Esther Ponce Magazine

THE DANCER AND THE DIPLOMAT

BIOGRAPHY

Three years full of surreal adventures, successfully at a frenetic rhythm in Los Angeles, California 

"The President of the Government, Jose Maria Aznar, answers my letter"

It was impossible to catch the flight back to LA under those conditions and I also had a meeting with “Montoyita” on a terrace at El Rastro market to talk about the project that same afternoon. Luckily he was formal and show up . In the world of flamenco and especially when you are one of the most recognized flamenco families and after the party that we got into until a few hours before, he could have left me by my self at the terrace.

We started talking about the script that I had written in a hurry in the taxi, with the “Palos” flamencos that we would play and what I wanted to reflect exactly in each choreography, I had everything so clear since I saw the film. El Montoyita, as Musical Director, would be the head of the Casino, a dancer my lover and the other dancer my husband. I left him the DVD of Gilda's film, which by the way he never gave me back, and in a minute, he mentioned the 13 musicians that would make up the cast of Flamenco Dreams, the manager, the lighting technician and the sound technician. I was a little surprised because normally putting together such an important cast, it would take a long time to call one by one, specify dates and availability etc ... we are talking about 13 artists who are each, in their specialty, number one. That cast is the one that the famous dancer Joaquin Cortes had with the tour they were doing with the company at that time. Now it only remained to pray that the dates did not coincide. As it was a dream, everything had to be perfect and Joaquin Cortés changed two dates so that I could take everyone to Los Angeles. Joaquin and I, we had a very close family relationship and he knew perfectly the reason why I left Madrid and moved to Los Angeles and that is why I think he showed solidarity with me. I met him when we were very young, we almost missed the Paris-Madrid flight because we stayed shopping. When my mother picked me up from the Barajas airport, I remember her so beautiful in her white convertible Cabriolet ... and what she least imagined was the surprises I had in store for her. We would take Joaquin Cortés to his house in Lavapies and more than one day, my mom would take me to the VIP of Velazquez to have pancakes with Joaquín ...

At that time there was a direct Madrid-Los Angeles flight with Iberia and I could occupy three places to sleep the 11 hours flight . I could also take all the Iberian ham in a suitcase full of spare soles, for the shoemaker who fixed the flamenco shoes, castanets and shawls to give to my students who were already my friends. I returned triumphant but at the same time scared of the fortune that The First Annual Los Angeles Flamenco Festival was going to cost me.
The Consulate of Spain invited me to the dinner that was held at the Beverly Hotel, on the occasion of the official trip of the President of the Government of Spain Mr. José Maria Aznar. Together with the paralysis that the President was suffering from his upper lip and his English, it was impossible to follow the speech.
I was sitting next to Maria, the Culture Director of the Consulate, and I told her about my project about the Festival and my trip to Madrid. I also asked her to send from her office a letter to the Palacio de la Moncloa, addressed to the President of the Government letting him know about my project and with an attached letter of presentation from the Consul of Spain. With the change to the new socialist government of Rodriguez Zapatero, D. José luis Dicenta Ballester would have little time left in LA, ascending to Ambassador in Rome, his last assignment as a diplomat . And welcoming the former Ambassador to New York, Mr. Inocencio Arias. That now with the change of Government, he would go down to the rank of Consul. C'est la vie!
I chose a beautiful beige Kinkos paper with a printed map of Spain and we wrote the letter, put it in its matching envelope and sent it to Spain. I knew they weren't going to give me anything because all the Spaniards who worked at the Consulate and who I used to go out with lately, had already warned me of their favorite phrase; Spain never has money, much less for culture.
And indeed the pleasant response from La Moncloa arrived, congratulating me on my project and inviting me to request collaboration from the Spanish institutions that they were based in Los Angeles. Seeing my name on the envelope already gave me strength to continue with the adventure I had gotten into because of a dream.

