Flamenco en Rouge takes you on a foot-stomping journey

Photo: Anne Launcelott

The drama and passion of Flamenco is coming to Ottawa next week from Halifax. Yep, Halifax, where the troupe Flamenco en Rouge is based. Before their show called Camino Flamenco on Aug. 11 at the National Gallery of Canada, ARTSFILE chatted with artistic director and principal dancer Martine Durier-Copp about her passion for this art form.

Q. What is flamenco?

A. Flamenco is a UNESCO world heritage art form. It is the music and dance of the Gitanos (gypsies) of Spain. Flamenco is recognized for its emotional intensity, drama and passion. It speaks a universal language which describes the pain, sorrow, and also joy, of life.

Q. What is Flamenco music? 

A. Flamenco music is delivered through cante (song), toque (guitar) and percussion (cajón), the three basic elements. There are a variety of styles and palos (forms), which involve very complex rhythmic structures, which take years to understand and master! We will provide a range of styles and moods for our Ottawa performance, to give the audience a taste of different elements — from joyful, to melancholic, to powerful  and dramatic!

Q. Where does Flamenco come from?

A. In fact, Flamenco synthesizes many diverse elements — the Gitanos, who settled in Spain, of course, but it also draws influences from the Moors (Arabs), who inhabited southern Spain for more than 800 years, Spanish folk music, even Sephardic Jewish influences, and — when Spain colonized the New World — elements of Cuban and South American music. We hear those in the Rumbas, the Guajiras and Colombianas.

Q. What is at the heart of the form? What stories does it want to tell?

A. Longing, sorrow, unhappiness, love, loss, tragedy, melancholy … all of these emotions are at the heart of Flamenco, and are expressed in the cante, music and dance. The story is related to the difficult life experienced by the Gitanos, who settled in Spain, and struggled with being a marginalized, oppressed and economically disadvantaged group. However, the themes are universal, and audiences can relate to these stories, no matter where they are in the world.

Q. When a man dances there is a lot of stomping of heels. Why?

A. Women also stomp. Footwork (zapateado) provides that very exciting rhythmic element of flamenco music, and in fact, our footwork is part of the percussion. We have specially constructed shoes — made in Spain — with reinforced toes and heels, and nails to get that percussive sound. Flamenco en Rouge also dances on a specially constructed plataforma acustica (acoustic platform), which heightens the sound quality (soniquete).

Q. Are Flamenco dancers prone to back problems?

Not if they have been trained properly and apply the correct technique. In fact, flamenco dancers often dance into their 80s, and are in great physical shape.

Q. When a woman dances it seems more fluid. Please explain.

A. Women can express a more lyrical quality through use of their arm  (braceo) and hand movements (floreo).  They play castagnettes some times which are one of those folk Spanish elements that found their way into the flamenco repertoire — you will be hearing them in our Fandangos — they provide a bright, percussive addition to the dancing.

Q. Halifax does not seem to be a place where Flamenco would take root. How did that happen?

A. We discovered Flamenco in Spain years ago and several of us continue to travel , and train, annually in Spain. Three of us just recently returned from Spain. We share a deep passion for the authentic Gitano flamenco (based in Jerez de la Frontera, in Cadiz, Spain), and work to preserve that authenticity. There is much fusion in contemporary Flamenco, but we strive to respect the older, established traditions.

Q. How did the members of Flamenco en Rouge become flamenco artists?

A. Some of us have been performing together for about 15 years, while newer members have joined the group as recently as three years ago. We share that common vision. We have different backgrounds, several trained in classical music, musicology, composition, vocal arts, and, of course, dance.

Flamenco en Rouge presents Camino Flamenco
Where: National Gallery of Canada
When: Aug. 11 at 2 p.m.
Tickets and information: eventbrite.ca

Share Post
Written by

Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.