Dancer Lia Grainger was once a collegiate-level basketball player in her hometown of Vancouver, and then an award-winning journalist. But she threw it all away to become a professional flamenco dancer, a feat that once seemed impossible for the 6-2 blond-haired, green-eyed Canadian.
No sooner had Dennis Duffin graduated with a PhD in Astrophysics from McMaster University, he left Ontario to pursue his love of flamenco and went to live in Seville, Spain to study guitar with the best in the world.
The two artists who are behind Fin de Fiesta Flamenco turned their backs on “normal” lives in order to devote themselves entirely to their true passion, flamenco. Today, they spend as much time in Spain as they do in Canada. They aren’t the only foreigners to make this move. Seville is populated by almost as many flamenco students as tourists. There are dancers and guitarists, young and old, from all around the world who have chosen to give up everything and move to Spain to commit themselves full-time to the study and performance of flamenco.
In 2012, Grainger decided to bring this Spanish inspiration to Canadian soil by forming Fin de Fiesta, an ensemble of esteemed Canadian and American flamenco artists who divide their time between North America and Seville. Fin de Fiesta has been presenting electric performances with a wide range of guest artists at festivals and theatres across the continent ever since.
On this, their first B.C. tour, Grainger and Duffin (who is also a member of Canadian Folk Music Award-nominated band Ventanas) will be joined by Los Angeles-based singer Daniel Azcarate, who has been making waves in Seville in recent years, performing to rave reviews at the flamenco city’s famed local clubs and theatres.
Performing with them will be British Columbia flamenco dance sensation Michelle Harding, who has been wowing audiences for years as both a soloist and member of Vancouver‘s Al Mozaico Flamenco Dance Theatre. Another well-respected Vancouver dancer, choreographer and teacher Maria Avila will also join them for several dates.
Grainger began her career dancing with Harding in Vancouver and met Avila while they were both living and studying in Seville. All three dancers share a similar physique unusual for flamenco – tall and slender – and all three embrace an aggressive and precise esthetic.
“I’m thrilled to be bringing the music and dance of Spain to B.C.,” says Grainger. “We’ve worked so hard in Spain to create this work, and I feel lucky to be able to perform it in my home city, and in the places I visited and loved as a child.”
The name Fin de Fiesta translates as “end of the party,” a reference to the open jam session that happens at the end of a traditional flamenco show in Spain. This is when the true improvisational and spirited nature of flamenco shows itself. It is this lively spirit – unpredictable and unrestrained – that inspires their work.
With the help of an Ontario Arts Council Grant, members of Fin de Fiesta have been hard at work recently in Spain, planning their current production. With choreographic inspiration from maestra Manuela Rios and maestro Manuel Betanzos, principal bailaora Grainger has been working with Duffin and Azcarate to create “suerte,”or luck.
This production examines questions that are fundamental to any artist: What comes to us by chance? What comes to us because we choose it? Does destiny exist?
Fin de fiesta takes place at 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8 at Shuswap Theatre. Tickets are available for $17 in advance at www.findefiestaflamenco.com, or $20 at the door.