Long flowing skirts in vibrant colours glide along the floor in the Paul O’Regan Hall as flamenco dancers perform to passionate singers, guitars and handclapping.
“I love it when people are engaged,” said Maria Osende, a flamenco dancer and studio owner. She is the founder and artistic director of Atlantic Flamenco, which is a charitable organization geared towards celebrating and promoting flamenco and Spanish culture in Atlantic Canada.
The event on Sunday at the Halifax Central Library celebrated International Flamenco Day, which was Nov. 16. More than 100 people attended on Sunday, laughing and smiling throughout the event.
This is the fourth annual celebration that has been put on at the Halifax Central Library to celebrate the day. While in former years the focus was on education and showcasing Halifax flamenco talent, this year offered even more with live music. The audience was also invited to be part of the event with interactive rhythm making, singing and dancing.
Osende moved to Halifax from Spain in 2003 and has been bringing flamenco to the region since 2005.
“I kind of thought there’s nothing, there’s no flamenco here and you know there’s so much opportunity here,” says Osende. “I think Halifax has changed a lot in the last 17 years. But when I came there was not a lot of diversity and so I think that the people really encouraged me to do it and were excited about it. And that’s kind of how it happened.”
Not only has Osende made a way for flamenco dance in Halifax, she also, along with Atlantic Flamenco, has started to help young musicians get into flamenco music.
Mohannad Abdelall was one of the guitar players for the event. This was his first time performing flamenco music, but he hopes it won’t be his last.
“I really appreciate what Maria and Atlantic Flamenco are doing for flamenco,” said Abdelall.
When he found out about flamenco, he started looking for a community to get involved with. He found that there wasn’t a huge community, as it is not very well known here.
“So, what they’re doing, putting a spotlight on a beautiful art form that I love is really special,” said Abdelall.
During the interactive sessions Osende stood on a wooden platform to teach the audience flamenco rhythms, which echoed through the space. She then turned it over to the crowd to give it a shot. A few moments later there were stomps and claps syncopated together to create flamenco rhythms.
Singer Joyce Saunders led the crowd in a Spanish song. She broke it down to help people learn the new words and piece them together for the song.
The final part of the interactive sessions was the dancing. Osende asked the audience to join her on the main floor to dance in whatever fashion they felt comfortable. Some participants followed Osende and the dancers’ movements while some people did their own thing.
Among the participants was Bianca Wangsgaard, 10, who said she was happy to attend and participate in some dancing at the end, which was her favourite part.
“It’s just really good, the performances. I loved them all.”
Her mother, Meaghan Wangsgaard, said, “I’ve been a student of Maria’s for years and the events are always great. I love how she always incorporates the community in by having people come up and dance with her at the end.”
About the author
Hannah is a fourth-year journalism student from Dartmouth. She enjoys storytelling and getting to meet interesting people.