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Swiss dancer shows flair for flamenco

A scene from Merki's "Capricho amor". Marc Funk

A top Swiss flamenco dancer has been honoured with the country’s most prestigious award for performing arts.

This content was published on January 21, 2004 - 09:27

Brigitta Luisa Merki - the artistic director of a dance company in Baden, canton Aargau - was presented with the award by the Swiss Society for Theatre Culture.

It came exactly 20 years after she founded the company, Flamencos en route, which has since embarked on a series of successful tours of several countries - including the birthplace of flamenco, Spain.

“Flamenco has become a world music even through its roots are Spanish,” said Merki, who sees nothing unusual in its role as a Swiss cultural export.

She was introduced to the world of flamenco after attending a course in Zurich given by the legendary Swiss dancer Susana, who with her partner, composer Antonio Robledo, continues to be a decisive artistic influence.

“I was a complete beginner,” she told swissinfo, “but I remember Susana saying about me ‘this girl is a natural’.”

Studies in Spain

Merki went on to study in Switzerland under Susana and did further dance training in Spain.

She had previously worked as an elementary school teacher and taken courses in acting. “Flamenco is theatre language,” she said, “and that language must stay true to the authenticity and the inner, real expression of flamenco.”

As a choreographer, solo dancer and dancing teacher, Merki became artistic director of Flamencos en route ten years ago.

“Flamenco has a special vitality of its own,” she said. “The energy comes from within.”

Like the other dancers in the company, she keeps in shape with a rigid regime of daily exercises and rehearsals to make sure that performances are indeed full of energy. The dance routines are meticulously choreographed – but this being flamenco there is also a measure of spontaneity and of improvisation.

“When we perform, every night is different. You never quite know how a performance will turn out.”

Merki incorporates various art forms into her work and has music especially composed for her creations. She says the inspirations for her choreography include lyric poetry and in one 2003 piece, a sculpture by Rodin.

swissinfo, Richard Dawson in Baden

flamenco

Brigitta Luisa Merki founded the company in 1984 and has been artistic director since 1994.
The choreographer, solo dancer and dance teacher is a former schoolteacher and a trained actress.
Based in Baden, Flamencos en route has performed extensively in Europe, including Spain.
Merki’s cooperation with composer Antonio Robledo and legendary dancer and choreographer Susana has influenced her artistic development.
Merki draws inspiration from literature and the visual arts and integrates them into her stage productions.

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