Part 2 & 3 of 3
Interview by: Suzie Walker
As an adult where do you get your inspiration for mental toughness?
I think it is very important to choose mentors. You can even have mentors that you don’t know personally. For example, among my many heroes are Lance Armstrong, Mohammad Ali, Martin Luther King, and Gandhi. I admire them all for their mental toughness.
I am a big fan of tennis and lately Raphael Nadal has been very impressive, I heard this morning that Raphael won the US Open Championship. I’m so impressed by someone like him because even though he is at the top of his game, he is still reaching for more, he is not resting on his laurels, Raphael is still working very hard and is constantly improving as a result. I love his perseverance because I’m sure he went through a lot of small and big victories to get to where he is today.
I love Lance Armstrong for his strength to fight and beat his cancer. He went to see three doctors. The first two told him you do not have a good chance of surviving, and Lance knew better and said “I’m out of here”. The next doctor that he saw said “I’ve seen this before and we can beat this”. After surgeries and chemo, Lance went on to win the Tour de France seven times. That is power.
Mohammad Ali knew how to take a stand and choose for what he thought was the right thing to do. He was asked to join the US army and go fight in Vietnam, but he refused. It takes a certain character to say no to a superpower like that.
I think by having idols, you may not achieve what these people have achieved but at least you recognize what they have achieved, and then part of them will be inside of you. It is really good to have idols or mentors that you don’t know personally.
What have you done to nurture belief in yourself with regards to creating the flamenco festival?
Back in 2007 after reading “The Success Principles” by Jack Canfield, I created the following affirmation that I repeat quite often.
“Dear God and Angels, with your participation I will to co-create the best flamenco festival ever for the highest and greatest good of all concerned, according to Your will for this situation”.
In his book Jack Canfield suggested that you make a vision board. I made one and this has helped me a lot. I’ve also seen a lot of movies like “The Secret”, and “What the Bleep do We Know?”, that demonstrate the fact that we are beyond what we can see, hear and understand. I’m a big fan of Quantum Physics, which explains this phenomenon.
The vision board I created is filled with my goals related to the festival like sponsorship levels, grants awarded, and funding. It is exciting because some of them are now happening. The Toronto Arts Council, Canadian Heritage, Ontario Arts Council now fund us, and we also have sponsorships, from Toronto Hispano, Cristina Heeren Foundation, Four Points Hotel, and the Government of Spain is also now on board. The interesting thing about vision boards is that you don’t have to understand them. You might find them so stupid but if you make one, your sub-conscious will pick up the goals you have on them. You should make sure that they are full of your vision and include images of what you want. You don’t have to think about it all the time, or put too much effort into them. Just put your board somewhere where you can see it and your subconscious will just keep picking up the images and then one day you will see that many of your goals on your board come to life. You don’t understand why, but things just happen because it is the super power’s will. It is exciting.
How have you dealt with obstacles while producing the festival?
I think that one has to realize that all failures are good because they show you something that you need to learn. Everyone gets discouraged from time to time, but you have to remind yourself that it is just a passing moment, and a passing moment never lasts.
At the beginning when I was applying for grants I was rejected all the time. I would think “How is this possible because this is an amazing venture that I’m undertaking?” I didn’t know how people couldn’t’ see how incredible what I wanted to do was. However, I took lessons out of the rejections and asked myself “What do I need to learn about my grant applications in order to improve?” Basically, when you are writing a grant you have to understand what the focus of the grant is. It doesn’t work if you just state all of your great ideas. You have to fit your ideas into the context of what the grant requires and also apply for the types of things that the grant is asking for. When you don’t get a grant you have to persevere and figure out how to improve for the next grant application. It is all about perseverance.
It is now the 4th year of the festival. Have you seen growth in the festival throughout the past four years?
