Interview with Belen, the behind-the-scenes glue of the Flamenco Festival

Belén Castres and José Carmona backstage at Sadler's Wells, (c) Carole Edrich February 2017

Belén Castres White and Jesús Carmona backstage at Sadler’s Wells, (c) Carole Edrich February 2017

Antonio Canales, Antonio Rey, Ballet Flamenco de Andalucia, Ballet Nacional de España, Carmen Cortes, El Niño Josele, Estrella Morente, Eva Yerbabuena, Farruquito, Gerardo Nuñez, Israel Galván, Jesús Carmona, Juana Amaya, Lola Greco, Los Farrucos, Manuel Liñan, Marco Flores, Marina Heredia, Mercedes Ruiz, Olga Pericet, Paco de Lucia, Rafaela Carrasco, Rocio Molina, Rojas y Rodriguez Nuevo Ballet Español, Sara Baras, Tomatito and Vicente Amigo are probably on every flamenco enthusiast’s must-see list, but that’s not why I’ve grouped them together. In fact they’re the list of flamenco performers that Belén reeled off when I asked her who she had worked with, after I did the rehearsal shoot at the 2017 London Flamenco Festival Gala.

As well as the International Flamenco Festival, she was the US and Canada tour manager for Paco de Lucia, production and company manager for many years with Rojas y Rodriguez Nuevo Ballet Español, Marina Heredia and Jesús Carmona and probably left some significant flamenco experiences out as I was hassling her for answers while she had more than enough else to do.

Think of her as the behind-the-scenes glue that makes a tour or performance or indeed the International Flamenco Festival work.

Half of me thinks she has a dream job but the other half understands that the constant pressure, specialist knowledge, multilingual working environment and – I’m guessing – horrendous hours must take its toll. I asked her what skill she thought most helped with her work and what had she gained from it. She responded; “I´ve  learned a lot during all these years. I think the skill that really helped was patience and the thing I’ve learned most while listening to these smart and talented artists was a view of their creative processes. The other thing that I love, it is very interesting too, is that I have seen the young dancers and musicians grow and change. This has been a wonderful thing in the cases of, for example Jesús Carmona, Olga Pericet, Rocio Molina and Manuel Liñan.”

I first interviewed Belén in 2014 for the now-defunct (merged if you’d prefer) Dance Today (find it here) and discovered that she doesn’t just work with Flamencos then, so this year I asked her how her work outside of flamenco has helped her work with them. She replied; “Well, I think when you are a production professional you can work with all disciplines. Maybe cinema is the most different, but I’ve always worked with all kinds of things. Theatre, music hall,  photography, fashion production and concert hall music as well a whole host of other events.”

“To me every discipline is amazing and interesting and I think it is very healthy to do different things rather than stick to just one art. In my case it is really important, when I change I feel it’s like a gust of fresh air, whether I am doing Music Hall and have to change to flamenco, or whether I am doing flamenco and change to something else I still feel stimulated, another fresh breath of air. That is how I stay enthusiastic.”

“I don’t know if this works for everyone, but after 33 years in the business it certainly works for me!”

It would for me too!