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SPANISH FLAMENCO GROUP STAGES A DANCE AND MUSIC SHOW WITH SLOVAK FOLK ENSEMBLE

Top Pick: Devilish violins meet the fire of flamenco

EVEN THOUGH flamenco is associated with Andalusia in Spain, it had to go a long way before it reached that country. The music and the dance genre has its roots in India, and it came to Europe through Persia some time before the 15th century along with the migrating Roma community.
In their new show, Spanish flamenco dancer Bettina Castano and the Slovak gypsy folk group The Devil's Violin, led by violinist Ján Berky-Mrenica Jr, fuse their two art forms together. Recently, The Devil's Violin accompanied Castano on a European tour and they are now bringing the successful show home. Their joint concert tour across Slovakia starts February 25 in Trenčín and finishes March 3 in Prievidza.
"Flamenco and gypsy folk music are very close," says Berky-Mrenica. "That's why we didn't have to adjust our music, and neither did the flamenco players. And since we are all professional musicians, it leaves us with a lot of space for improvisation."


TEMPERAMENTAL flamenco...
photo: Peter Brenkus

EVEN THOUGH flamenco is associated with Andalusia in Spain, it had to go a long way before it reached that country. The music and the dance genre has its roots in India, and it came to Europe through Persia some time before the 15th century along with the migrating Roma community.

In their new show, Spanish flamenco dancer Bettina Castano and the Slovak gypsy folk group The Devil's Violin, led by violinist Ján Berky-Mrenica Jr, fuse their two art forms together. Recently, The Devil's Violin accompanied Castano on a European tour and they are now bringing the successful show home. Their joint concert tour across Slovakia starts February 25 in Trenčín and finishes March 3 in Prievidza.

"Flamenco and gypsy folk music are very close," says Berky-Mrenica. "That's why we didn't have to adjust our music, and neither did the flamenco players. And since we are all professional musicians, it leaves us with a lot of space for improvisation."

During the show, the Slovak and Spanish artists will share the stage in joint as well as solo performances. In eight different pieces, the performers will play in various combinations.

"The first part of the performance is international, where we mix Slovak and Spanish folklorist traditions, the second half is pure flamenco," says Berky-Mrenica.

Both ensembles are experienced in experimenting with music and enriching it with new elements. Castano previously staged performances in which she combined flamenco with Afghan and Persian percussion rhythms. The musicians of The Devil's Violin - two violinists, two viola players, a double bassist and a dulcimer player - have worked with both opera and pop singers in the past. This will be the first time they perform with a dancer on stage.


...WITH devilish violins.
photo: Peter Brenkus

The flamenco dancer and her group, who are based in Seville, are considered to be part of the new flamenco generation who are reinventing traditional choreography. Castano, who is not only a performer but also a flamenco teacher, has, together with her guitarist, El Espina, recorded a video and written a book about the art of flamenco. The sound of the group is rounded out by guitarist Antonio Saavedra, singer Miguel Pérez and the palmero - the person, who does the rhythmical clapping of hands - Manuel Salgado.

"Even though, Bettina [Castano] is the dancer, other members of the group can burst out into dancing also, as is the case with the palmero [Manuel Salgado], who, as a professional dancer, sometimes does that. We are very influenced by the atmosphere in the audience," says Berky-Mrenica.

Bettina Castano and The Devil's Violin will perform in Bratislava in the Istropolis Cultural Center, Trnavské mýto, on February 28 at 19:30. Tickets cost Sk400-900. Other performances in Slovakia will take place from February 25 until March 3 in Trenčín, Ružomberok, Banská Bystrica, Prešov, and Prievidza. For more information visit www.ticketportal.sk or call 02/5292-0175.

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