This Flamenco Dancer Wants You to Know It *Is* Possible to Balance Performing and Motherhood
Watching Concha Jareño dance is like taking a journey into the ancient and modern legacy of flamenco. Her blend of retro classic technique with contemporary geometric shaping has influenced the form's aesthetic. She has stewarded the return of brighter variations, re-popularizing dances that seemed to be lost to the history books.
Her signature "shape-shifter" skill with the traditional long-trained dress (bata de cola) and large shawl (mantón) is a creative wonder: She forms the large shawl into squares and triangles, clothing and wraps, while also manipulating the skirt in motions that twist, flip and turn.
She recently spoke with Dance Magazine about her globe-trotting career, motherhood and where she finds her strength.
The Power of Being an Outsider
"I am not from the cradle of flamenco. I am not a gypsy, Andalusian or from an artistic family. I am outside the stereotype of a traditional flamenco dancer; that is something big."
How She Came Back from a Major Neck Injury
"It is very natural to me to dance with the bata de cola; it is like my own appendage. But in my early career I was injured from the weight and strain of working with a heavy train. My neck was paralyzed; I was unable to move it for a month. I had to improve how I was dancing, be less rough and take better care of my body. I now choose lighter fabrics for the dress as well."
Balancing Art and Motherhood
"When I was younger I made my own costumes. My parents had a flamenco dress store and I learned to sew and design. Now I am much busier with children, so I come up with designs and let someone else create them, contributing their vision.
"I have two children, ages 1 and 4, and I continue dancing because my husband takes excellent care of our kids when I'm traveling. It would be impossible to do it alone.
"Dancers entering into motherhood must remember that the changes of pregnancy and the demands of motherhood are not forever. That this change in your life will continually evolve. Finding energy for your projects after you have met your children's needs is challenging but will not always be that way."
Her Response to Chauvinism
"As a female choreographer, I have not been treated inferior. Of course there is chauvinism out there, so when I encounter it, I don't allow it to have an emotional impact on me."
Where Her Strength Comes From
"To create a new work, the music is essential. I cannot develop an idea alone in the studio. I work together with the musicians to create.
"Conservatory studies give students an excellent fundamental knowledge of dance; however, to learn flamenco, the tablao is essential. The stage itself is flamenco's school. It is the source of the feeling and art.
"I do not cross-train, I go to the tablao. Performing there best strengthens the body. It builds the necessary cardio to dance a full theater performance. Also I have children; caring for them is an 'organic gym.' "
Yvonne Rainer's Parts of Some Sextets (AKA "the mattress dance") hasn't been revived since it premiered in 1965. Nor has Rainer had any wish to do it again, to ask performers to heave 10 mattresses around while carrying out 31 tasks that changed every 30 seconds. It was an unwieldy, difficult dance. (Even the title is unwieldy.) But Emily Coates, who has danced in Rainer's work for 20 years, became curious about this piece and was determined to see it again—and to dance in it. She will get her wish November 15–17, when the mattress dance will be performed as part of the Performa 19 Biennial.
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.