Llave de Oro for Flamenco Dance?
And why not? The legendary, and sometimes controversial Llave de Oro del Cante, has been awarded on five occasions since its creation more than 150 years ago in 1868, to Tomás el Nitri, then to Manuel Vallejo (1926), Antonio Mairena (1962), Camarón de la Isla (posthumously in 2000) and Fosforito (2005). However, its counterpart in flamenco dance has only been awarded
And why not? The legendary, and sometimes controversial Llave de Oro del Cante, has been awarded on five occasions since its creation more than 150 years ago in 1868, to Tomás el Nitri, then to Manuel Vallejo (1926), Antonio Mairena (1962), Camarón de la Isla (posthumously in 2000) and Fosforito (2005). However, its counterpart in flamenco dance has only been awarded once, in 1972, to our much-admired maestra Matilde Coral, interpreter, teacher and guardian of the “escuela sevillana”, the Seville school of flamenco dance that exemplifies grace and subtlety with a touch of attitude.
People love prizes, awarding them and receiving them. Everyone wants to know who’s “the best”, even when such recognition may lead to controversy or accusations of manipulation. Nevertheless, let’s look at the possibility of reviving the Llave de Oro for Flamenco Dance. It would certainly be nice if the year 2020 could be remembered for something other than facemasks and social distancing, although these are merely hypothetical ruminations: no organization, public or private, has actually proposed the idea except a few years ago when there was talk that the Bienal de Sevilla was going to pick up the Llave de Oro for singing as well as dance. But for reasons unknown, it never came about.
I began talking to prominent dancers, a diverse sampling of professionals of different ages and styles, from Spain and abroad, to offer their observations. Some top stars preferred not to comment publicly, and that’s fine too, no need to put anyone on the spot.
This may not be the best time to initiate such a project. Or perhaps it actually is the appropriate moment to stimulate interest in a flamenco activity that requires a relatively modest investment compared to what it costs to produce the kind of elaborate shows that are newly absent from cultural programs, and may not return any time soon.
Here’s what some noteworthy people had to say; you can leave your own opinion in the comments section below.
Málaga maestra with a lengthy career, and a credible mix of classic and avant-garde.
“Absolutely yes, I think it’s basic and necessary to support the art from within the history of flamenco for its preservation over time, and to react to so many years of dedication to the art. It’s high time another Llave de Oro for Baile be awarded for heaven’s sake”.
Granada through and through, a young temperamental dancer and powerful artist.
“I think it’s a great idea to award the Llave de Oro al Baile once again. In fact I consider it necessary, we have some great maestros with original creative paths which have been a tremendous boost for the popularization of the art of flamenco throughout the world, such as Manolete, Güito and Manuela Carrasco, and I can think of no better way to show gratitude for their work than with this valued prize”.
One of Madrid’s most renowned flamenco dancers and teachers who has starred in numerous companies and tablaos throughout the world.
“I don’t think any dancer from Madrid would be a candidate for the Llave de Oro, since we’re a little detached from the flamenco mainstream, but I think it’s a good idea, singers have their Llave de Oro, why shouldn’t the dancers as well? I’d be happy to cast my vote for such a prize, no problem”.
Highly popular dancer and choreographer who never seems to run out of ideas.
“I think it would be great if this award were recuperated. A wonderful thing for flamenco, and there should be the goal of keeping it going, but with clear and specific objectives laid out and well-defined”.
Director of the Festival de Miami (USA), and dancer with many years of experience.
“I am absolutely in favor of reviving the Llave de Oro al Baile. It’s been almost 50 years since it was given to Matilde Coral. Flamenco dance has evolved and changed with time. When deciding who is worthy of this recognition, I wonder which is more important, preserving authenticity and tradition or innovation and creativity. Manuela Carrasco is a good candidate. In the 70’s and 80’s when she was a young dancer, she was unique in her style of dancing and always authentic. Today as a mature artist, she is a pillar amongst all flamenco dancers and worthy to receive the Llave del Oro de Baile Flamenco”.
Noteworthy Cádiz dancer, free spirit, inspired creative choreographer.
“In actual fact, I’m not particularly in favor of awarding another Llave de Oro for dance. In the first place, as it stands today, it would be very hard to decide which artists deserve such recognition. In my opinion, there are many who have left a great legacy, and once again it would lead to controversy as has occurred in the past with the singing prize. Who is qualified to judge artists and say this one yes, this one no?”
From Morón de la Frontera, an essential component of the group Son de la Frontera, and many collaborations with the most important stars of flamenco dance.
“I’ve always seen the Llave de Cante or Baile as a prize awarded to artists who made history, or opened to other forms or given something to successive generations, such as Camarón. In this sense I think it’s positive to do everything possible to distinguish flamenco dance, which has been going through a strange phase in recent years. In festivals, dance is being eliminated, I don’t know whether it’s for economic reasons, or because it’s more complicated, due to technical reasons to bring a group of six people, but it’s been years now that many programs don’t include dance, or they feature the local dance school with youngsters just starting out. For this reason I think it would be a positive thing to award the Llave de Oro al Baile to get people talking about dance, and without a doubt, I would give it to Manuela Carrasco, a living legend of dance whose generation is up next after Matilde and Trini España”.
Flamenco dancer and director of the Spanish Dance Company and Academy of Spanish dance in Toronto (Canada).
“The way I see it, the Llave de Oro del Cante is given to the singer who most symbolizes the preservation of oral transmission of traditional flamenco singing. If we use the same yardstick for dance, for example the conservation of traditional Seville school of Matilde Coral, I certainly approve, although nowadays “preservation and purity” don’t have the same meaning as in 1972 because dance has changed a great deal. I wonder what organization would be in charge of awarding the Llave de Oro”.
Cultural journalist and writer, specialized in flamenco and Spanish dance.
“I have my doubts about reviving the Llave de Oro al Baile. In a certain sense I think the Compás del Cante of the Fundación Cruzcampo picked up the gauntlet, as did the Giraldillos of the Bienal de Flamenco de Sevilla, in a way that was more open and straightforward. In my opinion, such a definitive prize shouldn’t exist. Who would choose the winner? Would it be for lifetime achievement, or for a specific recording or show? I have many doubts, and when that happens, I think it’s best to let it be as it stands, a part of flamenco history”.
Artistic director of the Albuquerque Flamenco Festival (New Mexico, USA), flamenco dancer and teacher.
“I see negatives and positives to reinstating the award, although I don’t have a strong opinion either way. I’ve dedicated my entire life to Flamenco, and I can see how recognizing artists is important. Those who have made an indelible impact on the art should be recognized, but at the same time the process can become politicized. I’d say that if it’s reinstated, guitarists should be recognized as well, and what about percussionists? Or instrumentalists?”
ANTONIO EL PIPA
This renowned Jerez dancer with an impeccable family background in flamenco, adds his enthusiasm and has the last word in our poll:
“Of course, it would be fantastic to revive the Llave de Oro al Baile , and to initiate a line of successive winners. Without any doubt!!!
Best wishes, Antonio”.