Cuffed hands creating an alluring rhythm, feet transforming into percussion or gliding across the floor, twirls and flight of colour, the violent strumming and seductive fingering on Spanish guitars - flamenco is beautiful, romantic, exciting, but not so easy to define.
One thing for sure is that it’s about emotion, says Maria Osende. “Flamenco allows for a lot of personal expression and it’s definitely very passionate. It’s a way of putting out your feelings. It allows for a lot of improvisation and freedom. The musicians and dancers play a little bit off each other, so it’s very interactive. That gives and edge to flamenco that makes it very, very appealing to watch”.
Originally from Madrid, Spain, Osende moved to Halifax eight years ago and founded Atlantic Foundations Productions Association, a company that teaches and performs the Spanish art form ; in 2006, she organized Canada’s first ever flamenco festival. In Halifax from October 22 to 30, seasoned and novice flamenco fans can fully immerse themselves in this intimate form of cultural, artistic expression.
Fall for Flamenco Festival’s opening night showcases local flamenco guitarists in an event called El Guitarrazo. World-renowned artists, dancer Miguel Tellez, guitarist Jose Vega and singer Maria Mezcle will highlight the festival's main event De Espana Con Amor (From Spain with Love); the concert takes place on October 28 at the Rebecca Auditorium. Closing night is a laid back affair, the “Frightening Fiesta”, set to take place at the Seahorse. Naturally, attendees will be treated to unforgettable performances by Osende, who has been dancing professionally (ballet and flamenco) since the age of 15. In addition, Halifax Public Libraries will be hosting a series of free concerts.
Those who do not wish to only observe may participate in beginner, family or master workshops in dance, guitar and voice. Newbies who worry they may not be able to move like the Andalusian gypsies have been for centuries, Osende assures them that flamenco is possible for everyone. “Flamenco originates from the streets, from home parties, from something very casual. So it can be done at many levels very easily. There are no preconditions of having to be fit or having to know anything about it beforehand. We make our beginner workshops super accessible, so that people have a really good experience. It’s for all ages - in Spain you see people in their 70s dancing flamenco.”
Flamenco was and is the folk music of the common people, Osende adds. It is the song of work and play, mourning and celebration, pain and joy. To tap into your emotions and feel genuine freedom, visit the festival’s website for a schedule of events at: www.flamencofestival.ca ~ Michelle Brunet