Flamenco, the mysterious and haunting music of the Spanish Gypsies, is not easy to explain. Simply put, it is a blend of music and dance created centuries ago from a fusion of cultural influences, such as Asian, Moorish, Jewish, European, and African, absorbed by the Gypsies of Southern Spain. While Flamenco is indeed “fiery” and “dramatic,” as we so often hear in mainstream media, Kari Alba and Amantes de Flamenco hope to show Canadian audiences that the true essence of flamenco is so much more. Authentic Flamenco reflects the raw emotion of living life to the fullest without fear or pretense – tasting the bitterest sorrows and the sweetest joys.
Kari Alba, La Aceitunita , has been living and breathing Flamenco for many years, ever since she stumbled upon the Flamenco show “El Amor Brujo” on television. “I was only 8 years old,” says Alba, “but those powerful images sent shivers up my spine.” She later pursued her Flamenco training in Andalucía, the southern region of Spain from which Flamenco emerged centuries ago as a fusion of cultural influences, such as Asian, Moorish, Jewish, European, and African, absorbed by the local Gypsy society. In 1998, Alba spent a year in Sevilla, the hotbed of Flamenco in Spain, completing the Teachers' Specialization Course at La Fundación; she returns every year to hone her skills with some of Spain's best dancers such as Beatriz Martin, Juana Amaya, Andres Marín, Matilde Coral, Adela Campallo, Manuela Reyes and Juan de los Reyes.
Kari Alba has been consistently recognized as an exceptional Flamenco performer. She has performed internationally and across Canada alongside such notable performers as Manuel Gutierrez, José Cortés, Juan Cortés & Ricardo Diaz of Flamenco Sur (Spain); El Zantito, Zamná Urista-Rojas & José Ramirez (Spain); Sabas (Mexico); Peter Mole & Lolo of Los Canasteros (Canada); and Peter Knight (Canada). Alba's impeccable technique and ability to convey the deep emotion of the dance inspires audiences in Prague, Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Regina, Saskatoon and all over Saskatchewan. The Ness Creek Journal of 2003 described one of Alba's stirring performances:
[The Seguiriyas] was performed by Kari Alba of Amantes de Flamenco …in the summer of 2001 under the spangled sky of Ness. With slow powerful movement, she rose from her chair and walked to centre stage. It was as if she had gone inside the wailing voice of Lolo, the singer, retreating into the strains of his voice and dancing from there. The duende of Flamenco….
In 2000, Alba founded Alma Flamenca , Saskatoon's only dance school dedicated entirely to Flamenco, intended to promote and inspire the art in Saskatoon and Canada. She explains the school's philosophy: “While we emphasize the importance of learning the traditional roots of Flamenco, we also seek to incorporate new and innovative influences, which has been the nature of Flamenco since its beginning.” In 2001, Alba formed the Amantes de Flamenco , Saskatoon's own semi-professional Flamenco group consisting of selected advanced students of the Alma Flamenca school. “The Amantes dancers really pursue a higher level of Flamenco,” explains Alba. “Not only do they learn the most technically difficult Flamenco dances, but they also strive for that deep and honest emotional connection required in true Flamenco.” In addition to the long-term mentorship of Alba, Amantes members have trained and performed with Flamenco artists from Spain and Canada, such as Manuel Gutierrez, Zamná Urista-Rojas, José Ramirez, Cristina Hall, Jessica “La Moraína” McIntyre , Elisa Roderiguez, Cele “El Zantito” Garrido Santos, Peter Mole, Los Canasteros, Oscar Nieto, Claudia Carolina and Rosa Manzano. Some Amantes members have also trained in Spain, with such flamenco masters as El Ciro, Veronica Santiago (cousin of Juana Amaya), Manuela Reyes and Juan de los Reyes. Alba is now undertaking the huge commitment of planning a group trip to Seville in September 2006, giving students an opportunity to further their Flamenco training in Spain. Alba and Amantes de Flamenco perform regularly in many shows, including these few highlights:
· Noche en Sevilla
January 28, 2006– St. Joseph's Parish Hall, Saskatoon, SK
· SooRyu Dance Festival 2005
November 3, 2005 – Premiere Dance Theatre, Toronto, ON
· RBC Dominion Securities “Dare to Dance”
October 8, 2005 – Centennial Auditorium, Saskatoon, SK
· “Ojos de Fuego” Flamenco Concert featuring Artists from Spain
July 21, 2005 – Broadway Theatre , Saskatoon, SK
· Featured Performers at the BearClaw Casino
July 15 & 16, 2005 – Carlyle, SK
· Flamenco Expo 2005 featuring guitarist Peter Mole
June 23, 2005 – Broadway Theatre, Saskatoon, SK
· Child Find Saskatchewan presents “An Evening in Seville”
June 3, 2005 – Boffins Club, Innovation Place, Saskatoon, SK
· Flamenco Concert: “Ritmos y Sonidos”
March 05, 2005 – Orpheus Theatre, Calgary, AB
· Flamenco Evening: Dinner & Concert presented by Alma Flamenca
January 29, 2005 – Odeon Restaurant, Lounge & Event Centre, Saskatoon, SK
· Flamenco Concert featuring “Flamenco Sur” from Spain, Kari Alba & Amantes de Flamenco
May 29, 2004 – Broadway Theatre, Saskatoon, SK
· Flamenco Festival 2003, “Spain Meets Canada II” in “El Concierto Flamenco”
August 9, 2003 – John Dutton Theatre, Calgary, AB
August 10, 2003 – Hot Jazz Club, Vancouver, BC
· The 13 th Annual Ness Creek Music Festival
July 17-20, 2003 – Big River, SK
OTHER GUEST ARTISTS
Manuel returns to Saskatoon for a second time, following his sold-out debut at the Broadway Theatre in 2004. His spontaneous & explosive dancing brought the audience to their feet for seven standing ovations. Born in Cordoba and raised in Marseille, Manuel was informally adopted by the local Gypsy community. He began studying Flamenco at age 7, learning from such prominent teachers as Rafael del Carmen, Rafael Campello, and Beatriz Martin. Manuel has performed with Paco de Lucía, Gypsy Kings, and Andres Marín, and has toured all across Europe, Canada and the U.S.A. We are privileged to have this exciting and highly esteemed Gitano dancer in our midst. Zamná joins us on the heels of his recent tour across Norway, Sweden and Italy. Zamná is known not only for his masterful technique, but also for his innovative style. He carries with him 12 years of experience performing in professional groups, accompanying such renowned dancers as Juana Amaya, and performing with large-scale Flamenco companies in theatres and music festivals. Zamná joined us for “Spain Meets Canada” in 2001 and 2003, winning the hearts of Saskatoon audiences and workshop students. It is our pleasure to present this fine artist once more. José is a multi-talented singer and cajonista hailing from Sevilla. He has performed in numerous flamenco events around the world, including Spain, Germany, Holland, Poland, Turkey & Mexico, accompanying such great flamenco artists as María Serrano, Pepe de Lucía, Tomatito, Andrés Marín, la Familia Montoya & Milagros Mengibar. José also has extensive experience performing in flamenco tablaos throughout Spain. We are very excited to present this fantastic artist to Saskatchewan for the first time.