara continues: “Maybe those annoyingly optimistic people who always say ‘everything happens for a reason’ are right after all – I still don’t believe it, but let’s just say they are for the sake of this story. My first apartment in Sevilla was just above a flamenco studio and every morning I would be woken up by the music. Eventually I went down and I extended myself to the woman whose studio it was, which for me was just a simple, ‘Hi, I am Fanny, I live above your studio and I like the sound of what you guys are doing.’ A week later I went to see a flamenco show and there was my downstairs neighbor, more formally known as Juana Amaya, a legend to the flamenco world.” Ara adds that Amaya has since been nominated as one of the Most Outstanding Individual Dancers.
Shortly after their original meeting, Ara began pursuing rigorous flamenco studies under Amaya, accrediting her own love, passion and current status as the one of the world’s top female flamenco dancers, to her time and training with the legend.
Now, nearly fifteen years later, Ara finds herself a prominent figure in the flamenco world and on the cusp of releasing her most recent and long-awaited production, “Juncal Street.” Drawing from her exhaustive flamenco background, Ara’s true genius shines through in her incorporation of elements that are unfamiliar to traditional flamenco dance and music.
“Traditional flamenco does not have any drums or bass, which makes this show very unique and modern,” explains the San Francisco-based dancer. “Everything from the way we dress to the music played differentiates our form of flamenco from the traditional setting of flamenco dance. We want to give a traditional dance that we all appreciate a new modern twist.”
With modernity on the mind, it’s no wonder that Ara chose long-time friend and fellow solo dancer, Manuel Gutierrez, to join her on stage. “Manuel has a very modern and urban flare, largely similar to my style,” she says. “Although we have never collaborated prior to this project, his solo dance has continued to inspire me over the years.”
Backed by an ensemble of world-renowned artists, including acclaimed flamenco guitarist Jason McGuire, and musical veterans, Jose Cortes (vocals), Joey Heredia (drums), and Jerry Watts (bass), Ara and Gutierrez plan on delivering an impressive show. This energetic cast of artists has taken on the daunting task of embracing each other’s multi-cultural backgrounds to create a fluid and eclectic performance that pushes the limits of flamenco dance.
“Every artist has a voice and I just hope that my voice is going to be very real to who I am now. I want to be real with myself and have a career that truly demonstrates that aesthetic.”
“Juncal Street” comes to El Camino College’s Campus Theatre, 16007 Crenshaw Blvd., Torrance on Sunday, July 1 at 6 p.m. Tickets, $28. Contact 310-329-5345 or www.kalakoa.com for tickets and information.