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Flamenco dancer Sonia Olla will perform at the third annual Edmonton Flamenco Festival. // Courtesy of the Edmonton Flamenco Festival

Internationally acclaimed flamenco performers Sonia Olla and Ismael Fernández star at Edmonton Flamenco Festival

Edmonton Flamenco Festival
Tierra Flamenca: Winspear Centre; Fri., Apr. 12 (8 p.m.). Workshops: Sat., Apr. 13 and Sun., Apr. 14.

Edmonton may be a far way from Spain, but the art of flamenco is well represented here and the city will soon be hosting two well-established artists at the third annual Edmonton Flamenco Festival. The event not only gives spectators the opportunity to see flamenco at its finest, but it also allows local performers the chance to learn from some of the best.

Friday night features a performance from international artists, who then run song and dance workshops for local performers on the weekend.

“[The workshops] are really for students that are already doing flamenco—because flamenco, it’s a really technical art form,” explains Jane Ogilvie, co-founder, artistic director, and vice president of the festival. “Like, you really need to know a lot, so it’s not like dropping in on a salsa class and trying it out.”

This year’s visiting artists are flamenco dancer and choreographer Sonia Olla and her husband, singer Ismael Fernández. Both were born in Spain, but they now live in New York, where they run their own company, and have worked with Madonna and Ricky Martin.

Though Olla has not previously participated in Edmonton Flamenco Festival, Fernández was one of the first singers to perform at the event. Ogilvie says they’ve been talking about having both of them out for the festival ever since.

Olla and Fernández will be accompanied by dancer Pol Vaquero, singer Jonathan Reyes Jiménez, and guitarist Víctor Márquez ‘El Tomate.’ The show they will be performing is called Tierra Flamenca.

“A flamenco show, the way it works is, each piece is based around a song form, and they’ll name it by the song form. So, for instance, soleá, which is really sombre—solitude is sort of the English meaning—so someone will say ‘We’re going to do soleá next,’ but it’s not like everyone goes ‘Oh, I know exactly what you’re going to do,’ they go ‘Oh, I know what song form that is.’”

So for a show, the performers might have a list of song forms to work through, but Ogilvie says they may not even have decided which performers will take on which song form.

“Flamenco is really improvised,” she says.

She explains that flamenco is also about expressing emotion, and that it’s “a really percussive dance.”

Ogilvie has not yet had the pleasure of seeing Olla and Fernández perform live together, but on her travels to Spain, she has heard that their marital relationship helps inform their onstage performance.

“Everyone has said to me ‘Oh, the most amazing thing about them is because they’re married, and then when they interact on stage you just literally feel their entire relationship just in the way that they interact,’ and not in some weird, cheesy romantic way,” Ogilvie says, adding that she’s excited to see them perform.

In the event that Tierra Flamenca inspires you to want to learn flamenco, Ogilvie, who has been teaching in Edmonton since 2001, suggests checking out the Edmonton Flamencos Facebook page, where you can learn more and find out who is taking on new students.

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