I’ve seen amazing growth. The arts councils are now recognizing what we are doing and we are receiving funds by both the Ontario Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Council. We have also just received a grant from Canadian Heritage, and that was great. Because our image is now more prominent, sponsors are starting to become interested in the festival. After seeing our growth, they know there will be a win-win situation for both the sponsors and the festival.
This past July we partnered with Harbourfront Centre to produce our first Canadian Flamenco Showcase. There were over 3000 people that came specifically to see flamenco, and this community involvement was remarkable. We were able to expand our audience exposure while featuring Canadian Flamenco artists. We also offered two free dance classes at the showcase. A class for kids was taught by one of our Toronto teachers, Carmen Romero, and an introductory flamenco lesson was taught by Spanish artist Paloma Gomez. Both classes were packed and it was a great experience for all of the participants.
We are also trying to attract more students to flamenco through offering a free introductory flamenco class at our workshop during the festival week. This is the second year that we are offering the free class, and five weeks before the festival we have about 25 people who are signed up for it. We expect this class to be filled and we might have to add another class. Raija from Mad for Dance Studios will teach this free introductory class.
Overall I’ve seen tremendous growth in the festival. What we do is all about growth and enjoyment of the art of flamenco. We are increasing the scope of Canadian audiences that see flamenco shows and this is helping our flamenco community. We are giving flamenco in Canada a new and expanded audience. We advertise in places where flamenco people don’t normally advertise in. This will eventually help every flamenco school and company here. More people will say “I love flamenco. I wonder where I can go to take classes and see more performances?” If flamenco becomes more prevalent because of the festival, more students will study flamenco and then the flamenco teachers will make more money. Hopefully what the festival is doing is shining more light on the art of flamenco. If the flamenco festival creates a larger audience base for flamenco, attendance at the shows of local flamenco companies will increase as well. More interest in flamenco will allow the Canadian companies to make larger profits, and as a result dancers will earn better salaries.
Have you noticed growth in the flamenco scene here in Canada?
I certainly have seen growth. In 2008 we had the idea of having Canadians as opening acts for top flamenco artists from Spain, and this has caused growth in the scene here. This past July 2010 we had our first Canadian showcase at the Harbourfront Centre. This is the first year in which Canadian artists auditioned for the chance to perform as opening acts at the Toronto International Flamenco Festival that will take place on October 23rd. The Canadian Showcase is truly for Canadians being seen at the same level as all other Canadian artists, and this is an awesome thing. When flamenco artists see that they have a chance to open for a show that features top artists from Spain, they will become motivated to work hard to prepare for the Canadian showcase.
The Canadians are currently under the umbrella of being opening acts for the artists from Spain, but in the future I would like to have full Canadian nights. We couldn’t even think of this in the past because flamenco in Canada was too compartmentalized and divided. We don’t want to have a divided audience we want a unified audience. My goal is to eventually have three to five evenings devoted to our Canadian artists. When you give artists a goal to be chosen for an international festival, you give them a bigger thing to think about. Larger audiences will see them perform and I hope to have producers in the audience who will choose Canadian artists from the festival to be part of their productions. I hope that some of the producers will be casting international shows and will invite the Canadian artists to perform outside of Canada.
Have you noticed an improvement in the level of the Canadian flamenco artists as well?
I have seen an obvious sign of growth amongst our Canadian artists since the inception of the flamenco festival. Prior to 2007, a lot of the dancers were only relying on their specific teachers or companies for growth. I now see that a lot of artists are collaborating regardless of their affiliation. They are looking to other sources to build upon the knowledge they have gained from their teachers.
We don’t want flamenco artists to become athletes, but taking the athlete’s point of view with regards to growth will help our artists. Every one of us wants to get to that high level of nirvana, but remaining within political agendas will only hold people back. We must understand that as individuals, we have to stop going down that path because there is not just one teacher who has all the answers. This is why we will constantly have to seek more knowledge in order to improve. I think that students will increasingly pick up on the fact that they can study with somebody for years and realize that they need to study with somebody else at another school in order to improve. If these students have the freedom to do this, growth will happen. This sense of freedom is extremely important for artists to reach a higher level. Improvement is a never-ending goal because growth is a continuous process. Collaboration is the key to growth.
