by Karren Vergara
If Jessica Statham could describe flamenco in just three words they would be: “expressive, powerful, heartbreaking”.
A renowned flamenco dancer and teacher, Jessica says flamenco has evolved from the stereotypical image of a woman dancing in a Spanish restaurant wearing a flowing dress with castanets in hand. Instead the art form “needs a bit of exposure for what it is” and she is just the woman “to show people what it can be”.
Jessica and her ensemble, Bandaluzia, performed during the Sydney Fringe Festival.
When she was 13, Jessica Statham knew flamenco was the only dance genre for her. She says flamenco is a discipline that “focuses on perfection”.
She says she expresses her creativity through flamenco. “It’s a vehicle to get out all the things I feel and dance them.”
Her commitment to perfection was helped by her mentor Elena Varga who encouraged her to go to Spain. A planned short stay turned into five years. She says the time she spent in Spain helped her understand more fully the techniques and steps of flamenco.
While she had the opportunity to work for a dance company there, she says a dancer in such a situation is given limited freedom, is told how to dance and the dancer’s own interpretation of flamenco becomes limited. She says she values being able to choreograph the way she likes and choose her own music.
One her return to Australia, she teamed up with flamenco guitarist Damian Wright to form Bandaluziatwo years ago. The ensemble, of which Damian is musical director, is what Jessica Statham describes as a group of people with “similar goals in music”.
Flamenco singer Toni Rodriquez, who was born in Spain, performs with flamenco groups all over the world and has been invited to perform with Bandaluzia in Australia. He says flamenco is very popular especially in Andalusia, the birthplace of flamenco, where it is like a drug to the people living in the pueblos (villages). “You can feel it straight in your blood and after listening and watching, you can’t stop.”
Jessica Statham says flamenco is finally getting more of a profile in Australia particularly as Bandaluzia performs all over Australia and in remote areas of regional New South Wales. She says people who have never seen flamenco before become appreciative of the art form.