Flamenco del Mar dancers rehearse for their festival

Flamenco del Mar returns

Jill Tunbridge's annual festival fuses traditional Spanish dance with other dance forms

It’s been said that Flamenco is as much a state of mind as a dance and music form.

That’s at the core of the work of artistic director and dancer/choreographer Jill Tunbridge, who will present her 12th annual Flamenco del Mar Festival this Friday and Saturday (8 p.m. both nights) at Coast Capital Playhouse, 1532 Johnston Rd.

While she has often travelled to Spain to study Flamenco at its most ‘authentic,’ she’s also interested in an underlying unity of world dance – a marriage of music and movement that crosses all cultural lines to become an expression of pure joy and creativity.

“It spans all song forms,” she said, in a recent break from rehearsing with students in her South Surrey studios. “It’s just rhythm, and it’s so in-sync.”

That’s why Flamenco del Mar shows, while focusing on Spanish Gypsy traditions, eagerly embrace other allied forms, including First Nation Pow Wow dancing and tribal style dance.

That’s true of the upcoming show in which Tunbridge’s student dancers and members of her Flamenco del Mar Spanish Dance Company will share the stage with guest flamenco artist Karen Boothroyd and tribal dancers The Fusionistas.

It’s an event intended to celebrate and capture not only the essence of flamenco but the intrinsic power of dance.

“It’s going to be full of surprises, a lot of broadening of horizons,” Tunbridge said. “I’m concentrating on really strong, complementary rhythms.”

Naturally, the traditional Spanish dance forms – including the Alegrias, Guajiras, Solea, Tangos and Sevillanas – won’t be neglected.

“There will be a lot that’s traditional, for sure – I’m a traditionalist,” Tunbridge said.

Providing additional inspiration for both dancers and audience alike will

be the presence of Boothroyd, the flamenco dancer and teacher who is almost singlehandedly responsible for making the Kino Cafe the home and headquarters for many ‘flamencos’ in Vancouver.

“We’ve got some beautiful stuff going on,” Tunbridge said. “One of our dancers will be doing her first solo – at the age of six years old.”

Even after presenting 12 years of shows in White Rock and South Surrey, Tunbridge feels she is still educating the public about her chosen dance form.

“A lot of people still don’t know what Flamenco is,” she said. “Potential students call me up asking if they need a partner, or if it’s like the tango.”

But Tunbridge is also interested in Flamenco’s common roots with other forms – which is why she invited The Fusionistas to participate.

The Langley-based troupe, represented by Stephanie Lafreniere and Katherine Siemens) fuses dance and costume from many tribal traditions around the world, including flamenco, belly dance, improvisational tribal style, folkloric and Kathak.

Tunbridge said she doesn’t hesitate to introduce such unexpected elements into her shows, even at the risk of offending mega-purists.

Flamenco has always been a flexible tradition that has borrowed from different cultures, she noted.

“Sometimes I feel Flamenco is like magic – you put all these elements together, and somehow the results are magical,” she said. “You have to be young at heart, I think. I feel bad for those people that aren’t.”

Tickets ($25, $20 children and seniors, including fees) are available at the playhouse box office, 604-536-7535 or online at www.wrpctix@uniserve.com


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