When last year the Ministry of Culture announced the appointment of Rubén Olmo (Seville, 40 years) as responsible for National Ballet of Spain (BNE), replacing Antonio Najarro, the reaction was unanimous: the whole sector was of the opinion that he was the right person to put Spanish dance definitively in the 21st century. Olmo knows the institution well because at 18 he entered it as a dancer, but he also understands what it is to work in the private sector because at 23 he left the BNE to form his own company. “I know what is inside and outside here and I will take advantage of it. This house has sometimes looked too much at itself and has not always been attentive to what was happening outside. I want the BNE to be the heart of everything that happens in Spanish dance, ”he says.
We are in the BNE rehearsal room in Madrid and the consensus is noted here as well. Olmo has returned as director to an institution that he knows from below and moves around the house as if he were a companion. Maybe that camaraderie also has to do with his personal career. He was born in a humble family in the Three Thousand Homes, a marginal neighborhood of Seville where what was expected of the children was that they played soccer in the street, not that they wanted to dance. But at the age of three he was already clear that he was not like the others and his parents had enough sensitivity to enroll him in a flamenco school.
Then nobody could stop him: at 16 he debuted as a professional in the training of Javier Barón, at 18 he entered the BNE, at 23 he formed his own company, shortly after he was ruined because of a bad manager, he has worked with all kinds of choreographers and was director of the Flamenco Ballet of Andalusia from 2011 to 2013. In 2015 he was awarded the National Dance Award for his mastery of all styles. They say through the halls that it is an encyclopedia of Spanish dance.
“It is a dream to have led the BNE. In no other company there are so many resources, it is very difficult to develop large ballets in the private sphere because large casts and new composers are needed beyond Falla or Turina. Only then can we update the Spanish dance and the bowling school and place them in the 21st century, ”says Olmo. This is one of the great objectives that has been imposed for his mandate: to launch the total renewal of these two genuinely Spanish styles. “The explosion of the new flamenco has eclipsed them. Most of the choreographers have turned to flamenco because it sells very well abroad, which has meant that the other two are somewhat abandoned, few have started to update them as has been done with flamenco. You have to update them to connect them with the contemporary public, ”explains the director.
Olmo has already started working on this goal and demonstrates it in the first program he has designed for the BNE since he arrived at the address, which will close on March 7 the Jerez Festival, the leading event of flamenco and Spanish dance. Start with two new-created choreographies dedicated to these two styles, Bowling and Jauleña invocation (The latter is a solo that he interprets himself), continues with the recovery of Eterna Iberia, from Najarro, and the absolute premiere of the suite Flamenco, tribute to Mario Maya with creations by Rafaela Carrasco and Maya himself. “Here is everything I want to develop in the coming years. Promote new creations, renovate the bowling school based on traditional steps and deepen the legacy of the great masters, ”summarizes the principal.
The choreographer is also working on the creation of a new great ballet that will be starring a woman, in the tradition of Carmen, in this case inspired by the Bella Otero, “one of the first Spanish artists of international projection, very influential during the belle époque, dancer, actress, star of the Folies Bergère, courtesan and lover of powerful men of the time. He won a lot of money and spent everything at the Monte Carlo casino. I will play Rasputin, whom he met during a tour of Russia, ”Olmo advances. “The structure will be like that of a traditional flamenco singer coffee and that will allow us to travel through very different styles: from a doll or a zapateado to a cancan,” he adds.
The Bella Otero will premiere at the Teatro de la Zarzuela next year, but until then Olmo has many other projects being developed in parallel. “I want choreographers of different styles to come to work here, not only from Spanish genres but also from contemporary dance, to enrich that renewal I intend. Heterodox duos have always given spectacular results. There are great examples: the merger Israel Galván-Akram Khan, the Celestina choreographed by Ramón Oller for the BNE, the recent Electra by Antonio Ruz also for the BNE … There is no prohibited style. We all enrich each other! ”He exclaims.