Ever wondered what it would be like to be a professional flamenco dancer? What it would mean to make dancing the center of your life?
This week, we were lucky to meet world-famous bailaora Patricia Ibáñez for a chat about her career and relationship with Andalusia’s most iconic music style!
Between two evening shows at La Casa del Flamenco, we are let into a cozy backstage area, where Patricia is changing into a red and black polka dot dress and catching her breath before her next appearance. That evening she’s performing three times.
We expect her to look somewhat exhausted, but she seems at ease and happy to be here. It’s clear that the character of this historic venue inspires her. She credits the relaxed, family-like vibes and energizing atmosphere.
Because it’s just four of them on stage, she explains, they really have to work closely together. “We become one,” she says. An ideal setting to captivate spectators… and to answer our inquisitive questions beforehand!
Growing up in the flamenco heartland
We’re dying to know how it all started.
Patricia explains that she grew up in the heartland of flamenco: the enchanting city of Jerez de la Frontera. Unlike many others in the field, for whom flamenco is a family affair, none of her family had ever made a career out of the art. Though they weren’t professionals themselves, everyone around her as she grew up did adore the soulful melodies.
Her grandparents were huge guitar aficionados, and her mom carried the frustration of never having taken dance classes with her from her own childhood. And that’s exactly why, when Patricia was just five years old, her mom decided to sign her up for flamenco dance lessons.
Patricia doesn’t remember much from those years—”bad memory!” she laughs. But she must have been good, really good even, because that very same year, she wowed Jerez’s audiences with her first on-stage performance at the Teatro Villamarta.
A flamenco career flourishes
Encouraged and trained by acclaimed teachers and mentors, Patricia began performing more regularly, often appearing in prestigious festivals around Spain and Europe.
She remembers being about 15 years old when she realized that it was more than just a game. Flamenco wasn’t just fun, it was her calling! Ever since, she’s toured and worked with some of the best flamenco dance companies, including those of Sara Baras and Cristina Hoyos.
Her international career has taken her to perform on several continents: Germany, Qatar, Cuba, Morocco… There’s nearly no stage that Patricia hasn’t fiercely stepped and stomped on!
Her favorites were Sudan, which she recounts as “a very emotional experience,” and Japan, a country which holds a special place in her heart. She fondly remembers the country’s strong sense of tradition, respect, and an interest in flamenco that she found incredibly touching to witness. She’s moved by how the love for flamenco reaches outside of Spain in such a powerful way. “Like a lenguaje,” she says—a universal language.
Flamenco in the family
Today, Patricia is married to the love of her life, fellow flamenco dancer Abel Harana. Together, they’ve opened their own flamenco dance school in Jerez’s Barrio de Santiago, an emblematic flamenco neighborhood. They have a five-year-old son, who’s already showing a strong interest in music. They’ve been letting him experiment and he’s really into the electric guitar, she recounts proudly.
But what if he doesn’t want to be a flamenco dancer?
“Even better!” she laughs. “Hopefully he decides to be a dentist or a gynecologist! Flamenco is a beautiful world, but it has its downsides, too.”
Training is tedious and competition can be fierce indeed. Patricia is a flamenco dancer through and through, but a loving mother above all!
There are a hundred more questions we could ask, but already, the rest of tonight’s crew has returned to discuss with her the direction for their next performance. Here, in this 15th-century palace, no two shows are ever the same. The constantly-changing artists get to choose which styles they’re in the mood for at the moment, and they never like to plan too much in advance.
With just a few minutes to go, we let them make that all-important decision and we slip back into the audience to take a seat; curious about what Patricia has in store for us, and ready to be blown away.