It is not fusion: She dances flamenco, he dances jota. Flamenco for a long time has been accepted as an art form.One of the goals of “J: Beyond Flamenco” appears to be to show that jota has little to envy compared to flamenco, except perhaps in terms of that recognition.
“In my own village, where I was born, the Middle Ages lasted until World War I,” Luis Buñuel wrote at the beginning of his autobiography “My Last Breath,” referring to Calanda, in Aragon, northern Spain.
40 years or so after Buñuel wrote these words, his friend Carlos Saura, also from Aragon and the leading light of the 1960s New Spanish Cinema (“La Caza,” “Peppermint Frappe”), returns to his homeland in “J: Beyond Flamenco,” which plays in Toronto’s Masters section.
It presents very often modern high-art performances of its ancient regional strain song and dance, the jota. Catching attention with his debut, “Los Golfos” (1959), over a near-50 year career span, he has portrayed the suffering and dreams of youth living on the big city margins (“Deprisa, Deprisa,” 1980), the hurt and confusion of childhood traumas (“Raise Ravens, 1975”), the merits of filmmaking (“Elisa, My Love,” 1977) and Spain’s halting attempts to emerge from its past (“Mama Turns One Hundred,” 1978). And the past is still much more present in Spain, in many ways for good, than in most countries.
When Imperio Argentina sang and danced jotas in Florian Rey’s 1935 love story “Nobleza Baturra,” she rated as the biggest star the Spanish cinema has ever seen.
Since then, the popularity of the jota and its status as art form have sagged.