In some ways, the using the word ‘dance’ to describe the art-form is not entirely helpful. The world of dance is split into many genres and sub-genres, which all feature unique movements. Perhaps more importantly, they all take inspiration from different reasons to move.
Ballet comes from royal courts and finds power in a proper expression of form and technique. Modern Dance finds strength in honesty and a desire to grow. Other forms like Salsa, Mambo, and Bachata take their cue from a more sensual source. When it comes to the world of Flamenco, it’s altogether different.
“The passion behind flamenco comes from people being in a truly desperate moment,” says Martin Santangelo, Noche Flamenca’s artistic director. “It’s a bit of a rebel cry saying, ‘I exist! I have rights!’”
One of the things that set Flamenco apart is, rather than expressing joy, it seeks to exorcise the demons of repression and frustration until, ideally, there is nothing left but joy. Noche Flamenca intends to dance away life’s pain at the Flato Markham Theatre on Jan. 31.
Noche Flamenca was created in 1993 by Santangelo and his Bessie award-winning partner and dancer, Soledad Barrio. From their earliest performances, the group became known everywhere for its transcendent and deeply emotional performances.
Wanting to bring authentic Flamenco to the world, that is to say dance that viscerally expressed struggle, passion and, then, joy, Santangelo relied on his greatest inspiration, his inimitable partner and muse, Soledad Barrio to give his vision life. As a result of her skill and commitment as a performer, Noche Flamenca has built its reputation for performances that express the rigorous and sometimes spellbinding aesthetic of flamenco as well as, or better than, any other group on in the world.
“Her, my wife’s, solo is a catharsis,” says Santangelo. “It’s going beyond emotions and finding resolution.”
The show that’s coming to Markham is intended to be a showcase of classical flamenco. It’s a collection of pieces, created by Santangelo, and performed by six dancers and accompanied by a trio of musicians. Of course, leading the dancers will be Barrio herself.
“It all starts from the motivation to scream,” says Santangelo. “Flamenco started with a song. The singer opened her mouth to scream about something. That scream became the music that we dance to today.”
Despite having its roots in the pain of an individual, modern flamenco has not remained simply a solo performance. As the form moves from a solo expression to a group performance and expression, it becomes a celebration of claiming one’s humanity back from desperation.
“It brings forth the humanity in your persona,” says Santangelo.
It’s his focus on this journey, brought to life by Barrio, that has garnered Noche Flamenca notice from presenters around the world. As a creator, Santangelo has now expanded this idea to desperation found in cultures around the world.
Among the pieces coming to Markham is a piece inspired by the poetry of young kids in refugee camps. This poetry gets translated and turned into song so it can inspire movement onstage.
“Some are angry, some make fun of their situation, some are very cynical,” explains Santangelo. “Whatever they talk about, we interpret it.”
This piece is ever-evolving too, as new poetry is added to the mix with each passing year.
“Unfortunately, it’s a well that never ends,” says Santangelo.
It’s true that the desperation that inspires the voice of flamenco is nearly ubiquitous. Noche Flamenca shows its audiences that the celebration of overcoming can be just as universal. Santangelo sees this as his mission.
“If someone sees the show and then wakes up a couple days later feeling like they can better go on with life, then I’ve done my job right.”
Noche Flamenca perform at the Flato Markham Theatre on Jan. 31 on 8 p.m. Tickets are available by calling 905-305-7469 or online here.