Belén Maya joins a star-studded cast for London's Flamenco Festival. Performing March 10, 2014, she brings Trasmín to Sadler's Wells Theatre, a collaboration with Manuel Liñán, winner of the MAX Award for best male dancer. Maya and Liñán, both dynamic movers from Granada, Spain, are from different generations, yet equally beautiful as dancers. Belén shares her perspective on choreography and her creative process.

Trasmin: Belén Maya and Manuel Liñán © Antonio Varonkov
Trasmin: Belén Maya and Manuel Liñán
© Antonio Varonkov

Born to legendary dancer Mario Maya and Carmen Mora during their tour in New York City, some might say it was evident that Maya was destined to dance. However, she was not convinced. It was in the middle of her adolescence that she became interested in the world of Flamenco; she started to train seriously only at the age of 18. Abandoning her ballet training in Madrid, she moved to Seville where she began her Flamenco studies. Before eventually joining her father's company, she performed in the smaller and more intimate Flamenco performance spaces, the tablaos, throughout Seville and other major cities. Maya highlights that this was a challenging but very rewarding period of her life. The tablaos were great teachers, and what a great student Maya was; she has performed throughout the world thrilling audiences wherever she goes. Olé to her teachers! 

Belén Maya: Trasmin © Antonio Varonkov
Belén Maya: Trasmin
© Antonio Varonkov

Moving forward a few years, in 1995 Maya was asked to join Carlos Saura's documentary on Flamenco. Her collaboration with Saura proved to be a turning point where she was able to make her mark on Flamenco. Maya became known as one of the artists who helped define what is today considered Contemporary Flamenco. The film displayed her unique style and exhibited her linear and geometric way of choreographing, and her unadorned and sharp ways of moving. Maya highlights that she is not a circular dancer who is contained nor stuck in a traditional mold. She is influenced by various different dance styles: Hindu, Contemporary as well as Classical Dance. She admits that she has a traditional foundation, yet is not crippled by it. When compared to her parents, she says that there is little dance resemblance because from the very beginning she was determined to dance in her own way, not mimicking what she saw as a child.

Maya is not only known for her contemporary, sophisticated and elegant way of moving but is also regarded as an innovator. Her visionary approach to Flamenco was perceived as daring – especially by previous generations. What is today accepted as a Contemporary way of dancing was, during the early years of her career, considered a radical deviation from the norm. She confidently says that she has created a school of Flamenco that is now an established branch on the Flamenco tree. She passionately fought to prove that it was possible to dance Flamenco without the constraints of the traditional paradigm, and today's artists are doing just that. 

Collaborations are important to Maya. She highlights that the individualistic nature of Flamenco does not lend itself easily to working with others. To remedy this, she allows ample time for each party to have the space to explore their ideas so that they can find a middle ground where the material can flourish. When asked about Liñán and their collaboration, Maya says that she met him years ago when he was still in Rafaela Carrasco's company. Her affinity for him, describing Liñán as an exceptional human being and an incredible artist, is amplified on stage. She feels a deep connection with Liñán that she can not put into words and she enjoys performing with him. For Maya, Liñán comes from a younger generation of Flamenco artists who did not have to question their contemporary aesthetic, a liberty that was not granted to artists from Maya's generation.

In Flamenco there is an intricate interaction between the dance and the music. I asked Maya how she went about creating Trasmín, and whether the music dictated the choreography or vice-versa. With this particular show she started choreographing far in advance of having the music, and sat with the material for a long time. She added the music later, and naturally fine-tuned certain things. Maya prefers to have lots of time to develop a show so that she can add, remove and tweak certain parts without having the risk of putting herself in a situation where she would have to dance using the first thing that comes to mind.

Belén Maya symbolizes progress. She is innovative in her approach to Flamenco and has constantly found different ways to reinvent herself, her work and her shows. Her choreography, aesthetic and humanistic way of dancing is unique. Her collaboration with Manuel Liñán is thrilling; two dancers who exemplify Contemporary flamenco, dancing side by side, should be sensational.