Now more than ever it was time to arrange a meeting with all the Spanish institutions in LA and tell them about the first flamenco festival in the city of Los Angeles that was going to produce, direct, choreograph and star, that is, to have even less time of I already had.
Maria made me fill out some papers to request a culture grant, I was filling out pages and attaching documentation for days and they only gave me $ 1,500 for a production of $ 50,000. Bureaucratic help was the only thing I could hope for, so I talked to Paul and he volunteered as a producer assuming the budget and I would be the executive producer, taking care of the artistic direction and also investing the dollars that I earned teaching and that I no longer could take Spain in the Italian bun because the United States, after the attack on the Twin Towers, never trusted again and airport security put the air cabin designed for me, where a blast of pressurized air would take off from your body, any hidden material ... just imagine my bow tie dropping dollars flying throughout the cabin and the packages of Iberian ham that hugged my body, it made me laugh and gave me strength to continue with my dream.

Even knowing that I would not get any subsidy, I was closing meetings with all the institutions that appeared on the list that my friend, the Director of Tourism, gave me. I met many Spaniards who were succeeding in LA and they also met me.
I met many Spaniards who were succeeding in LA and they also met me. They all congratulated me on my career in LA, they wished me luck, they cheered me up a bit and ended with the phrase we already know: I'm sorry, but Spain never has money, much less for culture. And worst of all is that at the end of the meeting they always ended up asking me for tickets and a VIP pass for the parties.
The Tourism office offered me to raffle a trip to Seville with Iberia airlines and the Junta de Andalucia, "There is only one" would bear the costs.

Flamenco Dreams would not focus on becoming a show for three days in a theater and waiting to recover the investment from the box office, but to film a DVD, get a distributor in less than two years, since a DVD in LA with more time already no one distributes it to you and sell it to recoup the investment. So the next step would be to talk to the film director, my friend Ferdi, who told me that first of all, I had to ask the artists for all the image rights in the contract, because if not, I would never be able to distribute or sell the film DVD. And Sofia, who had already recovered from her hangover, draw up the contract for the artists that soon would be signed by their manager Curro Conde, the brother of the husband of the famous flamenco singer Estrella Morente, the bullfighter Javier Conde.

The hard work of visas to enter the USA, began to remove all my past and to expose how badly flamenco artists are, the lack of legality in the few contracts and the incredible movement of the "cash" that moves in flamenco and that later there is no way to justify. I was lucky to have the best lawyer, Sofía, and a career full of tours around the world, TV and cinema, which began at 5 years of age and finally Sofía was able to demonstrate with great success.
Meanwhile, we were preparing the trip back to Madrid. We had only one week to rehearse all together and prepare the mandatory interview at the American Embassy with all of us who would travel to LA, to acquire the visas.
The night before the appointment at the American Embassy at 9 in the morning, Sofía and I met with all the artists to have them controlled and to explain to them in detail and the times that it was necessary everything they could NOT say in the interview. They had to be all at that time without exception, or they would not grant us visas and the Festival and all the work of months would be lost. Everything that happened in the Cardamomo flamenco bar was wild, everyone was happy and euphoric celebrating their trip to Hollywood, because of me they were so involved in the role of gangsters, so time and drinks flew. Sofia and I had to make a plan urgently so that no one would leave that bar. It was already 5 in the morning and I could not imagine any of the musicians coming home and then waking up at two hours to arrive in the Salamanca district smelling of coffee.
I quickly told Sofía that we had to stop for the moment our Ava Gadner and Rita Hayworth characters and put on a more flamenco nickname to be able to handle the most crucial moment of our adventure and for which there were only a few hours left. Now we would be “Bandolera”, like the percussionist El Bandolero , and “Monty” from Montoyita, The Godfather. With my talents as an actress and really worried, I asked everyone that this meeting was very important and that we were good professionals and that we had to carry out that interview. I booked a hotel room across from the bar for them to get ready, have coffee and relax while Bandolera went to her house which was very close to shower and change clothes while I was on duty. Later, several taxis came to the homes of each artist to collect passports and all the necessary documentation and then they would pick us up on Echegaray Street to take us to the American Embassy.