I think that the future of flamenco in Canada is going to be awesome. We now have individuals that understand that collaboration is important. I think James Cosman said something really interesting in his blog interview about the existence of a common zone where people work together. He talked about the people who are now participating in this common zone through collaboration and I think that this is where true growth happens. I wish that more people would take part in this zone because it promotes growth. Everyone’s school and company would be affected in a good way if everyone participated in this common zone.
I would love to see collaborations between all the flamenco artists and teachers in Canada. This would be an awesome thing. Rosario Ancer in Vancouver has started to do this, and TheatreFlamenco.ca, a company that works with many Canadian artists, is doing this as well. One good thing that I would love to see is for all the schools to understand that what ever effort they make, if the effort is made towards flamenco at large, each one of them would be bigger than they are today. I hope that everyone will no longer just focus on improving their own schools and companies. I wish that one day everyone would be open to the big picture of flamenco.
I would like to encourage everyone to read a blog I wrote about the “Power of Unity”. I think that the questions “What are we doing?, Why are we doing it?, and Who are all the people who are affected by what we are doing?” are answered in my blog. It would be nice if everybody understood that I’m creating this festival for the best of everyone in the flamenco world.
Tell me about the 2010 Toronto International Flamenco festival.
Maribel Ramos is our featured artist from Spain who will be performing at the festival on October 23rd. She will also be teaching a week long workshop which runs from October 17th to the 22nd. In addition to being an extremely beautiful and talented dancer, Maribel is one of the master teachers at the Christina Heeren Foundation in Seville. Our intent is not to just bring in a good show, but to also choose someone who can benefit the growth of our Canadian artists through their teaching. When we choose the artists from Spain to come and perform, they must be excellent teachers as well as top performers. The idea of inviting them to the festival is to help our Canadian artists grow into bigger and better flamenco dancers, singers and guitarists.
At the workshop, Maribel Ramos is going to teach a technique class, as well as two different choreography classes. She will offer Alegrias to the Beginner/Elementary class, and a Rondeñas to the Intermediate/Advanced class. Tino Van Der Sman will teach the guitar workshop, and Jesus Corbacho will teach singing. Jesus was here in 2007, and he is an amazing singer and a great teacher. A free introductory flamenco dance class will also be offered on Monday October 18th.
The workshop week is going to be a lot of fun. In addition to the flamenco instruction, we will have a flamenco movie, and afternoon recitals. One of the recitals will feature Ben Barrile (http://www.myspace.com/flamencoguitar), the winner of the July 2010 guitar scholarship at the Heeren Foundation. Ben will also answer questions about what it is like to be a flamenco guitarist in Canada.
Alexandra Félix, Executive Coach and Leadership Development Trainer, is giving a workshop on Friday October 22nd and it will be really good for artists from all disciplines to attend. Alexandra is a personal coach and she teaches these types of concepts to businesses and corporations. Her workshop is called “Intuitive dialogues” and it will help people get to a higher level. I think that a lot of growth can happen through applying techniques from this workshop. It is about taking artists to the next level, the level where they want to be.
Thank you very much for this interview. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting with you and talking about your inspirations behind the Toronto International Flamenco Festival. Let’s end this interview with your thoughts about your long-term hopes for the festival?
I hope the festival will grow as long as it continues to meet its mandate, which is fostering the growth of our artists, the growth of flamenco audiences, and introducing new people to flamenco. We really want to provide a true flamenco culture, and I think that the festival will bring this to life.
The Toronto International Flamenco Festival supports Canadian Flamenco artists by producing world-class workshops and shows. This year’s workshops run from Sunday, October 17, 2010 and offers classes in Flamenco singing, guitar and dancing for all levels.
Visit the Official Festival site for information and tickets – Toronto International Flamenco Festival.