5 Questions with Gustavo Ramírez Sansano About Lorca, Dali, and “Espíritus Gemelos” at Ballet Hispánico
It adds another dimension to choreography, and an extra degree of anticipation, when a choreographer imagines an especially intriguing context for their work. Gustavo Ramírez Sansano has always brought an imaginative boldness to the way he conceives of creating dance, but in his World Premiere of Espíritus Gemelos for Ballet Hispánico’s New York Season (April 10-15 at The Joyce), he does so in an especially engaging way.
In Espíritus Gemelos (which could be translated as ‘Twin Spirits’) Ramírez Sansano takes his audience back to Madrid, Spain, to a student residence called the Residencia, where two great artists who were later to become icons of their arts first met. It’s a story about the poet Federico Garcia Lorca and the painter Salvador Dali, set to the music of Manuel de Falla, who was there with both of them at the Residencia. We asked Gustavo if he could share some of his process, his inspiration, and his experience in creating the work for Ballet Hispánico. Here’s what he told us:
I feel that I know Lorca, and also Dali, so this is what I feel may have happened.
Johnny Nevin: Your new work Espíritus Gemelos is based on a remarkable story in a remarkable setting — the story of the relationship between the poet Federico García Lorca and the painter Salvador Dalí, when they were both at Madrid’s Residencia de Estudiantes in 1923. Where did you find the inspiration for such an intriguing idea?
Gustavo Ramírez Sansano: For anyone who is from Spain, both of these characters are familiar — one of them, Dali, is a great artist and the other, Lorca, is a great poet. But there are gaps in the way this story has been taught in Spain during the past hundred years; it’s too recent, there’s too much blood in the stories, and there are two sides to the story. Much of the story has always been hidden, and that alone is intriguing. But there is an author named Ian Gibson, who is not Spanish so he has no ‘side’ in this, who is a lover of Lorca’s poetry, and he just talks about what he sees; what he discovers. He’s written a lot of books about Lorca, one of which really inspired me. It’s called The Love That Couldn’t Be, and it includes letters from various people. But nobody was there for everything that happened, so it’s all still interpretation, and what happens in Espíritus Gemelos is my interpretation of what may have been. I feel that I know Lorca, and also Dali, so this is what I feel may have happened.
In this poem you see another side to Lorca that captivates me; it shows that he had a social, political side — he believed that culture was for everybody.
Johnny: What is it about Lorca as a poet that you find especially inspiring? Is there a particular poem of his that is important to the work, or is it more his artistic impact?
Gustavo: There’s a poem by Lorca from his book Poeta en Nueva York (A Poet in New York) that I really love. It’s called “Oda á Walt Whitman” — in English, “Ode to Walt Whitman”. In this poem you see another side to Lorca that captivates me; it shows that he had a social, political side — he believed that culture was for everybody. He directed a theate company called La Barraca, which traveled from town to town performing emblematic Spanish theater, which Lorca believed everyone deserved to see. While he was in the United States, he was very aware of racial issues, and sympathized with the difficulties that existed in the twenties for African Americans, whose status struck him as being very much like our gypsies. Although he was from the upper middle class, he believed that art was for everybody, and was supportive of efforts to make it that way. That’s a beautiful thing about him, it shows you what a really beautiful person he was.
This is a work that is much more intimate — it’s about pure love
Johnny: This is the fourth work of yours that Ballet Hispánico has presented, and the second that you’ve created for them, but Espítus Gemelos is different from much of your previous work. Can you tell us about some of those differences, and what it is that you’re hoping to share with Ballet Hispánico’s audience with this new exploration?
Gustavo: Many of my other pieces have had a folky side, sort of my own upbeat style. This is a work that is much more intimate — it’s about pure love and it’s really simple. in creating the work, I actually began by creating the scenes, and then seeing how the story felt in those scenes, to see whether it needed more movement or not. The movement came after. Working with Ballet Hispánico, they’re just so passionate, and even more than you would expect just from the Latino culture.
Johnny: The score for EspirÍtus Gemelos is by the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla. How did you decide to set the work to this music?
Gustavo: I decided to make the work with Falla’s music because I thought, who better to describe the way that they felt in that time and place than someone who was there with them. Falla was good friends with Lorca, and Lorca loved his music.
Johnny: Can you tell us a little about what the experience of working with CEO & Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro and with the dancers at Ballet Hispánico is like — how their approach to dance interweaves with your own in the process of creating a work like Espítus Gemelos?
Gustavo: The dancer who is portraying Lorca is especially emblematic of working with Ballet Hispánico; he has been there from the beginning, and he has been the perfect expression, almost the continuation of the process, the process of working with them, and the connection with the dancers, which is always growing. With the dancers at Ballet Hispánico, you start two steps ahead, you don’t have to start from the beginning. Eduardo Vilaro was actually the first person to hire me, at his old company Luna Negra, although I had won two choreographic competitions before that. So a little bit of me is Ballet Hispánico.
Ballet Hispánico will present their New York Season at the Joyce Theater April 10-15, 2018 in performances at 7:30pm on Tuesday and Wednesday, 8pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and at 2pm on Saturday afternoon. The program includes the World Premiere of Gustavo Ramírez Sansano’s Espíritus Gemelos, Carlos Pons Guerra’s World Premiere of Waiting for Pepe, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Linea Recta, and Michelle Manzanales’ Con Brazos Abiertos.
Tickets are available online from The Joyce.