Fanny Ara of Sintonia Flamenco
Dance,  San Francisco

Flamenco Dance Interview: Sintonia Presents “Tattooed”

There’s about to be a flamenco performance at the newly-renovated Presidio Theatre here in San Francisco. The performance looks powerful. The group performing it looks fascinating. And I’m excited to be able to share a dance interview with you below so you can learn more about all of it. But first, let’s discuss the performance and the group behind it …

Sintonia Flamenco Performers
Sintonia Flamenco with guest Yaelisa, photo credit: Hector Puig

The Performance: Tattooed

Tattooed is “an experimental flamenco dance performance about survivors’ strength and resilience.”

Tattooed is a flamenco dance performance by Sintonia. The performance consists of “theatrical vignettes that utilize each dancer and musician as a player in the narrative.” It is about trauma and abuse. It explores how abuse leaves its scars upon us. However, at heart, it is “a proclamation of strength, resilience” that gives voice to survivors.

In their press release, one of Sintonia’s founders expands:

“We are calling the show Tattooed because as survivors of abuse we had to somehow learn to love our scars – a scar being a passive memory of aggression to your body. We decided we wanted to transform it into a tattoo because it is our choice. We are not victims. We are survivors.”

And further, the press release reads: “The troupe hopes that audiences who come to see Tattooed will feel like they can also speak to their story and feel free, accepted, and acknowledged.”

There will be performances at 8 pm on both Friday and Saturday, October 4-5, 2019. Tickets are $35 – $50 with slight discounts for students. Get tickets here.

Tattooed is the inaugural performance of Sintonia. The group is joined for this performance by:

  • Internationally acclaimed flamenco artist José Maldonado
  • Grammy-nominated composer and multi-instrumentalist Gonzalo Grau
  • Emmy award-winning flamenco artist Yaelisa
  • Singer Matías López “El Mati”
  • Percussionist David Chupete
  • Violinist, Ernesto Briceño
Fanny Ara of Sintonia Flamenco
Fanny Ara of Sintonia Flamenco, photo credit: Christine Fu

The Flamenco Group: Sintonia

Sintonia, which means “harmony” when translated from Spanish, is an intriguing, innovative, new flamenco dance troupe based in Oakland. Fanny Ara and Marina Elana founded the group in 2018. Marina Elana says in the press release:

“We wanted to create a flamenco dance company that tackled issues that really mattered to us. The first issue being something deeply personal and something that we both experienced, which is abuse.”

The company’s overarching mission is “to create thought-provoking, culturally relevant dance productions through the powerful language of flamenco. By combining traditional elements of flamenco with contemporary movement and music, Sintonía wants to explore themes that will challenge social norms and inspire change.”

Sintonia volunteers with and helps support Oakland Elizabeth House, a residence for women and children transitioning to independence in the aftermath of homelessness, addiction, and/or violence.

Sintonia on Facebook

Marina Elana of Sintonia
Marina Elana of Sintonia, photo credit: Mariliana Arvelo

The Performance Space: Presidio Theatre

This flamenco performance takes place in the newly-renovated Presidio Theatre here in San Francisco.

presidio theatre mission

Presidio Theatre opened in 1938 as a movie theater for members of the military. It expanded to offer live performances, radio broadcasts, and films over the next sixty years. In 1994, it showed its final film, and then stood vacant for more than two decades. It has just been renovated and re-opened as a fresh, new performance space.

Dance Interview with Sintonia

Q: When did you each start flamenco dancing? What do you love most about it compared to other dance forms?

Marina: I started dancing flamenco when I was about 15 years old. Before that, I was studying ballet. When I first saw flamenco that young, it really did impact me – the strength, the elegance, power. Once I started taking classes, I never stopped.

Fanny: I started to dance at a very young age, mostly training in Spanish classical. When I saw my first flamenco performance I knew it was what I wanted to do. I simply love how free and powerful this art form makes you feel. Flamenco is a dance form that just impacts you as soon as you start doing it. As a teacher, I see it all the time. Many people try it and then end up spending their entire lives dancing it, even as a hobby. It is that powerful and magic! It has changed the lives of so many.

Q: What inspired you to create Sintonia?

We have known each other for over 15 years through dancing professionally in San Francisco and soon after meeting we became very close friends. Creating Sintonia was our dream for a while now and we officially started the company in Oakland at the end of 2018. When Marina moved back home last year after working in New York City for seven years, we knew that we wanted to get together artistically and create a company that incorporated flamenco and theater while confronting issues that deeply mattered to us. The first issue we wanted to confront is something very personal to us that we have both experienced — abuse.

