Hechingen review, 11th March 2010

Hohenzollerische Zeitung

Two sides of the same coin

Bettina Castaño harmonises flamenco and southern Indian temple music

By Eberhard Wais

Hechingen – 'she who dances with the cultures' was the description from an admirer of Bettina Castaño, the flamenco dancer from Sevilla – and what she does can't be better described. In Hechingen, she created connections to southern India.

She comes from traditional flamenco and her polished dance technique, her inspiration and her temperament make her one of the best interpreters, in daredevil Zapateado tempo, in staccato of the feet, and with her graceful and playful movements, and of the Braceo. In her 20-year career, she has developed an artistic liscence that has made it possible for her to effortlessly create connections with other musical cultures – regardless of whether she performs with Appenzell string music (that's where she comes from!), with Slovakian fiddlers, or with masters of southern Indian temple music (with tavil and chenda).

Spanish Flamenco in a Sari – Bettina Castaño. Photos: Eberhard Wais

With her programme 'Pulse of India', with which she even got attention in India, she creates a Spanish – Indian connection which is illedgedly ancient. She performs with the best musicians in India - Karuna Moorthy, a gifted tavil player who gives concerts worldwide, and Mattanur Sankarankutty, a master of the chenda percussion and who recieved the most prestigous Indian music award in 2009. Both displayed a unique artistic production with 'mantra' and 'talas' in Hechingen. When Bettina Castaño then adds her meditative style to this music, an exciting symbiosis is created – even if the listening experience still seems a little strange to our ears.

Doubtlessly, Castaño is one of the most extraordinary flamenco dancers of the new generation, and who is able to overcome traditional boundaries. Of course her accompanying musicians pave the way for her. In Hechingen, these musicians were El Espina on twelve-string guitar and flamneco guitar, and Mariano Campallo on flamenco guitar, and David Hornillo as singer and palmero. The Indian part was taken on by Indian percussionists Karuna Moorthy (tavil) and Mattanur Sankarankutty (chenda). It wasn't just their – sometimes wooden-sounding, sometimes metallic-sounding instruments which were a means of communication, they also communicated in a sort of spoken song.

What perhaps the audience menbers with less knowledge lacked at the concert in Hechingen, was a commentary about the dance and music. However, for Bettina Castaño, the emotion of the dance is more important than the facts, feeing the music, and translating that into movement and grace - all of that knows no cultural and certainly no national boundaries. That is why Spanish and Indian tradition can be so easily integrated. One could also say they are two sides of the same coin – perhaps a golden one? This gold 'award' is owed to Bettina Castaño.

"Sensing the music frees the dancing muse."

Bettina Castaño