I had the privilege to have started my dance career studying Flamenco, Spanish regional dances and Spanish classical ballet - also known as Escuela Bolera - with the charismatic dancer and choreographer Celia Neves. A highly acclaimed artist in Spain, Mrs Neves came to Portugal by marriage, and opened a semi-professional dance school in Lisbon: the Escuela de Ballet Clássico Espanhol Celia Neves. She was a pioneer introducing the art of Flamenco in Portugal and received several awards for her devotion and contribution to the development of this cultural expression.
I was luck enough to have been able to learn flamenco with many other great artists, such as with Carlos Benavides, Salvador Martínez, Antoñete, Doña Ana, Keren Jacobi, Rina Garavelli, Isabel Quintero - and more recently with my colleague in the Pálinka Company, Sofia Abraços - in Spain, Italy and Portugal.
But it wasn’t until 2002 when I began to research and deepen into the heart of the Romani culture. My passion and devotion for studying the roots of East European Romani dances was undoubtely awaken by the extraordinary Franco-Hungarian dancer Yumma Mudra (Myriam Szabo), founder of the Danza Duende International Network, who would become my teacher. I studied gipsy dances intensively with Yumma and shortly after was invited to join her newly found Gipsy Duende Company: the Salamantras.
This was a particularly exciting period in my dance career as it represented, on the one hand, a reunion with my oldest and most essential artistic self, inspired by singing, music and rhythm in their communal but also spiritual sense, and on the other hand, it meant the liberation of many dogmas and of other rather questionable preconceived ideas about art and the meaning of 'tradition'.
This was the beginning of a long personal road into the research of the music and dance of the Romani culture of the Balkan countries, Romania, Turkey, Russia and Central Europe.
On a trip to Paris I met Pétia Iourtchenko, a Romani Ukrainian actor, singer and dancer who had worked in the first ever Romani Theatre: the Romen Theater of Moscow. I later resided in Normandy for three years, having the opportunity to study intensively with Pétia at the Académie des Arts Chorégraphiques in Montmartre. Originally from the Vlach Romani tribe, founder and director of the Romano Atmo company, Pétia’s dramatic and intense style, excellent in the art of rhythm, body percussion and foot work, immediately conquered his students.
In France, I also studied with Béatrice Lavielle, Simona Jovic and Helen Eriksen.
Since 2013, I started travelling regularly to Berlin to deepen my studies in the Romani Dance School, directed by Katjusha Kosubek, with Anna Debicka and Rada Boguslawska.
I have engaged in several trips to Eastern Europe to get closer to the culture, dances and musical tradition of the Roma communities of these regions: Czech Republic (2003), Hungary (2008), Turkey (2008) and Romania (Komando, Szászcsávás, Bucharest: 2008 and 2009). In these countries, not only did I study in Festivals but also in the dancers' family homes, as was the case with Elisabeta Ciobanu in Romania and Reyhan Tuzsuz in Turkey. In Romania, I performed at the Romani Folklore Festival Cygánifolklór Tábor in 2008 and 2009.