What were some of the joys and challenges of realizing its creation?

There are many joys working together because we are such close friends and we’re able to handle rough patches quite well. In that regard, we never feel alone. It’s great to have a partner you can completely rely on. The challenges would have to be that we are such a new company that no one knows who we are, which brings its own setbacks.

Q: How did the idea for Tattooed first come about?

When the #MeToo movement went viral in October 2017, it pushed us to start talking about our own traumatic past events in our lives. We both closed down after suffering our personal histories. We didn’t bring it up with anyone, nor each other. Once we started opening up again, we realized the power of sharing our stories and how cathartic that is. From there, we started playing with the idea of doing a show about this topic. It took months until we actually sat in front of each other and got the nerve to say, let’s do this.

Q: Dance can be so healing. How has it played a role in your own healing processes?

Dance is and always will be our therapy. We both feel so lucky that we have chosen art as a vessel to communicate. I think that for both of us, in our darkest times and the most auto-destructive moments, dance was an outlet of our rage, frustration, sadness and hopelessness. It helped us keep sane, when at our lowest, we just wanted to breakdown.

Q: In addition to dance, what have you done to work through your own personal trauma?

Besides dance, we’ve both been in therapy for periods of time. It’s hard at times because we both travel a lot for work, and keeping consistent appointments is difficult, but we both recognize that therapy has been incredibly helpful. I (Marina) also try to do as much meditation as possible, as it helps my self-awareness and calms my anxiety.

For me, (Fanny), family and friends were very helpful. I never had a problem talking about my personal trauma. But yes, the best way for me to work through it was still dancing and creating.

Q: What does it mean to you to be a survivor, rather than a victim?

We are survivors rather than victims because we do believe that after our trauma, we have continued to live and prosper. Of course, trauma irrevocably changes us, therefore we are not the same people as we were before the abuse. We have found a new voice and identity within ourselves to help us continue living.

We also don’t like the term victim as it can imply that our perpetrators still have power over us or are still in control. Also, in our culture of disbelief, victims are accused of overdramatizing a situation. We want to distance ourselves from that.

Q: How did you go about choosing the people who participate in Tattooed?

Our cast was very delicately chosen because of our subject matter. We knew we needed people that were very open-minded and supportive of us as artists and most importantly, people. Fanny has worked with and known our musical director, Gonzalo Grau, for over 10 years and they are very close friends and confidants. Yaelisa, our guest artist, has been a colleague and friend of ours for over 15 years and was a solid support system during both of our traumas. Jose Maldonado, our stage director, is someone that we both got to know over the last year, but during the creative process, he showed such empathy and sensitivity in our stories that we knew he was the right fit immediately.

Q: What was the process of collaboration like in creating Tattooed?

The collaboration has been amazing. Everyone has brought to the table their own experiences, feelings, and thoughts. There is a lot of respect in the rehearsal studio, therefore, great things come out, as well as lots of laughter and tears as well. The collaboration and creative process of this show is something I don’t think we’ll ever forget, and Jose Maldonado, our stage director, really brought out things I don’t think we ever knew we had inside of us to help guide us through telling our stories through dance.

Q: Generally speaking, what have been your best and worst experiences with collaboration in dance?

I don’t think we’ve ever had bad collaborations in dance because you can always learn from someone or some other art form and incorporate that into your own practice. I think we both find that inspiring.

Q: If someone is unfamiliar with flamenco, what should they expect when coming to see Tattooed?

Tattooed is a very experimental flamenco dance production. We think people should expect to be unexpected in many senses. Any person with the stereotypical thought of flamenco with the woman in the red dress playing castanets, will have that image shattered within the first 3 minutes of the show.

Flamenco in this show is a vehicle to tell our stories. It’s not the focus of the show. There is also a lot of contemporary movement and theater.

Also the music in this show, for example, will take people by surprise. Flamenco is usually accompanied by guitar and singing, but in Tattooed we have piano, violin, drums, and electronic sounds through voice and keyboards. It’s not a traditional flamenco sound, which is what we wanted because this is not a traditional show in any means. We wanted it to sound like a movie soundtrack. That was our intention.

Q: What do you most hope people take away from seeing this performance?

The goal of this show for us is to openly share our stories, and hopefully make a difference by giving a voice to survivors, their advocates and hopefully being an eye-opener to our audience to start discussing this taboo subject matter. We don’t want people who have gone through abuse to continue feeling silenced. Abuse thrives in secrecy, therefore, let’s start being more vocal about this.

Q: Anything else you want to be sure we know?

Tattooed is on October 4 & 5 at the Presidio Theatre! We look forward to sharing this work with you! Buy tickets here.

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