30 January 2012

Esencia del Flamenco

Jill Tanner-Lloyd, Artistic Director of the Desde Sevilla Flemenco Dance Company talks to drama on the waterfront about Esencia del Flamenco, opening tomorrow in Circa Two. Paul Bosauder and Cristina Lopez Gomes, both of whom are visiting from Barcelona in order to perform in Esencia del Flamenco, also tell us a little bit about themselves and their experiences.

DOTW: Please tell us a little bit about the Desde Sevilla Flamenco Dance Company; how long has it been around, who is involved, etc?

JTL: DSFDC began in Wellington back in 1999 and has been entertaining enthusiastic audiences locally and around New Zealand ever since, with flamenco dance and music shows that really appeal to the Southern Hemisphere audiences.  The group has been in various forms: with Jessica Garland and Jamie King dancing in the early 2000's, Mark Edwards on guitar and Alan Burden joining Helene Garland and me. More recently we have incorporated other upcloming dancers - Kathryn Taylor, Pilar Villamor and Stephanie Howard.  Raymond Biggs has joined the group to add to that percussive strength and we have worked with other guitarists Paul Knight and Richard Lucy. We have worked with other artists over the years too, but for this new show feel very excited and honoured to have the opportunity to work with international  flamencos of such high calibre. I also feel very proud that we have secured support again from the Spanish Embassy in New Zealand. It is great that the embassy recognises how flamenco draws New Zealand audiences towards Spanish culture, and our shows often weave interesting stories that enhance audiences' understanding of that culture.

DOTW: What can you tell us about Esencia del Flamenco? What can audiences expect?

JTL: They should expect an enormous variety of high quality flamenco dance, guitar, rhythm and the most soulful, captivating singing (cante). The show is in two very different parts. The first is our tribute to the Spanish Civil War - with driving rhythms, explosive dance and the most haunting singing.  It is varied, emotional and I am personally very proud of what we have achieved with this work - which is woven together with intricate guitar, percussion and beautiful narration.

The second half is light-hearted, fun, fiesta and full of colour! We particularly take time in this section to showcase Paul and Cristina - they have formed a tremendous partnership and this is really highlighted in some of the pieces they have prepared for this half. We end with Tangos (flamenco, not Argentinian) and the dancers return to the stage to set the audience on fire.

DOTW: Is there much of a flamenco community in Wellington? How do Wellington audiences respond to performances of the DSFDC?

JTL: Flamenco has always been a part of the diverse cultural and artistic palette that makes Wellington special. Other forms of dance and music attract greater numbers of participants, but I have been teaching for many years here and love the interesting range of people who come to explore what flamenco might mean to them. It is not an easy artform to learn - dance or guitar - and there are no flamenco singers to be found - they are a very rare breed. I think we do incredibly well bearing in mind we are so far away from its heart.

DOTW: Is this the first time you will be performing with a flamenco singer and guitarist? How has it been to work with them?

JTL: We have been lucky to have good guitarists in Wellington, but this is the first time the group has collaborated with Spanish-based artists, and certainly the first time we have done such a complex collaboration with a singer.  I worked in Auckland in 2010 with Paul and Cristina on a small "coming home" show for the flamenco community and family, and right from the first rehearsal we knew we could easily work together again. We have very quickly developed a strong connection and that does not always happen, even in Spain. I adore dancing for Cristina - she is truly inspirational and now my other dancers and musicians get to experience that too - it has been a dream of mine since last March.

DOTW: You have performed at Circa before; what can you tell us about your partnership with Circa Theatre and the response you receive from Circa audiences?

JTL: Circa Theatre is the perfect partner for us - we love the small, intimate atmosphere that Circa Two provides and the theatre's  professional organisation and support. I truly believe that audiences should be 'close to the action' to feel the energy from flamenco - huge theatres are good for the pocket but not for the performance I think.

DOTW: What should audiences know about flamenco dance before coming to Esencia del Flamenco?

JTL: I think Paul and Cristina's comments below really provide an excellent insight to what flamenco means to them and to audiences - maybe that's enough to know before coming to the show.  We look forward to sharing this with them.

Jill Tanner-Lloyd
Director and Artistic Director

Paul Bosauder (guitarist)

I was raised as a Lebanese Kiwi, I arrived to New Zealand before I knew how to walk and grew up in a cultural mosaic of Lebanese and New Zealand culture. Later, I returned to Lebanon to seek out my roots and understand better the culture of my parents. I found work in singing in a club called the Music Hall where musicians from Palestine, Romania, Lebanon, Spain, Cuba and New Zealand (me) were working together three nights a week in a fusion of music of their respective parts of the world. When I heard the Spanish guitarist playing backstage before the show I was mesmerized the power of the rhythm and the cante (song) which seemed so close to arabic song I had listened to as a child. I left the gig and decided to head to Spain and began what has been an incredible journey.

Flamenco for me has a magical quality and a pureness that is difficult to describe. It is a music that is demanding and inspiring. The first few years in Spain were so challenging and at first it seemed almost impossible to understand the language of flamenco. But with time it has become something that is now almost second nature. It has been a journey filled with challenges and doubts but also many moments of euphoria. But one thing was clear, I was infatuated with flamenco and whenever I heard the cante (flamenco song) I knew I had to be a part of those moments. Flamenco is more than a music - it is a journey, a journey that is best shared.

Cristina Lopez Gomes (cantaora/singer)

I want to say first of all that flamenco is a way of life and mode of expression. It is the language that I have found to best express myself and in the most sincere manner. I don´t have a single story or moment that I can say that I discovered that I want to sing flamenco. In a way it has always formed a part of my life and so it was something that I have been discovering naturally over the course of my life. I love the social part of flamenco and it is a music that is to be played in a group and shared. This for me is one of the greatest pleasures to be able to share this art with people. I feel very lucky that the culture of my country is loved all over the world and this makes it even more special to be able to share this with people in New Zealand. Now flamenco is becoming something universal - it is a language that people all over the world begin to understand and share.

We would also like to give thanks to all of the people who have helped bring this show to Wellington. Thank you to Jill Tanner-Lloyd, Ann Edge, Alan Burden and Annabel Hensley for looking after us so well during our stay.

Esencia del Flamenco opens in Circa Two on Tuesday, 31 January and runs until Sunday, 5 February. To book, call the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or go online at www.circa.co.nz.

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