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June 17, 2016

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Living the passion of flamenco in distant Seville

WHEN the subject turned to flamenco, Lola Yang started talking enthusiastically — her eyes wide open.

“For most Chinese, flamenco is just about a big red dress, floral hairdo and ‘Carmen’,” says the 28-year-old Yang, who was born in Shanghai. “But actually ‘Carmen’ is a French opera with some Spanish elements.”

Wearing a colorful dress and a red lipstick, Yang looks every bit like an elegant Spanish lady. Having lived in Seville for many years, she has fallen in love with this passionate country, its lifestyle, culture, and especially its music.

“I guess I will live there for good,” Yang says, laughing.

Earlier this month, Yang returned to Shanghai with Spanish flamenco artists — vocalist Eduardo Hidalgo, saxophone master Mauro Perego de Salvia and dancers Tamar Porcelyn and Carmen Buitenhuis — and staged several shows as part of a culture exchange program.

They also gave lectures promoting flamenco and Spanish culture for the benefit of local audiences.

Yang started learning classical guitar at the age of 11. Influenced by her pianist mother and philosopher father, Yang showed great interest in music and longed to live in Europe. After studying music at the National Conservatory of Toulon in France for four years, she moved to Spain and continued her studies at the Superior Conservatory of Sevilla.

Yang’s talent has widely been recognized in Spain. She has performed at Flamenco Dance Museum, Casa de la Memoria, la Carboneria, Sala Garufa, and Guitarron de San Pedro — all important flamenco venues in Seville.

“Chinese people are generally conservative and shy, compared with the Spanish,” she says. “That is why the passion, presented in flamenco, is so attractive to me.”

Yang bought a classical guitar at the age of 11 when she won 500 yuan (US$76) in a painting competition.

“Since then I’ve lived the fantastic world of music and moved closer to my dream of going to Europe,” Yang says.

After graduating from high school in Shanghai, Yang went to France to continue studying the guitar under the watchful eyes of such famous names like Claudio Camissasa, Arnaud Dumond and Vicent Le Gall.

Later, she moved to Spain to master the flamenco guitar.

“This art form is native to the Spanish regions of Andalusia, Extremadura and Murica. It includes singing, playing the guitar, dancing and vocals,” she explains.

First mentioned in literature in 1774, the genre originated in Andalusian music and dance styles. In recent years, flamenco has become popular all over the world and is taught in many non-Hispanic countries, especially in the United States and Japan.

“I met a lot of Japanese people learning flamenco in Spain, much more than Chinese,” Yang says. “I hope more and more people from my country discover this culture.”

Yang has invited some of the few Chinese flamenco players to perform at Flamenco Dance Museum in Seville. The group is known as Flamenchino — a newly coined term that combines “Flamenco” and “China.” Their debut performance was in the summer of 2014 when seven Chinese artists performed and won over the local audience, she says.

Yang particularly enjoys performing on the streets.

“I have the same attitude toward the art — be it a concert hall or the street,” she says. “You can meet all kinds of people when you perform on the streets, which is both a challenge as well as a surprise.”

She recalls a performance on the street of Seville. A blind man gave her money for her performance. He was a foreigner but also a street performer, living by just playing the accordion.

“I was so touched. It helped build my confidence because he couldn’t see me. Some people gave me money because I was a young girl with an Asian face,” she says.


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