Coproduced by Madrid Autum Festival

Toná emerged in the course of the various trips to Malaga that I made to visit my rather ill father. In his home, where I was raised, there was a reencounter with references, icons, symbols that I had almost completely forgotten. I recalled anecdotes and fears, reconnecting with the folklore of my childhood. I wanted to dance a feeling true to that folklore: death as a celebration of life, the “fiesta”, and a catharsis that is both individual and collective.
I was working on a new project at the time with musician Luz Prado and visual artist Virginia Rota. I suggested to these two women, also from Malaga, that we explore this common poetic patrimony. Luz had worked extensively on the “verdiales”, a folk musical and dance tradition typical of Malaga that predates flamenco and can be traced back to pre-Roman times. The “verdiales” probably originated in Phoenician times and have, to a large extent, resisted successive cultural appropriations and all attempts at domestication. Virginia, for her part, had just opened an exhibition about mourning in Andalusia.
Collective memory and popular imaginaries are vital because they give us shelter from the storm, providing refuge from individualism, inviting us to forge a common shared narrative. As with anything related to the “people”, this cultural memory is undoubtedly problematic at multiple levels. But returning to revitalise said memory by dirtying and renaming it is an act of liberty that the collective can alone administer through performativity in defiance of cultural totalitarianism or any neoliberal attempt to fix or capture meaning. It is also a an act of resistance against the attempt by our system to bury and deny illness, old-age and death, which serves only to make us weak both culturally and spiritually, thereby rendering us as passive docile subjects.
Amongst my father´s book collection, I rediscovered a biography of Trinidad Huertas, “La Cuenca”, an early nineteenth-century dancer from Malaga who gained worldwide fame for a routine in which she performed as a female bullfighter, caught in the midst of the action, that earned her the epithet, “The Brave Woman”.
I have recuperated other references from my childhood such as the figure of Our Lady of Mount Carmel hoisted aloft in the procession by the sea on July 16 every year. As with so many other festivities belonging to the realm of the popular, it exudes a Pagan archaism that pre-dates Catholicism. The Church, however, has always exploited them to construct its own myths. I can still recall when a friend of my father’s took us at night to wait for the virgin to appear amidst the olive trees. I am interested in the experience of the miracle as construed by Pasolini or Ana Mendieta: the metaphysics of the flesh, a wanting manifestation of the spectacular, the unexpected witness.
Miracles are comprised of many things but, first and foremost, the need for them to take place. Their devotional character does not require too elaborate a formal structure. As my friend Rafael S.M. Paniagua says: “the efficiency of popular cultural forms is of another kind. The precision is of another kind. We can elaborate a belief on the basis of an abject image, a stain on the wall, a badly painted Christ. Popular devotion arranges itself around bad images.”
I confess that the process of creation has been a liberation. One can but hope that it will be for the audience as well.
Toná is born from the need to embody a broad identity, that does not strive to have its essence defined, linked organically to collective memory and popular imaginaries with all the conflicts that entails. A poetry that transmits flesh, the vital pulse, full of rage and joy, as well as of prejudices and superstitions. An ancestral and fertile pain that, from childhood onwards, gradually makes us what we are.
An identity as luminous as it is dark, which cannot be reduced to the metrics of productivity and consumption, a physical outpouring that refuses to be inscribed by the inertia of opinion and its euphoria, posing, protocol.
 A body reconciled with its vital forces, interwoven with illness, old age, death and that brazenly embroils itself with symbols so that they may be sullied, trod upon, renamed, whilst shouting: they are ours, they belong to us.
A body that doesn’t choose between believing and suspecting: faith and nihilism as brothers in arms, repeating to each other that loving is to have the keys to heaven and realise that heaven is empty.
“Shame is the feeling that shall save Humanity.” It won’t be love, but rather shame.
 A pain that is ancient and fertile: flesh, bodies. Identity is the mystery that hides in every body and emerges from the intimate reconciliation with shame.
 I look for dance in bodies, its folklore, its wound, not the virtuous dance of trained bodies, but dance— human dignity summoning us, daring to stamp the floor with the force of shame. The most beautiful anger, the most open wound.


Luz Arcas


Abraham Gragera


Rafael SM Paniagua


Luz Prado


Nino Laisné


Luz Arcas


Luz Prado


Lola Dolores


Carmen 17


Isa Soto


Paula “La Albardonera”


José Manuel Chávez


Elena González-Aurioles


Virginia Rota


Pablo Contreras


Jorge Colomer


Fernando Jariego


Alex Foulkes and Alberto Núñez


Andrea Méndez Criado (Spectare)


María Peinado


Carlos González

“la búsqueda de un nuevo lenguaje , capaz de amalgamar danza contemporánea y flamenco, la búsqueda virtuosa de una bailarina y coreógrafa que habla con cada fragmento de su cuerpo y que nos sorprende con los simbolismos sacados del mundo taurino y de las fiestas españolas”
 “de hecho se podría concebir un espectáculo sólo con el movimiento de los pies de Luz Arcas , que son el núcleo, el quid y la espina dorsal de su partitura física , de sus danzas atávicas, de su estar en escenario”
“Una hora de pura energía y catarsis en la que la artista baila la muerte incorporándola en una atmósfera folclórica”
“La coreógrafa -a veces con tintes preciosamente gamberros- llena de otro fervor el escenario. Una vuelta a su infancia hoy reinterpretada que llena de festividad y del propio espíritu del folclore. Ella habla de la muerte con respeto porque respeta el miedo antiguo, pero aquí Arcas la celebra. Está celebrando la muerte. Celebra el folclore de la muerte como celebra la vida, porque ella es la celebración de lo negro, de la muerte, del llanto, de la virgen. Ella es otra virgen. La campesina con sentido de comunidad. La mujer tribal. La niña fotogénica del pueblo indígena que deshoja nuestras máscaras de cemento y de alquitrán varado.


Con sombrero negro que me lleva a los verdiales y colores en el tinte negro de unos paños que engalanan, Luz se apropia del concepto de lo sacro y lo convierte en otra cosa que fusiona al ser humano y a Dios mezclando la cultura popular, los ritos y las creencias primitivas. Arcas, la santera de sangre, pelo y fuego se fusiona con la naturaleza primera, con la vivo y lo no vivo, adquiriendo multitud de formas en su evolución y partiendo de la fuerza de su cuerpo extenuado. Su cuerpo, que es su territorio, está lleno de respuestas”