Nov 10, 2011
DANCING BELLY FLAMENCO
I landed in Istanbul on November 1976. It was my first flight ever. I had a camera in my bag, but I didn't know how to use it and burned all the films. The sky was overcast and the colors brownish. But the images of the city were so powerful that will stay in my mind all my life. An anthill of humans that were moving like in a circle of hell, among old grouted american cars, carrying impossible burdens on their backs.
When I went back there, not even a decade after, the city had changed: it was modern, already moving forward. The border between Europe and Asia had vanished: it was one planet now.
In 1977 I travelled, once again with my travelmate Sauro, on the road through Spain. The country had just been freed after the Franco's years. We had an old Renault 4 and two blond girls as companions. We went everywhere, we sow a lot and understood little. On the other end even the Spanish people were trying to re-focus themselves.
The seventies, I come to realize now, where the threshold from the past to the global.
Istanbul was still different, Seville still Andalusian, Italy still ideological. Then everything vanished in the melting pot.. Well, maybe not everything, but I'm not sure I should add fortunately. But we can rejoice: the global world is not only creating monstruos cultural reserves called museums, it's also spreading a fluid mix of traditions, common places, confused passions that will pave the way to the inevitable ethnic fusion.
In September I went to Istanbul to shoot a story on the local modern music scene. The city has become a cult place for the cultural cross-over.. Yes, you understand, the continental border, the Bosphorus, the Middle East, the Balkans.. So clever.. If you mix everything, something original comes out, the new is invented.. Or not?
You know what was the most surprising thing I found there? Xing! A 24 years young Chinese girl that, among many things she does, wants to be a belly dancer. She misses a major attribute: a big belly to shake, but she's not giving up.. And to achieve excellence she has become personal assistant to Selma Yildiz, a world famous Turkish belly dancer. Her world, the Eastern world, is eager to absorb all what is worth to know, metabolize and reinvent it.. Ours is steady and deadlocked instead.
In October I went to Seville, the story to shoot was on the evolution of Flamenco. Guess.. There was Kaytlin, from Korea, 27 years of attitude and foot-stamping that could shake half world. I met her in one of the several Flamenco schools of the city. Many of the other girls confessed that the passion to dance was in reality a less boring alternative to the gym. Kay has well other plans: giving shows in Seoul, obviously with an improbable Flamenco dress over a thin body. Still here she is: a confirmation that culture and tradition are changing faster then our assumptions.
On the other end Carmen Ledesma, a fascinating Flamenco maestra, told me that what is really important in a dancer is the inner passion, the will and capacity to transmit it, the sincerity of the performer. A different face is not an obstacle to this. A different cultural background may be, but time will overcome it.
All this to confirm me in my idea that our task of photo-reporters, witnesses of this melting humanity, is to show and tell the story. We are so absorbed and part of the process that we risk to miss the magnitude of it, the epochal change of wich we are actors and victims. Our effort must be to capture the subtle details that represent the set. Our life set.
at 5:52 AM