Spanish Music, South Korean Choreographers, and the Museum Archives

Isabella’s collection continues to inspire artists today—including our 2019 Choreographers-in-Residence All Ready!

share this:

Last year, the Museum had the honor of working with South Korean female dance duo All Ready as our Choreographers-in-Residence. Comprised of members Salang Yang and Hyein Kang, the duo first made a splash in a viral video that circulated on Facebook, and then had a star turn as contestants on the NBC show World of Dance. Their choreography and performances combine old and new by merging traditional ballroom and hip-hop dance.

All Ready came to the Gardner Museum to start their residency in January 2019. While at the Museum, they were inspired by Isabella’s interest in Spain, where she traveled at least twice. She collected Spanish art and purchased John Singer Sargent’s iconic Spanish dance painting El Jaleo, which anchors the Spanish Cloister.

John Singer Sargent (American, 1856-1925), El Jaleo, 1882

John Singer Sargent (American, 1856-1925), El Jaleo, 1882

Isabella also had a collection of recordings of Spanish music that she could listen to on a phonograph. All of these records are preserved in the Museum’s archives. Like Gardner, Sargent was interested in Spanish culture and music. The artist traveled to Spain eight times, once as a child in 1868 and seven times as an adult between 1879 and 1912. He developed a keen interest in Spanish music, and depicted performers like those in El Jaleo and related sketches and became knowledgeable about the music itself.

John Singer Sargent (American, 1856 - 1925), Study for El Jaleo: Seated Musicians, 1881

John Singer Sargent (American, 1856 - 1925), Study for El Jaleo: Seated Musicians, 1881

He gifted a number of recordings of flamenco and other genres of traditional Spanish music to Isabella, and he suggested she purchase several more records in a 1916 letter. (Be warned: the artist’s handwriting is terrible, but we promise the letter is about Spanish music.)

John Singer Sargent (American, 1856 - 1925), Letter to Isabella Stewart Gardner, 20 August 1916

John Singer Sargent (American, 1856-1925), Letter to Isabella Stewart Gardner, 20 August 1916

Among those gifts was a record of jotas, a type of musical performance that—like flamenco—combines different tempos, poetic lyrics, and dance. The record features songs performed by the famous jota singer Juanito Paredo.

Juanito Pardo (Spanish, 1884 - 1944) and Victor Talking Machine Company (American, active 1901 - 1929, publisher), Flamenco Record: "Zaragozanas Puras No. 1", "Zaragozanas Netas", early 20th century

Juanito Pardo (Spanish, 1884 - 1944) and Victor Talking Machine Company (American, active 1901 - 1929, publisher), Flamenco Record: "Zaragozanas Puras No. 1", "Zaragozanas Netas", early 20th century

Apparently Isabella liked the record, and wrote “good” on the label. (Other records did not fare so well, and were labeled “bad.”) Recently, Museum staff were able to play and digitally record the tracks on each of Isabella’s Spanish records. Now anyone can listen to Paredo’s jota record. Furthermore, this digitization allowed All Ready to merge the past and present in a totally new way.

In October 2019, the duo performed new pieces inspired by the Gardner. One of the dances, called El Jaleo, was performed to flamenco-inspired mix that included samples from records Sargent gifted to Isabella. You can watch a video of that innovative performance below.

All Ready performs a dance inspired by El Jaleo

These records have had an impressive journey. They were recorded by artists like Paredo, gifted by Sargent to Isabella, digitized by the museum, and have now been incorporated into a 2019 dance performance. Where will they go next?

You Might Also Like

You Might Also Like

All Ready

Beginning in January 2019, All Ready arrived at the Gardner from South Korea to meet with a wide variety of Gardner staff members.

Working With Artists

The Gardner Museum continues Isabella’s bold legacy of supporting artists and celebrating creative talent in all its forms

A History of Music

Read about the Museum's music-filled history