Flamenco troupe brings distinct Canadian flair to Victoria

ON STAGE

What: Fin de Fiesta Flamenco
Where: Hermann’s Jazz Club, 753 View St.
When: Wednesday, July 17, 7:30 p.m. (doors at 6 p.m.)
Tickets: $25 from findefiestaflamenco.com; $30 at the door

When dancer Lia Grainger performs in front of audiences across the world, she is welcomed by an eagerness to explore. A built-in connection.

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That is how life often unfolds for artists who mine flamenco for a living, Grainger said. It’s an impassioned artform, with a colourful presentation. That speaks volumes in any language.

Her company, Fin de Fiesta Flamenco, has experienced great success in the flamenco field during its seven-year run, and a current tour of Canada has been met with an overwhelming response — a continuation of Fin de Fiesta Flamenco’s sold-out, 40-show tour of Canada last year.

That is both a credit to her company and the ongoing allure of the 18th-century art form, which incorporates the folkloric traditions of Spain, including dance and music.

“All these little towns, everybody shows up,” Grainger said, during recent tour rehearsals in Vancouver. “We’re bringing our show from Spain, so it’s nice that when people show up we have something that we’re actually really proud of.”

Grainger, who was raised in Vancouver, is currently based in Madrid, not far from several members of the company she created in 2012. It was during her pursuit of dance in Vancouver, years earlier, that a flamenco performance set her upon her current course. Her flamenco studies took her from Vancouver to Toronto, where she pursued a career as a freelance journalist before landing in Spain. She has been stationed in Madrid since 2015, where he runs her own studio and oversees Fin de Fiesta Flamenco as its lead choreographer and artistic director.

The six-piece ensemble has a distinct Canadian flair to it; Grainger is one of many members with Canadian connections. Flutist Lara Wong (who is based in Madrid) and dancer Deborah Dawson (Bordeaux) were once stationed in Vancouver, while guitarist and co-founder Dennis Duffin (Seville) has Toronto roots. French singer Alejandro Mendía lives with Dawson in Bordeaux and Cuban cajon player Hanser Santos Gomez is currently based in Montreal.

The company is bringing Sempiterno to Hermann’s Jazz Club on Wednesday, a new production that tells the story of the group and its multi-city roots. There is a tinge of sadness to any flamenco offering, Grainger said, but Sempiterno (which means “eternal” in English) is especially emotional as Duffin is leaving the company at the end of this year. “We’re going to keep going, but it is going to be different.”

To send Duffin off in fitting fashion, she wanted the latest project from Fin de Fiesta Flamenco, which took its company name from the jam session that comes at the end of a flamenco show, to mirror the intensity of previous productions such as Salvaje, the Spanish word for savage. The focus this time out is split evenly between dance and music, with dancers Grainger and Dawson playing off the music made by Duffin’s flamenco guitar, Gomez’s box drum, Mendía’s vocals and Wong’s flute.

“For flamenco, as a performer you have to commit 100 per cent. You can’t go halfway. It’s complete joy, and that really connects with people. Flamenco is something where all the performers, from the musicians to the dancers, are communicating. We all have to be totally aware and focused. Anything can happen at any given time, which raises the level of intensity.”

Grainger suggested that the core of Sempiterno has “no beginning and no end,” which describes in equal measure the project she started with the departing Duffin and the art form itself.

By moving to Spain and pursuing a craft “that is traditionally very, very Spanish,” she had to prove her worth in short order.

Flamenco is not something to be toyed with in its native country, with outsiders drawing wary eyes. She signed on for an ever-evolving learning curve.

Her passion for the purity of the form eventually won over skeptics. Now she is focused on bringing flamenco back to her home country so the evolution of Fin de Fiesta Flamenco can continue.

“We’ve come from emulating and imitating the great flamenco artists that we love to coming up with our own way of telling stories — dancers coming up with our own movements, and musicians writing our own music, as opposed to saying things that already exist.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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