2 January 2015

As anticipation surrounding the arrival of Gala Flamenca in Hong Kong grows – and with good reason, since the performance showcases the talents of some of the dance form's leading lights – for one New York-based Hong Kong native, Mona Ko, show-time simply can't come soon enough.

A long-time, passionate aficionada and active student of Flamenco – and through it, of  the Spanish culture and lifestyle too – Mona is a vocal advocate of Flamenco. In her own words, "Flamenco has changed my life".

HKAF chatted with Mona about what Flamenco means to her and why she'll be jetting in from New York to catch not one, but two of the performances on consecutive nights.

What does Flamenco mean to you?

Flamenco is life and passion, it's pride and it's deep, deep emotion. Seeing dancers on the stage, what they do, you feel that it comes from within them, that they dance from the heart. Flamenco is also alegría, joy – it's about telling stories about life.

How did you first discover Flamenco?

When I moved to New York 19 years ago, I'd never really experienced Flamenco.

Then, one summer, I called up a dear, dear Spanish friend living in the Philippines, and I said, "I don't know what to do this summer. I want to do something productive!"

My friend said, "Mona, why don't you take up Flamenco?"

"Flamenco? Why do you say Flamenco?"

Her answer? "You've always loved Flamenco…"

I said, "I do?!" I didn't understand what she meant.

 "Go and learn Flamenco. Mona, you have the soul for Flamenco."

Now I understand what she meant. It has changed my life.

I love it so much. And now, I'm learning everything about Spain and even the Spanish language – I want to understand the songs, I want to be able to speak Spanish with my friends in Spain, a country I visit every year for the Feria de Abril in Sevilla, where people dance Sevillanas [a folk music and dance from Seville and surrounding regions, influenced by Flamenco].

That was 19 years ago. To this day, I take weekly classes with Ms. JoDe "La Chispa" Romano. She's such an inspiration and at one point I was dancing with her four times a week!

You know, in truth, I'm not a good dancer. But I just love it.

Why is Gala Flamenca a "must see" at HKAF 2015?

These are some of the best of the best from Spain! 

Antonio Canales is one of the best traditional Flamenco dancers. With dancers like Antonio, they’re born into it.

And then there’s Karime Amaya. The Amaya family is the first family of Flamenco.

Jesús Carmona is a very good young dancer, very fiery. I look forward to seeing him dance, as well as Carlos Rodríguez.

The HKAF has invited the right dancers, for sure.

Gala Flamenca

For those of us who are unfamiliar with Flamenco, how should we approach it? How can we appreciate it?

I always tell my friends who’ve never seen Flamenco before that it’s composed of the cantobailetoque and palmas (the singing, dancing, guitar playing and handclapping).

I tell them to look out for and listen to the rhythm. That’s the most important part of the dance and it’s the dancers who establish the rhythm.

Focus on and think about what the dancer is doing. For instance, when a woman dances Flamenco, you must watch her hand movements – they never stop moving,according to the rhythm.

In fact, all of Flamenco’s different elements, its ‘props’ – the skirts, the fan, the shawl, the castanets and so on – each of these elements is an essential part of the dance.

In a traditional orchestra, the conductor will tell each musician when to play the violin, the trumpet, the drums, etc. So individual musicians only have to concentrate on their own instrument, while watching for the conductor’s baton.

But in Flamenco, the dancer is both the orchestra and conductor – the dancer is on her or his own.

And in one word, Flamenco is…

Flamenco is fun to learn! It's not like a formal concert, an orchestra, an opera. It's fun!

Gala Flamenca

Gala Flamenca

Gala Flamenca

Gala Flamenca

Related programme: Gala Flamanca at 43rd Hong Kong Arts Festival

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