Bandolery stayed there with everyone while I continued to my house, which was relatively close to shower and change clothes, and most important of all, I had to follow Bandoleras’s advice; —Monty please, don't wear artist clothes so as not to draw too much attention that we already have too much with this tribe.
But it was so cold in Madrid and I was so cold that the only thing I had to keep me warm was my mother's long fur coat down to the feet that, along with my huge sunglasses, carried a sign that shouted; Good morning, the artist has arrived!

The only thing that did not give me time to change at home, was my bag ... what I found inside when leaving the American Embassy and that surely one of the gangsters put it in before going through the scanner, it is Top Secret!

Thank God everything went well, if we hadn't planned the kidnapping of the artists, I wouldn't be writing this chapter today. I entered the United States as Founder and Director of the “First Annual Los Angeles Flamenco Festival” with an O1 (Special skills) visa, the same one that the famous soccer player David Beckham and the famous opera singer Montserrat Caballe had.

Don't miss chapter 21!

"The welcome party to Flamenco Dreams at the mansion of a Brazilian model ends at the hospital".

With Mr. José María Aznar after dinner at the Beverly Hotel in LA.

Veo que se marcha el día
Y viene la noche
Y me duermo en mis recuerdos
Siento que si no estas conmigo
Y si no vienes pronto
De tristeza yo me muero
Dime
Dime que me has dado
Que me tienes loca
Loca estoy mi amado
Esther Ponce's experimental Flamenco is ready for the Valencian Director of Tourism to meet

It is very gratifying to have an idea like the experimental Flamenco in Valencia, carry it out and have managed to attract more than 20 foreign clients to Valencia in a short time and without marketing, who have passed through the Flamenco Art Center, and who have not only They learned a lot if not they have returned to their country with a better concept of Valencia.

His experience and approach to flamenco led by Esther Ponce will make you return without hesitation to the city of Turia.

Esther Ponce not only surrounds them with her passion and charisma from the first moment, her professionalism and a very long journey through different countries of the world where she has lived for long periods, she makes them fall in love.

You just have to read the dedications of all the foreigners who write in their precious notebook created for them and that are already adding more and more.

«They also buy semi-professional shoes and a skirt to study with me.» That’s already the best! –
~ Esther Ponce

 The foreigner is used to teaching flamenco very quickly and without discipline, anything goes, any shoe, any skirt, hanging out even parodying and even ridiculing flamenco.

With me if they want to study two private hours which is the minimum, they are given the option of buying or renting the shoes and none of them have thought twice about it to this day.
 
«Being a polyglot, doors just open up to me» –
~ Esther Ponce
 
Definitely the Experimental Flamenco of Esther Ponce has an Angel!

From England, without a doubt the most special Experimental Flamenco we have had at the Flamenco Art Center in these two and a half years.

The Esther Ponce Stylized Flamenco Art Center has been open for two and a half years. El Ángel Every August 28, for Esther’s birthday, a new foreign student gives her a gift and the flamenco toast intensifies.

«The students do not want to miss the opportunity to study with me. When they start to study my technique they are hooked at the first second. Those who play sports and take care of themselves immediately identify with my stretching and feel safer for the rest of the class and those who don’t appreciate it and will surely start practicing it and taking care of themselves forever »
~ Esther Ponce

This year Esther thought that her Angel would be very busy due to the current pandemic situation and also that it would be a coincidence that another year happened.

But to Esther’s surprise it was like that and without doubt the most special flamenco toast for England.

«Discipline is my hallmark and not even the Covid has stopped us» «I have never doubted it and I will only teach classes with a mask»
~ Esther Ponce

After the experience of teaching classes with a mask? A private flamenco class for two hours without stopping, does Esther remember that when she and the student went out into the street they breathed for two seconds as if there were no tomorrow?According to Esther’s recent experience, with the mask you cannot see the total expression of the student, but the eyes also speak and flamenco is also expressed with the body.

With all the safety measures, the student disinfected her shoes, put hydroalcoholic gel on her hands, a temperature control was performed with a non-contact forehead thermometer and the student did not remove her mask during the two hours, only in the changing room that she only used to drink water. 

“Now I can present my Experimental Flamenco to the director of Tourism of Valencia and let him roll with the little ham :)”
 
~ Esther Ponce