Confessions of a Flamenco enthusiast!

This weblog is where I share my love and enthusiasm for Flamenco with the world. Events, my upcoming gigs, as well as featured items like Flamenco shoes, fans and mantons available at Edie Hats, will all be here. As well as my thoughts, musings, and inspirations! If you are interested in what I have to say on other subjects, check out my MySpace page and my Flickr photos.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Making of a Show: Behind the Scenes with Mozaico Flamenco Dance Theatre

Live performance is a gift. It is a magical, fleeting experience that can never be duplicated or exceeded. Not even by the most advanced digital wizardry or precise cinematography.

If performance is so momentary, so transient, so impossible to recapture, what on earth make people want to work so hard to do it? Why spend all that time and effort for something that will never only ever happen once? And why would people want to go see live shows when they could park themselves in front a screen at home and watch TV?

I grew up in the world of creating shows and I have always been utterly fascinated by how it is so obviously about "making magic happen"; a kind of magic that can only happen when you are there.

I have the privilege of being close friends with many of Vancouver's flamenco artists and in November 2007, I was asked to join the members of Mozaico Flamenco Dance Theatre as they took their show "Feira de la Costa" on the road. We traveled to Sechelt, a community on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast, to share the experience of live flamenco as part of Caravan World Rhythms' new series of dance-related events.

Click here to out more about Al Mozaico Flamenco and the Edie Hats Scholarship program.

And so, combining three of my passions- blogging, flamenco and performance- I jumped ship at Edie Hats for a day and a night to hitch a ride with the group led by my friend Kasandra "La China" to record some of what it takes to put up a flamenco show and creat the magic of live performance.

Go here for pictures and videos and tag along backstage as group of Vancouver artists take a flamenco show on the road.

Any live show is built to support and present the performers who are what we might call the point of contact for the audience.

A show arises out of the confluence of skills, tech, ideas and expectations. All of the preparation- the years spent studying and practicing the art for, the science of lighting, stagecraft, costume, sound, even the organization of people, equipment and food- is necessary part of the creation of a performance. This immense effort is all aimed at coming together for a few brief performance. This immense effort is all aimed at coming together for a few brief moments of exchange between the presenters and the audience. 

What results is a living, breathing, fluid thing that happens "Right Now". At its best it is a transcendent in-the-moment experience for both the performers and the audience. Improvisation and spontaneity, all the so-called mistakes, are vital parts of the visceral magic of live shows and the reason people make them happen.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Confessions of a Flamenco accessories addict

Flamenco is...
Flamenco is an art form .
Flamenco is music.
Flamenco is raw emotion.
Flamenco is deep.
Flamenco is light.
Flamenco is about difficulty.
Flamenco is natural.
Flamenco is the easiest thing in the world.
Flamenco is about what you are born with.
Flamenco is skill and technique.
Flamenco is a way of life .
Flamenco can be experienced with nothing or with everything.

....and for some ...
Sometimes...a part of
Is about accessories!

And if you are a girl Flamenco get to have the most accessories
of anybody.
And if you are a girl Flamenco dancer who sells get to go across
the world and gather all the best things you can find, and bring them home
to share.(for a price of course-it's hard for a girl to part with her
favourite things)
Like a kid in a candy shop...while in Spain I combed the stores of Seville
to find out what was available , visited suppliers again and hand picked
pieces to be sent back

Another wonderful thing about flamenco accessories is that you don't have to
be a Flamenco dancer to enjoy them.
Spanish shawls have for many years been used as pieces to draped over
pianos, chests, windows, beds...
They have been classic evening wear for as long.
People collect shawls, combs and fans all over the world. (Click here to see the pics on Flickr)

At Edie Hats we now have them all in different sizes, qualities and prices.

Click here to see Edie,the talented Edie Hats staff, and some of her fellow
flamencos, showcasing the Spanish accessories in a fashion show presentation
called Island Vogue held at Granville Island in November.

