Hungry to Live

Despite an eight-hour time difference and a language barrier, I connect with Jesús Carmona, one of Spain’s most celebrated flamenco dancers, as he’s winding down his day after rehearsal, though in LA the sun is still climbing.

Jesús Carmona
Jesús Carmona

“Es un espectáculo,” Carmona tells me, filling in a gap in my Spanish. 

He’s incredibly patient and kind – my mind had offered me “obra” to describe the work he does. But while “obra” is what you call a play or work of art, its meaning is closer to production or craftsmanship. What Carmona is interested in is “espectáculo” – a show, a spectacle, from the Latin for “to look.”

“Intento mostrar mi sello personal: entender flamenco como arte” he says. “What I’m showing is my personal stamp: flamenco as art.” He describes it as “danza en estado puro” – dance in its pure state.

Carmona isn’t interested in grand messages, “no tiene argumenta,” it’s not a love story or a drama, it’s a pure, virtuosic explosion of dance. Indeed, Carmona seems to be an embodiment of flamenco in its pure state. He has been training since he was seven years old, becoming the principal dancer in the National Ballet of Spain at just age 20. Now, he is creating his own work, new flamenco that evolves the form by stretching its limits.

Carmona says he is happy to create alongside the “conservadores de tradición,” traditional flamenco companies who work to preserve the tradition of existing dances. “Pero es un arte relativamente joven,” it’s a relatively young art form, he says, and he sees boundless space for innovation to make work that speaks to where flamenco is and what it can mean today.
“¿Ya termino?” is the common response to the work he has created – “it’s over already?” It moves very fast, he tells me, and the phrase he repeats a few times is “carga de energía,” a charge of energy. Like the audience just had a shot of whiskey, he jokes.  

Carmona speaks with pride of his September 8 show at the Ford, which is entitled Impetus, the force or energy with which a body moves. “Es un expresión total mía,” he beams. It’s all him, everything the show expresses, all from him and all of him is in it. For a dancer who has spent decades perfecting his craft on other people’s moves, this is a chance for Carmona to unleash everything he’s worked toward in a fury of flamenco that is uniquely his.

When asked what he wants the audience to take away from the show, he says he wants the audience to leave “con ganas de vivir” – hungry to live.

-    By Brian Sonia-Wallace

Jesús Carmona’s Impetus takes place on Friday, September 8 at 8:30PM at the Ford Theatres. Tickets and info here.