The roots are Spanish, cities such as Seville and Cordoban, with Romani gypsy influences. It began as a folk dance, complete with song and percussive accompaniment, mostly at celebratory occasions such as weddings. It is flamenco, and it has a firmly established place in Vancouver, where dancer and choreographer Rosario Ancer and her husband, guitar maestro Victor Kolstee, celebrate their 25th anniversary at the academy they founded, Centro Flamenco.
Ancer brims with passion for her vocation, saying, “I remember well the day, 25 years ago, when we first opened the doors here.” She and Kolstee had moved to Vancouver to raise their two young children. They had met while studying and learning flamenco, in Spain. “Flamenco is the vehicle with which I have navigated my life,” she says, matter-of fact. She has, over the years, created performances, helping push the art form ahead, but she is firm about one thing: “Flamenco at its essence has not changed at all. Still it progresses, evolves. One new sound, a new drum, perhaps, or a different guitar, can open up a thousand possibilities. The dancers explore these things, but always with the essence in mind.” One of the most important elements in the flamenco dance is the compás, not so different, metaphorically, than the English word. But there is more to it, because compás is not only about establishing a direction—it is closely aligned with the overall rhythm of a piece of music, a dance. “Each person in the performance must understand and abide by the compás, otherwise there is no structure, no dance at all,” says Ancer emphatically.
This year’s Vancouver International Flamenco Festival, which runs from September 12 to 27 and of which Ancer is artistic director and founder, features Andres Peña and Pilar Ogalla from Jerez de la Frontera, Spain. There are many other performances, workshops, free events, and even “Flamenco for Children”. Ancer and Kolstee’s studio at Centro Flamenco allows all levels of teaching, right up until professional status. “We can teach many things, and there are many gifted students who have come through here,” Ancer says. “But for Flamenco, if you want to take it further, become a professional, the only way is to go to Spain, to live, it, breathe it, and work with the very best in the world. Only there, can you begin to learn the deep nuances of the dance.”