Internationally known as a Flamenco extraordinaire, Raquel Peña, has spent another successful summer going from strength to strength with her flamenco dancing group.
However, this week, her personal attention was diverted towards something other than dance, a subject close to her heart, and those of countless other people affected by Alzheimer´s and Dementia.
Coinciding with the celebration of World Alzheimer’s Day, which was held on the 21st September, Raquel was at the forefront of a press conference presenting a new association called AMMA on Friday, the Alzheimer´s Mar Menor Assiociation, or Asociación Mar Menor de Alzheimer in Spanish, which was formed as a result of people in the Mar Menor area not having any organization or association dedicated exclusively to Alzheimer´s and dementia patients and those who take care of them.
The group started off as some British people who have partners suffering from dementia began meeting every fortnight to talk to each other and help each other. “From these small beginnings, with the help of Raquel Peña, we approached the San Pedro Town Hall to see if they could give us anywhere for a Day Care Centre”, a statement read, and after a lot of hard work by the Committee, and the support of San Pedro Town Hall with collaboration of Citizen Participation and Social Services, what was once a dream has become reality, with a Day Care Centre, available for the use of both Spanish and English speaking patients, fulfilling a great need for something like this in the area.
Speaking exclusively to The Leader, Raquel explained how areas like Torrevieja already have successful and long established associations such as the AFA, but to the south, an official support network was virtually non-existent. Explaining her personal commitment to the project, Raquel described how “Having had my late husband sick with Alzheimer´s for 17 years, I know only too well what the family situation involves with this disease. I have helped Alzheimer organizations through my performances for many years and felt my time can also be useful being part of this association”.
In Spain it is estimated that 7% of people over 65, some 500,000 people, and 50% of those over 85, a staggering 620,000, are candidates for some form of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s is the most prevalent. Furthermore, scientists state that with the general aging of Western populations, many of these people conduct seemingly normal lives, including their day to day activities without any kind of problem or issue, but many are also unaware of the severity of their condition and partake in such potentially dangerous activities such as driving, resulting in the Dgt traffic department launching a new campaign of awareness of the dangers of driving when suffering the conditions associated with dementia, including confusion, increased stress and forgetfulness and a general potential lack of special awareness.
The campaign reports that 4.5 million people in Spain, nearly 10% of the population, are affected by dementia, taking into account the family structure. The latest Spanish publicity surrounds the key message of “solidarity”, a clear result of this new local association too, with the slogan “Make this gesture stick”, in which a post-it note is used to symbolise the national awareness campaign. It is estimated that the social cost of this disease in Spain is 35.9 million euro.
A great supporter of young talent, Raquel has trained her dancers to become the best in the area and this is reflected in their success at securing so many great jobs as resident performers at some of the areas hottest venues this year.
This all began with Raquel’s passion to dance from a young age. When she was just nine years old she auditioned and secured a place at the Metropolitan Opera Ballet School. Her talent led her to win a full scholarship for her last two years there. At the same time, she studied Ethnic dance, it was here that she learned dances from around the world, especially Hindu and Flamenco.
This was the beginning of her passion for Flamenco and from there it continued. She started her professional career in the United States at the age of 16.
In 1971 Raquel founded her first dance company and since then has always been the director, choreographer and dancer of her own companies. Throughout her distinguished career, she has performed in many countries. In 1988 she made Spain her permanent home. She now dedicates her time as teacher, choreographer, consultant, lecturer and director. She still performs, and gives masterclasses and workshops (often combined with demonstrations) all over the world.
As a choreographer, she is much in demand and has set choreographies for many dance companies and is a specialist in Operas that have Spanish Dance in them. In addition, she has created more than fifty works for her own companies. She is very dedicated to young upcoming flamenco artists and is much in demand to prepare them in every aspect of a future as professional artists.
Raquel’s dance school has seen much success this summer with her dancers being booked at twelve new venues last week. They are also in great demand at weddings and private gigs. Raquel said ‘we have just been so busy! We don’t stop! This is how I do it, there is no time for me to get sick and no time for me to rest, we just keep going. It’s great.’ ‘I have such talented young dancers they really are. All this success has come from word of mouth’.
Some of Raquel’s dancers can be seen at Rebate all year round, every Wednesday afternoon and evening, every Saturday evening and every Sunday afternoon. We watched on as dancers Luciana Ibanez, Paula Garcia and Daniel Asis provide a completely authentic Spanish experience with stunning costumers and an energetic and crisp performance. Always sure to get the crowds involved, their talent and enthusiasm shone throughout their entire performance.
Her dancers can also be seen at the Orihuela Costa Resort on Friday evening, La Encarnacion Spa every Sunday and of course at the Rebate Restaurant on Wednesday and Sunday lunchtime, as well as Wednesday and Saturday evening.
And once again Raquel and her company are taking their performance to an international level as they jet off to the UK in December where they will be performing at the Gatwick Hilton hotel.
Locally Raquel dedicates much of her time to her primary motivation which is ‘Flamenco for All’, a group that offers classes for adults and children of all ages. These are held at her Flamenco Arts Centre in Pilar de la Horadada on Av de la Ventas between the new Policia Local Building and the Colegio Publico Mediterraneo.
And after a lifetime in Flamenco Raquel says that she now finds teaching and choreography to be more rewarding and as the force behind this wonderful and fascinating art form here on the Costa Blanca and on the Mar Menor we all hope that she will continue for many years to come to showcase and to develop the next generation of talented young artists that I am sure will be grateful to benefit from her lifetime of experience.
Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/44944/
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