Sara Calero. Photo by Fernando Marcos

Petisa Loca
Sara Calero Company
Vancouver Playhouse – September 22, 2018

Dialogue Extended
Flamenco Rosario and guests
Orpheum Annex – September 29, 2018

Each year, the Vancouver International Flamenco festival, presented by Flamenco Rosario, welcomes world renowned artists and diverse voices representing the traditional and evolving art of Flamenco. This year, the festival opened with an evocative performance from the Sara Calero Company (Spain), and closed with an ensemble performance by Flamenco Rosario and guests.

In Petisa Loca (‘Little Crazy Girl’), created in 2017 and Calero’s fourth production of her own work, Calero narrates a journey of migration and self discovery. Inspired by stories from her grandfather, who emigrated from Spain to Argentina during the Spanish Civil War, Calero expressed these experiences from the perspective of a woman. In her performance, Calero embodied a woman who was confident, curious, weary, optimistic, frightened and resilient. Her diverse vocabulary was articulate and composed, and seemed to expand the range of expression in Flamenco. At times there was an unexpected skip in her heavy stride, a sweeping arabesque that gave a phrase more fluidity, and then there were the dramatic shapes cast by her outstretched arms or arching, twisting back. There was immense freedom to her movements, all while retaining the precise footwork and rhythms of Flamenco.

The stage was set with a cargo crate from which Calero would retrieve her costumes for each scene, and seemed to represent a collection of memories inspiring her narrative. Watching the evolution of character as she changed costumes gave the sense that we, the audience, were part of her journey. She wore a long black skirt and red blouse for a scene of more traditional Flamenco aesthetic, and in other scenes, black capri pants, a colourful fringed skirt, and a long black gown for the last scene, which seemed to be inspired by tango. In one scene, she donned a fruit ornament on her head and danced with maracas, alluding to an idealised image of life in South America.

Singer Loreto Arnaiz and guitarist José Almarcha were not mere accompanists but also characters of her journey, who, in one scene, sat next to her for what seemed to be a cramped row of seats on a boat or a train. In song and spoken narration, Arnaiz’s beautifully rich voice at times guided Calero’s transitions and, in other moments, responded as if in conversation with what Calero communicated with her movements. Calero showed an enormous talent for storytelling by capturing the emotional essence of each moment.

Sara Calero. Photo by María Agar

Dialogue Extended is an ensemble work performed by dancer Rosario Ancer, guitarist Victor Kolstee, dancer Mariano Cruceta (from Spain), dancer Marién Luévano (from Mexico), violinist Ulises Martínez, guitarist Alfredo Millán, percussionist David Sampaolo, singer and flutist Gloria Solera, and the return of the thoroughly captivating singer, José ‘El Cachito’ Díaz, who performed in this festival in 2016.

Mariano Cruceta.

The piece demonstrated different expressions of dialogue between the dancers and musicians. Their conversation began with silent eye contact as they paced around the stage, before sounding out rhythms with their hands as they sat around a table. The dancers and musicians took turns listening and communicating with one another – the musicians through their instruments or voice, and the dancers through their footwork. When the dancers took their shoes off, it seemed that they finally found their voices. Standing in a close-knit group, they chattered determinedly, progressively raising their voices above one another in order to be heard.

The work also featured solos by the dancers, each with a very unique aesthetic. Ancer exuded the calm and steadiness of a seasoned dancer, while Luévano, in a long red gown twirling a large fringed shawl, showed different facets of a more traditional aesthetic. Cruceta channeled dramatic emotions and a witty sense of humour through his expansive physical range, and delighting us with a climax of driving, fast-paced footwork.

Marién Luévano. Photo by Ana Rosa Fernandez