Rediscovering La Presy, San Antonio's gift to flamenco
Published: January 9, 2013
Priscilla Treviño Lozano left San Antonio 33 years ago and never looked back. She sporadically but regularly kept in touch with her family, but only visited on a couple of occasions. For the most part, she devoted herself fully to her mission: to live, breath, dance, and teach flamenco in Granada's historic Sacromonte neighborhood, one of the main hearts and breeding grounds of gypsy Spain.
Named "La Presy" (a rendition of "La Prisci," as she was known in San Antonio) by legendary singer-dancer-actress Lola La Faraona (Lola Flores, 1923-1995), she died penniless on December 25, 2011 at the age of 59, but only after becoming one of the most respected flamenco teachers in Granada.
Instead of the usual dresses, her signature look was pants (as inspired by the great Carmen Amaya), white shirt, and black vest. She was an aggressive dancer who worked in the U.S., Spain, France, Italy, and Switzerland, and her intense style resembled that of bailaor (dancer) Manolete, the man who convinced her to stay in Spain.
A little over a year after her death, La Presy's work is beginning to pay off: two of her best and closest students, Lara Bello and Patricia Guerrero, are traveling the world sharing the art they began learning with her.
Directly or indirectly, most San Antonio flamenco schools are related to La Presy, whose legacy is also a vindication for the work of a local scene often dismissed in favor of "the real flamencos from Spain." Yet, very few people know of La Presy in the Alamo City.
"Because she left and was in Spain for so long, everybody here forgot who she was," said Chayito Champion, the daughter of Teresa Champion (La Presy's first flamenco teacher) and the late El Curro, Texas' premier flamenco guitarist. "'Prisci' here was never recognized and that's a shame, because she touched a lot of lives here, too."
This is her story.
"She had a wooden platform under the bed, and she'd step on it and dance for hours in front of a big mirror," said older sister Gladys Donovan in her house in the Southwest side of SA, the same house where Priscilla grew up. From an early age, Priscilla — born April 1, 1952 — showed interest in dancing. As a child she studied tap dancing and acting, but in 1966 she discovered flamenco and her life changed forever.
She was part of the glorious generation of top-notch SA dancers that includes Timo Lozano (now teaching in Houston), Esmeralda and Carla Enrique (now in Toronto), Jesús Moreno, and Manolo Valente (both in San Antonio), who started with Teresa Champion and then went on to tour nationally and eventually spent time in Spain. But La Presy was special.
For Sylvia Castillo Davis, who met La Presy when they were both students at James Rusell Lowell Jr. High School, the memory of her talent is still vivid.
"She had the confidence and the acting skills to walk anywhere and say I'M HERE," said Davis. "All she had to do was dance. That was enough for everyone to sit down and shut up."
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