The appeal of flamenco endures on the Semiahmoo Peninsula, thanks to the tireless efforts of Jill Tunbridge, artistic director and dancer/choreographer of South Surrey’s Flamenco del Mar Spanish Dance Studio.
Convincing proof is the fact that the Flamenco del Mar festival, Tunbridge’s annual showcase for her students and guest dancers and musicians from Vancouver’s lively flamenco scene, is now up to its 11th edition, and returning to White Rock’s Coast Capital Playhouse Sept. 7-8 (8 p.m. each day).
In addition to offering her dancers further opportunity to show off their ever-evolving mastery of the multicultural dance and music form, Tunbridge is excited to be able to welcome bailaora (dancer) Michelle Harding, cantaora (singer) Maria Avila and a frequent associate, flamenco guitarist Peter Mole.
Harding, a soloist since 2005, is a regular performer at Vancouver’s Kino Cafe, and her training includes working with masters Mercedes Ruiz, Maria Jose Franco, Matilde Coral and Antonio El Pipa in Jerez de la Frontera in Spain.
“She’s fantastic – she’s amazing,” Tunbridge enthused.
“Her execution is superb. She’s like a thoroughbred. She’s got speed and control. I think she is going to be just oozing energy – and, with me, it’s all about the energy.
“The thing I like about Michelle is that she’s not an actor. She’s not putting that character on – it’s there.”
At the heart of the flamenco form is the inspiration of the music, and that’s why the presence of a live guitarist like Mole is so important to the performance, Tunbridge said.
Originally inspired to become a flamenco guitarist by a trip to Spain – during which he had the fortune to watch a group of gypsies singing, dancing and playing the guitar on a hillside in Granada – Mole has returned several times to study with some of the foremost guitarists in the idiom.
“Peter is just solid as a rock, and it’s such a complete pleasure to hear him, to be close to him playing.”
As a cantaor, Avila also has the advantage of being a skilled flamenco dancer.
“She was dancing first – her parents are Spanish, although she lives in Vancouver.
“She has this smoky, smoky voice. And she’s as sweet as she sounds – without compromising the flamenco fire.”
While the current Flamenco del Mar troupe is a somewhat pared-down group in comparison to earlier incarnations, it’s no less passionate about the art form, Tunbridge said.
And that indicates an even more exciting level of performance, she added.
“Because it’s a smaller group, it’s more focused – everybody’s really keen,” she said.
Tickets ($20 advance, $25 at the door) are available at flamencodelmar.com