There's something very mysterious about flamenco dancing. The songs are mournful, yet the dance with its elaborate costumes and graceful gestures seems joyful. Amid the rhythmic clapping and tapping of shoes, primitive feelings can inflame the audience. That could be why enthusiastic flamenco fans turned out in force April 9 to the Raven's Cry Theatre for a show from Karen Flamenco Dance Company in their performance of Romeo and Juliet, presented by Caravan World Rhythms.
The use of a story line for a dance show -in this case a tragic favourite, Shakespeare's star crossed lovers - helped to intensify the performance.
The company's director, Karen Pitkethly, played the part of Juliet and it gave her a fine showcase for some of the best dancing. Nikola Tucakov performed as Romeo.
The rival gangs in this case were all women, presenting many opportunities to try to out dance one another and prevent Juliet from being with her Romeo. Vengeance was sparked when gun-toting Mercutia (Michelle Hamilton) shot the rival gang's cousin (Daphne Moyal), and a group of gypsies convinced Juliet to take the fatal poison. In this instance, after the couple had both taken poison, they were allowed some artistic licence to dance a moving pas de deux after death, as two souls reunited.
Light relief came in the shape of Gerardo Avila as narrator of the show. Avila has had a long career as a performer and he lives on the Coast -that is, when he's not travelling to Vancouver to collaborate with such groups as Uzume Taiko, the Japanese drums, on their shows. He was part of the original Cirque du Soleil in the 1980s and he's also a mime artist, comedian and teacher of magic to children. On the Coast he teaches Spanish to travellers and has a reputation as a storyteller. It was this element that attracted him to the Karen Flamenco Dance Company, a group he was familiar with since his daughter, Maria Avila, sings as part of the cast. The director was looking for a comic figure to add fun. Avila was perfect for the part.
"It's a great opportunity," he said.
During the show, he made birds appear from a paper bag, flowers pop out of a flare and in one hilarious scene he played the part of Zorro, complete with sword and Mexican fiddle-playing accompaniment. If flamenco sometimes takes itself seriously, then the role of narrator was the perfect antidote.
Daughter Maria Avila and singer Pirouz Ebadypour sang soulfully, and musicians Patrick Ernst and Peter Mole completed the cast.
The company continues to tour the province with this presentation and will open another flamenco show, Moulin Rouge, in June in Vancouver.