ENI9MA: The Legend of Félix
A story of appropriation, glamour and madness
Documentary about Félix Fernández García, flamenco dancer from Seville hired by Diaghilev in 1917 to teach and dance flamenco for the Ballets Russes in the process of creation of The Three-Cornered Hat ballet in collaboration with choreographer Lèonide Massine, composer Manuel de Falla and Pablo Picasso.
After traveling through Spain and Portugal for months, in the summer of 1918, his contract was modified to take him on tour to London with the company in spite of the on going world war.
In May 1919, Félix learned he was no longer going to perform the leading role of the Spanish ballet he was hired to collaborate in, and a few weeks before the premiere, which was a great success, Félix was arrested, locked in a mental hospital, declared dead in Spain while alive, and abandoned in the asylum in England, where he died two decades later, during World War II.
ENIGMA leads you into the process of discovering and getting to know Félix Fernández García,the tacit ambassador of the Avant-garde era of Spanish dance and culture.
Félix made a big difference in choreographer Léonide Massine, who appropriated this Spanish role for dacades The Three-Cornered Hat ballet launched Massine’s career as independent choreographer, surrounded by glamour and world fame and buried Félix’s life, erasing him from any recognition or chance to be rescued.
We can only catch a glimpse of his memory as a dancer, teacher, artist and inspiration to leading talents from the Ballets Russes through the sketch Picasso made of him, his castanets, and the artistic works created about him.
The legend of Félix is full of questions: Was Félix really insane or was that what people were made to believe? What was the motive to leave him in the asylum: love triangle, professional jealousy or manipulation? Why did Diaghilev declared him dead while he was still alive?
In a broad perspective, ENI9MA takes us on a trip through time to experience the challenges of survival of the most glamorous ballet company in history, with exuberant designs, powerful music and lavish dancing, while the world was falling apart at war, hunger, epidemic diseases, but somehow going to the theatre to live a moment of ecstasy.
ENI9MA allows us to take a look into the artistic lives of those in the Ballets Russes, but also in those artists who have been touched by the legend of Félix.
ENI9MA brings us close to this Spanish dancer who gave it all receiving the worse in return.
ENI9MA lets us see through the relationship of Massine and Félix, both almost the same age, both away from their countries, both creating, both teaching, both choreographing, both collaborating with the best, but each one receiving such a contrasting pay in return, one fame and freedom, the other locked and forgotten.
Most people in the arts world have heard about the Ballets Russes, the most glamorous ballet company of the 20th century; its stars (Nijinsky, Pavlova), choreographers (Folkine, Massine, Balanchine), composers (Stravinsky, Debussy), artists (Picasso, Chanel), and memorable works such as the Rite of Spring, Petrushka and Le Spectre de la Rose. But, not many know about how crucial the period from 1915 to 1919 was to Léonide Massine and Félix Fernández García in their process of entering and leaving the Ballets Russes; gaining fame or being secluded from society. In 1915, Massine debuts as lead dancer with the Ballets Russes, and in also in 1915, he creates his first choreography for the company. During the summer of 1916 Diaghilev and Massine see Félix dancing at the Café Novedades in Seville, and hire him in the fall of 1917 to join the Ballets Russes as dancer and Spanish dance teacher. Less than two years later, in July 1919, the Ballet Russes premieres The Three-Cornered Hat, the Spanish master piece by an outstanding creative team: Manuel de Falla – Composer, Pablo Picasso – Costume and Scenic designer, and Léonide Massine – Choreographer and lead dancer. The premiere marked Massine’s international recognition as dancer and choreographer, but also Félix’s tragedy, as he was arrested before the premiere and placed in a mental asylum for life.
The two years that Massine and Félix worked together had such an impact on Massine´s artistic development and personal performance aesthetics, that it changed the way Massine dressed, danced, and performed. Before the creation of The Three-Cornered Hat, Massine had only created five ballets, progressing in his artistic skills with each one, but after El Sombrero de Tres Picos (or Le Tricorn as the ballet is also called), he was considered the best choreographer in the world, and remained so for many years. The international tours of his Spanish ballets further the appreciation of Spanish dance and culture through out the world, especially as he taught flamenco workshops in some cities. His collaboration with one of the greatest stars, choreographer, producer and directors of Spanish dance, Antonio Ruíz Soler, brought back to Spain the ownership of creative choreographic developments of this Spanish ballet, which to this day, continues to evolve in the hands of contemporary Spanish choreographers. The elusive, brief, and significant collaboration of Félix with the Ballets Russes has motivated writers, playwrights, choreographers, and filmmakers into creating works about him continuing the legacy of Félix Fernández García, the silent ambassador of flamenco dance in the ballet repertoire.