There are many As well as adding to the growing selection of traditional
and classic shawls collected around the world and her offerings to flamenco
dancers, Edie hand-picked an exquisite selection of small, coat-size shawls
to offer as timeless and romantic fashion accessories for everyone. Fans and
combs of assorted sizes and colors help Edie feel like she never left

Friday, March 30, 2007

A day trip to Senovilla Shoes.

A year ago in Feb 2006...while walking down a
cobblestone street in Jerez with Maria Jose Franco on
our way to a private lesson one day...a man who had
been following us..(and I was a little concerned about
this frankly), stopped Maria, and pulled out a pair of
BEAUTIFUL burgandy/mahogany colored flamenco shoes.

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Miguel at the train station. He is the man behind Senovilla!

They were extraordinary in appearance. (I am a high
end shoe junky... and can smell a well made shoe at
eighty paces!) The heel was exposed polished wood.
(turns out it is hand carved rose-wood as makes for great
sounding tacones). When I touched the leather... it felt
like butter. Very different than other flamenco shoes I'd seen,
and obviously hand made. Maria tried on a buff colored
pair right there in the street and bought them.

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The guys at work. A glimpse into the inner workings of the shop.

They obviously knew each other. Maria Jose's
obvious approval endorsed their quality for me. I
asked him if he sold wholesale, and told him I was a
retailer in Vancouver, it took me about week to
convince him I was worth taking a chance on ... and
our business relationship began.

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The Leathers. A beautiful selection of hand-dyed leathers.

This year I am in Seville, and have been selling these
beautiful shoes at Edie Hats in Canada , since my return
last year. Miguel Senovilla invited me to come visit the
workshop north of Madrid, where the shoes are hand made
by 4 artisans. I decided to take him up on it, and make the
trip from Seville.

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The Uppers. Depending on the style of Flamenco shoe, the uppers have different cuts.

I learned about the way the shoes are made. He took me through the whole process ,
and I met the men who make them.

It turns out (and just just like the hat manufacturing
industry) certain processes in the steps to making the shoes,
become one mans' specialty.

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Placing the upper. Whatever your shoe size, there is a "last" that the upper gets placed on.

He may be an expert at cutting the leather for example, as
minuscule variances make a difference in the way the shoe
fits. I learned that the most to be turned out in a day is ten pairs.
(VERY different numbers than the big factories like Gallardo).

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Shoe on the Last. The shoe is really coming together.

They also only produce three days a week as "Life is too short,
and it is impossible to to make art seven days a week" says Miguel,
picking out a typical dish from Segovia, in one of the oldest restaurants
in Spain that he took me to near his home there. His wife, daughter
and he spend their weekends together north in Segovia. This part of
he country is called Castilla and is where he grew up. Very different
than Andalusia. Not much Flamenco here at all.

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Shoes waiting for nails. Nails placed in one at a time, on the heel and toe.

Speaking of Gallardo, Miguel started this business with the son of the
famous Gallardo when Gallardo was bought by a big Japanese company,
and went into mostly mass production. He invested in the equipment
that is used for hand made work, and the two worked together as partners
until two years ago, when Miguel took over, and changed the name to Senovilla.
He has been gaining a respected reputation in Spain since, and his shoes
have become a favorite with some of the most well known Flamenco dancers.

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Nailing the heel. An up close peek at how it's done.

He showed me the lasts that he uses for Yerba Buena and la Farruca for example,
(and yes, they both have small feet, and NO, a last (wooden foot form) is NOT
carved especially for them, and NO, they don't get them for free)

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Miguel and his Shoes. Something to be proud of...these are the most exquisite Flamenco shoes that are still hand crafted from start to finish.

Miguel Senovilla is proud of the quality of his shoes and enjoys the work because
he is also a great fan of Flamenco. His favorite sales stop is the Jerez Festival every
year, where he sees everybody, and takes in the shows. I gained a lot of respect for
him and his work, by spending the day watching, listening, and learning and I am
proud to sell his product on this side of the water.

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The guys and I. The next time you slip on your Senovilla Flamenco Shoes, rest assured they have been lovingly hand crafted just for you!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

"Triana, Triana que bonita esta Triana..."

