Mercedes Amaya Company and ¡Arte! Flamenco at the 2016 Vancouver International Flamenco Festival

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Mercedes Amaya Company and ¡Arte! Flamenco
Vancouver International Flamenco Festival
September 16, 2016 | Vancouver Playhouse

The concentration; the passion; the rhythm. It never ceases to amaze me when I attend a flamenco show. These two companies, while not the best I’ve seen at this festival, still wowed with fiery footwork and a beautiful melding of music and movement.

¡Arte! Flamenco performed De Cal, Canto y Arena (Of Salt, Song and Sand) that emphasizes the relationship among the guitar (salt), song (the voice of the singer onstage), and the sand (representing the dancer’s movements). The piece began with Kari Alba letting sand fall through her fingers, the sound of it hitting the stage mingling with the pensive guitar at the back of the stage.

Alba, along with her dance partner Alejandro Sie, guitarist Ricardo Diaz, and singer Celedonio Garrido, shared their passion with this form and worked together to create dramatic scenes while photos of those who have inspired them were projected on the back wall of the stage.

For an opening act, this company from Saskatoon performed longer than expected, and while their dedication their craft is to be commended, this portion of the show could have been condensed.

Mercedes Amaya Company (dancer/choreographer Mercedes “La Winy” Amaya, dancer/choreographer, Nacho Blanco, guitarist Santiago Enciso, and singer Jose Diaz “Cachito”) were bursting with flamenco fever. Hailing from Mexico and Spain, this company is led by the fierce Amaya who is one of many famous flamenco artists in her family.

Their work Templanza is in the Spanish Gypsy style, seen for the first time ever at the 26th year of this festival. With warbly vocals, fast-paced guitar and even faster footwork, Amaya and Blanco performed impressive solos embodying the deep rooted feeling necessary for this dance form.

The staging was sparse as usual allowing the performers to be the focus. There are no special effects or props to hide behind — just the blank stage, flowing fiery red costumes, and the musician and dancer guiding each other to create a dazzling work of art. Amaya truly embodies the spirit of flamenco and I only wish more people would have been at the show to witness it. 

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