Flamenco troupe brings world-class performance to ENC schools
Flamenco is a form of song and dance commonly associated with the Southern region of Spain. With bold prints, flowing dresses and nails in the heels of their shoes, Flamenco is an overwhelming visual and auditory experience. I met with a troupe of world-class Flamenco dancers, hailing from Argentina, Spain and Puerto Rico as they prepared for a performance in New Bern.
Backstage, amid tapping and guitar tuning, Glenda Sol Koureus is warming up her voice. She’s in a white, floor-length dress with black polka dots and red trim.
Sol is also a dancer. She usually performs in international competitions or before large crowds at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, but today she has to entertain a crowd of 300 elementary school students at the Epiphany School in New Bern.
“Flamenco for me is my life, since the first time that I saw it, something called for me,” Sol said, about her first-time seeing Flamenco in Argentina. “It was a before-and-after moment.”
The troupe has two dancers, a guitarist, and Sol the singer. As part of the New York City-based dance company Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana, the group has been touring dozens of North Carolina schools to teach students the fundamentals of Flamenco – the dancing, the singing, and the clapping – known as palmas.
“In Spain, palmas is serious business, like people do it for a living,” Sol said, with her eyebrows raised.
Flamenco is a high-energy performance, and the audience participation is highly encouraged. Before each show, Sol asks the audience to practice saying “olé” when a dancer strikes a pose or the guitar plays the song’s final notes.
The troupe is a part of the Atlantic Dance Theatre, and they teach Flamenco and its history through a story. One key message is that Flamenco is the product of many cultures. Dancer Patricia Munez says it originates with the Roma, or Gypsies, who mixed with the Jewish and Arabic communities for centuries.
“Flamenco is not just one thing. It has many flavors, so there’s not just one thing, it’s many things,” she said.
The castanets come from the Roma. Munez added that the dance has influences from Africa, the Caribbean and Central Europe, as well. In one song, Sol carries out a long somber note and the influence from Spanish Moors – the Muslim community – is clear.
“They were persecuted, so they fled to the caves and were singing about their lives,” Sol said. “It’s like a prayer, a cry, and also a celebration of life."
In the 15th century, Spanish monarchs Ferdinand II and Isabella I completed Spain’s conquest of the Iberian Peninsula and expelled the Moors from Spain.
The troupe performed at 3 different Craven County Schools last week, including Epiphany’s high school, and offered lessons over the weekend. The performers hope the kids take away an appreciation for the art they’ve dedicated their lives to. Raphael Brunn plays the guitar. He’s pursued Flamenco for decades, having tried out other careers.
"I think it’s important if you’ve got a little fire in your heart for something you want to be – like a shadow puppet guy – then you should follow your heart and do that.”
Here’s what Heidi, a 4th grader took away from the performance.
“They’re very graceful and they’re still show a lot of movement, but they can do it gracefully,” Heidi said.
Abby is a 7th grader who mostly does classical and jazz dances. After seeing Sol, Munez and Brunn on stage, she said she is looking to broaden her dance repertoire.
“With Flamenco, it’s very bold and sharp. It’s not like anything I’ve ever done before,” Abby said. “Now that I’ve seen them do it, it sparked my interest, and now I want to learn more and try it."