It's the morning March 15th, and I'm sitting in bed with my doors open to the sounds of Seville waking up. The sun is just starting to break over the rooftops, the doves are cooing, and my favourite pair are sitting together kissing on the ceramic spire of the building across the street.

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The Ceramic Spires I see from my window

We really scored with this apartment. We’re able to use the roof as a practice studio, so don't have to rent, one. Other flamencos come and visit, eat dinner stay over and give private classes. It's been flamenco heaven.

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The Roof a.k.a. The Studio

This morning Bonnie is going to run through with me what we did in my class yesterday with Juana Amaya. I think Juana has a style that suits me, not the fashion in dancing right now that I'll describe as "Modern Curly Confusing Flamenco". My realistic and time limited 50 year old self, went to the general classes and realized if I was going to use anything that could be picked up in 3 weeks here I'd better be directed and focused about it...not be afraid of what anybody thought...(especially Juana Amaya) and figure out myself what I wanted to take back. I gathered my courage, and asked her to give a me simple Solea in which I can concentrate on the aire. I told her (through Bonnie) about my confusion with mirrors and unusual learning difficulties...other than her thinking me very very odd, I think I got my point across. She was very patient with me.

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Juana Amaya and Edie

As for what I saw in the big classes... HOLY OLYMPIC FOOTWORK. These classes are not for the faint of heart or the untrained! Another trend or "fashion "(if you can describe learning trends that way) is super complicated footwork and heavy rhythm patterns. Hardly believable let alone achievable without devoting your entire existence to it. (and some people DO) There are girls that have been here in Seville studying for years. Amazing...but not very achievable, useable, or realistic for anybody in the world of Vancouver gigging.

Having said that...last night we saw a show of the MOST AMAZING musical rhythmical, IMPOSSIBLE footwork. Manuel Lina, Olga Pericet, and Marco Flores did a show with an amazing group of artists backing them. I swear...I saw last night the kind of work that has upped the bar here. It made me want to be 6 years old and starting out.

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Esperanza Singing

Forget the nunnery, "GET THEE TO A FLAMENCO CLASS"!

It was the most spectacular display of human ability -


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Tablao in Seville

The world of Flamenco inside Spain is a different reality than Flamenco in the rest of the world. Of course it couldn't or shouldn't be any other way. It is indeed the Mecca...the petri dish...the cradle...the grocery store of Flamenco to the world. The place where we all choose something to take away, and cook up our own things. It even isn't mainstream in Spain...the Flamenco Puro is still a specialized almost lost, and independent art form. People that we have met who live in Seville, for the most say they don't know much about Flamenco...but they are glad it exists. The young people are generally not so interested in the old stuff. There is much opinion here that it is in danger of being lost.

What I saw last night is only ONE company, ONE style...of the new evolving flamenco that is being performed. And it is nothing short of a an artistic miracle what is happening and originating here...and being shown in the rest of the world.

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Looking into the alley way, one night later protesters filled the streets

The reality for these artists is that they have a very very hard time making a living as Flamenco artists in Spain. The professionals have to tour other countries like Germany, Japan etc etc. Teaching us junkies that come from all over the world is partly how the artform stays alive. And it is a constantly evolving artform...struggling to survive by some people's opinion.

You would think the average Spaniard would be knowlegable about the different forms of Flamenco...but
really...other than Sevillanas...(the folk dance that is the focal point of the huge city party here called Feria.) Generally , ordinary people don't know much more about Flamenco than the tourists do. People that we have met who live in Seville, have told us that no-body is interested much that lives here. They say that don't know much about Flamenco...but they are glad it exists. The young people are generally not so interested in the old stuff. There is much opinion here that it is in danger of being lost.

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The other end of the Alley

BUT once you are in these areas in Southern Spain that ARE the centres and you know where to go - it is a Flamenco junkies' heaven. The only problem is there is too much to choose from. Where do you start to observe and learn? Like any drug of choice - if there are unlimited amounts available, you could just gorge...spend a hedonistic month just plunging in - eating up as much as you can, without necessarily retaining anything...getting burnt out and mighty sick.

