Swish away winter

Val Gonzales fell in love with flamenco when her Argentinian family moved to Perth. Photo supplied

THE swish of bright skirts and passion-charged clack of castanets will cut through Perth’s drab winter from next weekend as Aire Flamenco Theatre launches its newest event.

Dancers Maree Laffan and the Herald’s own Val Gonzalez have been dancing together for 25 years. Ms Laffan, who for years travelled the world as a contemporary dancer, eventually fell in love with flamenco and the people it represents. “It’s very passionate, it’s very engaging, and it’s really culturally interesting,” she said.

Ms Gonzalez was introduced to the vibrant form as a young girl when her Argentinian family moved to Perth and began socialising with other Spanish speakers.

After starting Aire Flamenco in 2019, it didn’t take long for the dancers to realise their audiences were seeking more ways to get involved. 

“People are always saying, ‘I feel like I’m back in Spain,’ and asking how they can learn,” says Ms Laffan. The duo’s new extended show offers a flamenco fashion competition and a beginner lesson for those keen to feel the heat for themselves. 

Ms Laffan says one of the reasons flamenco attracts so many people across cultures is its ability to “convey emotion, and people can hear that in the music even if they can’t understand the lyrics. And they can see it in the dance”.

Flamenco dancers and musicians tell stories through sound and movement, addressing an endless array of themes from life and culture. “It’s not just the dance, it’s everything. They’ve got this long, deep, rich history of lyrics that often go back to the gypsies, to the whole complexity of the past, with Jewish influence, even Irish influence,” says Ms Laffan. 

For this show, Ms Gonzalez will be following in the footsteps of revolutionary flamenco bailaora Carmen Amaya and dancing a traditionally male-dominated farruca. She’ll also be dancing a traditional festival song from Seville. 

Ms Laffan, who has spent time in Seville documenting flamenco performances, describes the aire (Aire means both air and aura) of festivity that abounds at such festivals, when the shop windows are lined with decadent costumes — polka dots, lace, and big, swishy skirts for the women; and vests, cravats and toreador hats for the men. “It’s very colourful. It’s a celebration of life basically,” says Ms Laffan.

Ms Laffan and Ms Gonzalez hope to bring some of the festivity to Perth with their costume contest. The show will feature some of Ms Laffan’s original photography as well as Spanish wines and treats.

Music will feature prominent local flamenco guitarist Jose Giraldo, as well as Francesca Lizza on guitar and special guest Stever Richter on percussion. 

Aire Flamenco Theatre will run August 1, 18, 15, and 29 at Lyric Lane in Maylands. Kids are welcome to attend. You can find tickets at Oztix.com.

by CARSON BODIE

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