Boston dance troupe shows off a ‘flair’ for flamenco

Boston dance troupe shows off a ‘flair’ for flamenco

Before breaking into the “Fandango,” Rita Steeves offered the audience this warning:

“It’s a living thing,” she said. “Who knows what’s going to happen?”

During the performance, Steeves danced alongside Janet Boutros, Heidi Lansburgh and Edmy Ortiz, members of the Ramon de los Reyes Spanish Dance Theatre in Cambridge. They recently learned the dance together so they could show off their moves at Sunday’s “Flamenco Flair.”

The two-hour program in the Curry Student Center Ballroom was sponsored by the International Student and Scholar Institute (ISSI) as a part of International Carnevale. The celebration, which kicked off Feb. 1, will feature 37 cultural events from around the world until March 31.

“Flamenco Flair” was coordinated by Elizabeth Diaz, an advisor from the ISSI. Diaz, who dances flamenco at the theatre, and has been a student there for about six years, began the event by sharing the history of flamenco, which began in Spanish gypsy camps. She called flamenco “a way of life,” and explained its various movements, fashions and attitudes to the audience.

“It gives them a background, so when they go to functions that are flamenco oriented they have a basic understanding of the intricacies of what it is to know flamenco as an art,” she said.

The educational portion of the program was followed by dance exercises. In the first performance, Ortiz stood in front of her fellow dancers brandishing a castanet, a Latin American percussion instrument, in her hand. She clapped a rhythm, which was echoed by the others. The clapping became more intricate, involving more castanets in both hands, accompanied by foot stomping. The dancers moved in unison, and soon snapped to a halt.

This performance was followed by more exercises to show the audience various aspects of flamenco. The dancers did arm, hand and footwork drills, and asked the audience to join in a hand-clapping exercise.

Ortiz, who has practiced flamenco for five years, said she enjoyed the audience’s enthusiasm.

“[My favorite part is] to see the people that come and enjoy and want to learn,” she said.

As with many dance schools, Steeves demonstrated Ramon de los Reyes’s style of teaching by showing the other dancers a step or rhythm, then integrating it all into a complete choreographed dance. The dancers then put on shawls and moved to the sound of an acoustic guitar and smooth Spanish singing of the “Fandango.”

Diaz showed videos of well-known flamenco dancers, including a 1965 clip of Ramon de los Reyes and a more recent video of Eva La Yerbabuena.

The dancers then returned, wearing brightly-colored, frilly dresses, to dance the “Sevillanas,” a Spanish folk dance. This was followed by a performance of the “Fin de Fiesta,” and the audience was invited to dance with them.

Students who came to see the show said they were impressed.

Senior graphic design major Vanessa Viara said she liked the collaboration between the dancers and the audience members.

“I liked the way they made it interactive, not only sitting here and watching it,” she said.

Melanie Harris, a middler Spanish and communications major, said while the program was too complex at times, it still was an important event for the campus community.

“This is something that we don’t get to see often across the country, let alone at a university,” she said.

Boutros, who began dancing flamenco four years ago, said “Flamenco Flair” offered students “cultural enlightenment.”

“It definitely is a culture of its own,” she said. “Anything that you can’t find in your own backyard enlightens and enriches you.”

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