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SLOVAK FLAMENCO GROUP ANDALUCIA CELEBRATES ITS 15TH BIRTHDAY

The children of Carmen

IN THE 1980s, a wave of dance films such as Carmen and A Bewitched Love by Spanish choreographer António Gadéza and director Carlos Saura hit then-communist Czechoslovakia. The fire of flamenco inflamed the hearts of youngsters, and many wanted more of it.
But none of them went as far as Viera Masaryková. Her desire to get to know traditional Spanish folklore culminated in a trip to the place of its origin - a goal that was difficult to achieve under the strict communist regime.
"My parents bought a big bus and for a whole year they worked on it to make it a place we could live in," Masaryková recalls. "It was very difficult to get permission to travel abroad back then. But luckily, we managed to get it and I went to Spain for the first time, with my 10-month-old daughter Lucka and my parents."


THE DANCERS of the group Andalucia during a show in Spain.
photo: Courtesy of Andalucia

IN THE 1980s, a wave of dance films such as Carmen and A Bewitched Love by Spanish choreographer António Gadéza and director Carlos Saura hit then-communist Czechoslovakia. The fire of flamenco inflamed the hearts of youngsters, and many wanted more of it.

But none of them went as far as Viera Masaryková. Her desire to get to know traditional Spanish folklore culminated in a trip to the place of its origin - a goal that was difficult to achieve under the strict communist regime.

"My parents bought a big bus and for a whole year they worked on it to make it a place we could live in," Masaryková recalls. "It was very difficult to get permission to travel abroad back then. But luckily, we managed to get it and I went to Spain for the first time, with my 10-month-old daughter Lucka and my parents."

That was 15 years ago. Since then she has visited the country many times, and with a far larger family - the flamenco group Andalucia, which she formed the year she first visited Spain.

"It took a lot of explaining to persuade the authorities I didn't want to spread any capitalist ideas here [with the group] but rather the beauty of Spanish folklore," she says.

Andalucia, the first ensemble to spread traditional Spanish culture in Slovakia, is currently celebrating the 15th anniversary of its founding. A show especially produced for the occasion, called 15 Years in the Rhythm of Flamenco in Slovakia, was premiered on March 23. The next one will be performed on April 13 at Bratislava's Istropolis.


SOME of the youngest in the dance troupe.
photo: Courtesy of Andalucia

The two-hour show is a parade of flamenco dances, choreographed and directed by Masaryková, with rich costumes made by her mother.

Over 50 dancers (including Masaryková) perform basic flamenco dances - bulerias, rumbas, tangos, garotines, alegrias, sevillanas, farrucas, verdiales, and guajiras.

Acclaimed soloist Andrea Krupičková leads the energetic foot stamping and hand clapping. A taste of Arabic folklore also made it into the performance, as did the atmosphere of a typical Spanish fiesta. And throughout the show, dancers encourage each other by shouting arriba!, venga!, and olé!

The group's leader, Masaryková, draws inspiration from dance courses she annually attends in southern Spain. She has danced with such flamenco artists as Paco Lucia, Paco Peňa, and Carmen Cortés. Her mother, the creator of around 20 different types of costume, often accompanies her. While the daughter spends time learning new dance techniques, the mother - a self-taught tailor - improves her skills at couture courses and looks for ideas for new designs.

"My mum has nurtured my love for folk art, mainly Slovak, since I was little. She has sung and danced [for me], and for many years, she collected Slovak folk costumes. She also makes traditional lace," says Masaryková.

A graduate of the University of Performing Arts (whose traditional-dance department is led by professor and choreographer Štefan Nosáľ), Masaryková founded the children's folk group Studienka (Little Well) while she was still studying. Her mother makes costumes for them too - altogether she dresses up 200 children and adults.

While with Andalucia Masaryková imports the folklore of a distant country back home, with Studienka she exports the folklore of her homeland abroad. Both ensembles enjoy success at home as well as abroad - in Spain, Turkey, Hungary, Austria, and Malta.

Even though there are other flamenco groups in the country - focusing on dance or music - none is as big or as stable as the 80-member Andalucia. Moreover, most of the other groups were founded by Masaryková's students. Altogether, the 40-year-old teacher has coached around 800 flamenco dancers. Her 14-year-old daughter is one of them.

"Everything I have achieved is thanks to my parents, who have been supporting me since childhood," says Masaryková.

"Three years ago, they built a dance studio near our house so that I could work privately from home. To have a studio was always my dream and because of it, alongside the two dance groups I have been able to found a private flamenco school."

What: 15 Years in the Rhythm of Flamenco in Slovakia - flamenco show by Andalucia.
When: April 13 at 18:00.
Where: Istropolis, Trnavské mýto 1, Bratislava.
Tickets: Sk200 (in Istropolis cash register).
Tel: 02/5557-4939.
The show will be performed around the country.

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