THIS IS FLAMENCO
July 19 - 21
Birds & Stone Theatre
When Rosanna Terracciano was young, a doll outfitted in a traditional flamenco dress caught her imagination. She wanted to dance. Then, 10 years ago, she finally had the opportunity to try her moves on the floor, and she has been hooked ever since.
“I guessed it was a good dance for me, and I was right,” she says, crediting her “Italian blood” for making her well-suited to the dance’s “intense emotions.”
Today, however, Terracciano has come to have mixed feelings about that doll she saw as a child. Such things promote a “superficial” understanding of what the dance is all about, she says.
“In North America, people just have this idea of what flamenco is: a woman with her hair in a bun, wearing a dress with polka dots and ruffles,” she says. “That’s all they consider flamenco to be. But there’s a lot of depth to the form, there’s a history to the dance that goes beyond what costume you wear and how your hair is done.”
Despite flamenco’s deceptively simple combination of foot stamping, hand clapping, skirt swishing and sinuous arm movements, Terracciano says the dance takes years to master.
For one thing, she says, a dancer must learn to shift her weight safely while stamping her feet in order not to damage her joints. For another, Terracciano says the oft-worn long, ruffled skirt is akin to an “additional limb” on one’s body; a dancer can rehearse for hours, moving across the floor, just learning to manipulate the skirt.
While most people associate flamenco with the dance, Terracciano says many forget that the art form originated as a vocal performance.
“Flamenco revolves around the singing.... The singer is the root of a lot of what is happening,” she explains, adding there are many different forms of flamenco songs which differ from one another in terms of emotional quality, guitar tones, rhythms and origins. Different forms dictate differences in the way a dancer executes her dance.
“Every form calls for a certain way of combining the techniques of arms, feet and body,” she says.
Despite the traditional connotations of flamenco dance, which originated in Andalucia, Spain, Terracciano says there is a “small collection of people around the world” that is looking to experiment with the dance form and push it forward.
In fact, she recently went to Barcelona to perform in an experimental flamenco dance festival, the only one of its kind in the world.
“For some artists, just sticking to tradition doesn’t give them quite enough of a path to express themselves. They have a different vision looking at flamenco,” says Terracciano, adding that even those who do experiment with the dance always have to “honour” its roots and respect its deep traditions.
Terracciano’s experimental flamenco dance routine in Barcelona involved riffing on the tradition of female dancers using fans. Terracciano played with that imagery and, at one point, ended up with eight fans in her hand.
Another dancer choreographed a piece around the tradition of the flamenco dancer’s polka-dotted dress. Her costume had several holes in it, where the polka dots once were. While she danced, a video projection played, documenting her cutting the dots from the dress.
“Experimental work is based on tradition but goes in a new direction,” Terracciano explains.
Back on the home front, Terracciano describes Calgary’s flamenco dance community as “very small.”
“It’s a community that’s struggling to grow and thrive,” she says, attributing that to its relatively new arrival here, and also to the lack of support and resources available to the community.
For one thing, Terracciano says, flamenco artists face an uphill battle in getting the dance the artistic recognition she feels it deserves. Instead, flamenco is often categorized with other forms of recreational folk dance.
“People who really dedicate themselves to the craft spend just as much time in a studio as visual artists do,” Terracciano says, adding that there needs to be more education in the broader community about the art form. To that end, Terracciano recently completed a short flamenco dance film as “one more way to get flamenco out to audiences.”
Echoing many artists in other disciplines, Terracciano says there aren’t many chances to perform flamenco locally, save for those opportunities she creates herself.
One of those self-created opportunities is her upcoming This is Flamenco two-part series, made possible through a Calgary 2012 grant
“It’s just simple, raw flamenco. The idea is to be very intense, without any hype, frills,or smoke-and-mirrors,” Terracciano explains.
Joining Terracciano will be flamenco guitarist David Matyas and singer Stephanie Pedraza. In keeping with flamenco’s roots, some of the dances will be improvised.
The second part of the series will take place in December.