As we say goodbye to what would have been our 4th Festival weekend, we leave you with the story of how José Manuel Ramos, ‘El Oruco’ and his wife Karolina González ‘la Negra’ came to be invited for our 2020 Festival.
Every year we receive questions from students, patrons, and followers about how we select our guest artists and invite them to our Festival. The story is best told through our Artistic Director, Jane Ogilvie.
Dancers Karolina González ‘La Negra’, José Manuel Ramos El Oruco’, and Festival Artistic Director Jane Ogilvie in 2010
In the summer of 2010, I met this couple in a 2 week workshop in Seville organized by Daliris of ‘Flamencos por el Mundo’. It was an amazing and intense 2 weeks of daily dance and rhythm with Concha Vargas, Oruco, Luis Peña, Torombo, and Farruquito. Many of the classes were in spaces like this one: these tiny hole in the wall spaces off of calle Castellar with room for 6 people, a mirror on one wall, a make shift floor, some stairs in the way, and a garage door that stayed open in the heat to at least let some air in.
Dancers Karolina and Oruco (son Juan Manuel in front), Concha Vargas, Torombo
I was so inspired in Oruco’s class that I asked them if they had other regular classes running afterwards. This turned into 2 more weeks of classes for which, because they were in the morning, I was usually the only student. I was already too booked up to switch to their afternoon classes but rather than cancelling the class or charging me more money, they just let me continue on. I ended up basically having private classes every morning with Oruco, challenged in dance like never before while enjoying some of the best soniquete there is. Their eldest daughter was just a baby and their son, Juan Manuel, would hang out around class and play with the ball I brought to stretch with.
It was an experience that changed my perspective and was a defining moment for me on this crazy journey we call flamenco and life. I’m sure she doesn’t remember, but when we said goodbye that summer, Karolina told me they also travel to teach and if I ever wanted to bring them to Canada they would love to come. The seed was planted in my mind.
Dance class in 2012
It’s now 10 years later and it was an absolute thrill to invite them here for our festival this year. Whenever I am in Spain these are the people I return to over and over again. As every one of their students knows, it’s not just their incredible skill, deadly technique class, or the best rhythm class ever, that brings us back. It’s their energy and the energy of their studio. They are some of the kindest and most generous teachers and people I’ve met and they have worked really hard to build their school and studio Formarteflamenco.
Rhythm class in 2012
To be able to share them with Edmonton audiences and students was really a dream come true for me. It was so exciting to be able to offer them the incredible space that is the Winspear Centre as a place to showcase their art. Cancelling this year’s festival is really heartbreaking for all involved. It’s a loss of work for the artists and is frankly a devastating loss for our festival. The shock of discovering our covid-19 related insurance problem right as we were discussing checking them in for their flights … if you could only imagine how kind they were to me as we tried to work this crisis out.
View of the neighbourhood of Triana in Seville.
I invited them to the festival over coffee when I was last in Seville in 2018. You could say this was 2 years in the making but isn’t it really at least 10? Do we even count all the years of study that gets a student to the level that they end up in these classes in the first place? What about all the years of study and dedication that all of my teachers put in so that I could learn from them? What about the years of work all of these people, in all of our communities, have dedicated to building aficion, community, audiences, and students so that any of this can happen?
To survive in the arts takes thoughtful planning, dedication, perseverance, and beyond all a love/need/desire to continue. It is not always an easy journey but I can say that it is much easier when you have good people around you. I am grateful for every artist our festival has ever invited, many of whom were not only writing with moral support but actually helping me out from overseas as we sorted this mess out. We are heartbroken that we could not bring this year’s artists to Edmonton. It would have been an amazing festival.
As artists, we are all working so hard to keep the Arts alive and thriving. Thank you for all your support!
Edmonton Flamenco Festival
Of interest – Flamenco artist names can seem very odd to non-flamencos, even Spanish speakers! They are often given by an established artist/teacher or are just nicknames relating to something about a person’s looks. Here are some clues as to this year’s artists’ names:
José Manuel Ramos was given his name ‘El Oruco’ by singer El Moreno, husband of La Farruca and father to dancers Farruquito, Farru, and their siblings. In Oruco’s words “The purest thing we have here in Andalucia is the olive tree. ‘Oruco’ is the word for a young olive tree in the Caló language (language of the gitanos of southern Europe). We made a show: ‘The gnomes of flamenco’ and we were: El Farru, El Polito, me … and, of course, I needed a stage name and that’s when Moreno gave me ‘Oruco’. ”
Click here to catch a clip of these artists at the start of their careers, rehearsing for this show. Oruco at the age of 13!
Karolina González is called ‘La Negra’ because when she was a young girl she was very dark-skinned with black hair. It is a common nickname in Spain, used with affection, similar to the Spanish term ‘morena’.
José ‘El Pechuguita’ is named after his father, singer-songwriter and composer ‘El Pechuga’ who has collaborated with world renowned artists such as BB King, Kiko Veneno, Triana, Varon Rojo and Raimundo Amador. In Pechuguita’s words, “He was named that because his group was called ‘Los Pechuguitas’. Once at a concert it was very hot and they took off their T-shirts and were left with their chests exposed. The audience was screaming ‘pechuguitas! pechuguitas!’ and the name stuck.” (it’s a bit of slang we’ll leave to your imagination)
Our 2020 festival is supported by the Edmonton Arts Council and the City of Edmonton.
We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts. Nous remercions le Conseil des arts du Canada de son soutien.