SARA BARAS: “I DON’T KNOW LIFE WITHOUT DANCING”

Hailed as the Queen of Flamenco, Sara Baras has been dancing for over 30 years, converting audiences worldwide to the magic of flamenco by balancing passion with precision. Now she’s challenging gender stereotypes within the art form. Ahead of her return to our stage for Flamenco Festival London 2019, we catch up with Sara to discuss her influences, the future of flamenco and dancing La Farruca – a style of flamenco traditionally reserved for male dancers.

What is your earliest memory of flamenco? 
I have experienced flamenco since I was a child thanks to my mother. I remember her school or la Venta de Vargas [a landmark flamenco venue in San Fernando, Cádiz]; Camarón, Rancapino, Chano Lobato or Juan Villar. I can perfectly recall the first time I saw Manuela Carrasco, and of course, maestro Antonio Gades. I remember feeling flamenco in La Isla, Cádiz or Jerez. I have wonderful memories of that period of my life.

What was it like growing up in Cádiz?
It was very important to me to have the opportunity of growing up in such a magical place, where even the sea breeze is art, inspiration and light. When I am away, I need to come back and fill myself with energy. I love my home town. 

Would you say you were destined to become a flamenco dancer?  
Yes, I totally think so. I don’t know life without dancing.

Who are your flamenco idols?
My flamenco idols are those maestros who made a before and after in this art-form, and opened so many doors in the entire world for us. Paco de Lucia, Camarón, Antonio Gades, Morente or Carmen Amaya. 

Sara Baras performing her work Voces

What is your process for creating a new show and where do you draw inspiration?
Normally, every show starts with an idea. Then we usually write a script and gather the creative team needed. Later, we choose the cast and every part develops apart from each other (choreography, interpretation, music, lighting, costumes, scenery etc). The last part is to join everything together, which is the most exciting step of all. Finding inspiration is very easy for me. Dreaming, and helping others to dream, is a gift for me. 

In your latest work, Sombras, you dance La Farruca – a style of flamenco traditionally reserved for male dancers. What inspired you to do this? Do you think flamenco is a male dominated art-form?
I am personally in love with la Farruca, I love this dance which is synonym of serenity, elegance and risk. I feel so well dancing Farruca, it makes me grow every day. I don’t think flamenco is a male dominated art-form, at least in dance, I don’t feel that. In the past, maybe, there were dance steps related to men and others related to women. Today, this is changing a lot.

When creating a new work, how important is it to you to stay loyal to the tradition of flamenco vs pushing the boundaries of the art-form?
I still have many things to accomplish with Sombras. However, I am already thinking and studying other ideas. It’s very important for me to respect the tradition, and also to feel free and to show your true and authentic self.

What do you do on your days off?
My life revolves around my dancing and my child, my family and my friends. Sharing with my people is the most important. And of course, having the opportunity of helping people in need. I am an honoury member of an organisation that help girls with Rett syndrome, and every free moment I have I give it to them.

How do you juggle travelling and performing with being a mother?
I always have a hard time when I have to be away from home. I am very lucky because my child adapts very easily to every situation. I feel blessed that my family always help us and take very good care of him. Without them, this would be impossible. 

You have toured the world performing with your company Ballet Flamenco Sara Baras which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary. How do you find the perception of flamenco outside of Spain?
The connection with flamenco is amazing. It doesn’t understand borders, or languages. It goes directly to your heart.

You have been dancing flamenco for over 30 years. Do you think it’s easier for flamenco artists to have a longer career than other kinds of dancers?
Definitely, in flamenco, maturity is positive.

What do you think the future holds for flamenco? 
There are wonderful artists and more and more admirers of this art-form. The number of flamenco lovers is growing each day. Flamenco is really very special. I can feel how well it is considered out in the world, as a growing art-form, thanks to the maestros who made it great.

Sara Baras returns to Sadler’s Wells with her latest work Sombras as part of Flamenco Festival London 2019 from 2 – 7 July. To book, call the Ticket Office on 020 7863 8000 or book online.