Hmmmm...sounds really, really tempting. YUM! GIMME! my case (and like life in general for me.) I figure out painfully (for that entails being honest about what I am needing most, and capable of achieving), what my goal much of a financial debt I can get away with racking up...and stick to the plan.

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I'll miss the view from my apartment in Spain

And then (because I am a fashionista/performer/ex-costumer) I will search for the right dress and accessories to match the dance. Fashion as a way of life...and my business. Work research - REALLY !!!! (sigh...and yes...I do realize this is also a thinly disguised female justification to shop!)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Flamenco on the East Coast

When I was growing up in Nova Scotia, the music of Flamenco was introduced to me by my mother. I remember her bringing Paco de Lucias's first record home. I would have given anything to be able to learn more about it...but the music that prevailed even in our own house, and coming from the other houses, were the sounds of fiddles, guitars, step dancing...and Celtic songs. The people to learn from were steeped in Celtic. I learned to play the 5 string banjo instead of palmas and castentes. Rich in their culture and music, there is a similarity in the way Maritimers and Flamencos live with their music. People still pull out their instruments, gather together and make music as second nature. Music, singing and dancing glues families and communities together. The East Coast has been a place where artists and musicians from all over the world have settled and migrated to. They fall in love with the place, and adopt it as home.

Shawn Harris who's singing has been described as rich, strong, soaring and heart-rending

So it's with joy and surprise that on one of my trips back home to visit my parents, I heard about a flamenco group that had taken up residence in Halifax in 2001...after moving from Newfoundland yet! I sought out lessons with the beautiful woman I saw on the website, she turned out to be the most wonderful and gracious woman, and an extraordinarily dramatic and powerful dancer.

I am now friends with this lovely group of people, and would like to introduce them to you.

Shawn , Tony Tucker, Meagan Matheson after the show

My last trip home found me in the midst of a Flamenco Festival, that preceded the week of East Coast Music Awards (in which they eventually were to win Best Group Recording In Roots Traditional) and in freeezing cold weather, I made my way to the performance at the Casino/Sheraton Hotel (another addition to the Halifax night life since I left 30 years ago....honestly - the fanciest bingo hall I ever DID see!) I ascended the stairs out of the sea of bewildering blinking lights of the Casino, to a beautiful wood paneled room that looked like something out of a Luxury Liner in the 30's (certainly not the Halifax I grew up in!) The room was filled with people eager to see the show....obviously loyal fans,and not all Flamencos. And what a show they did for us!! Truly a strong and unique representation of the mix of talents brought together in one place by this group...The mix of traditional Flamenco, and ..."other" such as renditions of "Flamenco'ed" Edith Piaf , sung by the exotic and beautiful Maral Perk, was absolutely wonderful.

El Viento Flamenco after the show

All experienced performers from other musical traditions (see for their bios) including Classical,Gospel, and straight up Rock and Roll, they delivered a high energy, professionally polished and incredably satisfying performance. One of the highlights for me was Shawn's absolutely refreshing and funny buleria that he wrote and performed in English! Listen to it here in an interview with Shelagh Rogers a few days ago, and see if "HE'S NOT LOVELY, TELL YER MOTHER!!!!"

Friday, February 16, 2007

For The Love Of Flamenco

Welcome to my "For the love of Flamenco" blog.

If you don't already know me... I love and appreciate Flamenco and how it affects me. If you do already know me... then you KNOW how much I do. I am a confessed Flamenco junkie.

My passion for the art, and music of Flamenco has enriched my life. It channels, grounds, inspires me and fuels my energy.

This morning, I was asked to send a short bio for a gig we are doing before I go to Spain. This is what I sent.
"A passionate dancer, Edie loves Flamenco and believes it powers and feeds the rest of her life. She thrives on the experience of performance and the creative process. Always searching and learning, she is a believer in the statement that "Flamenco is a way of life."