|Fiona Malena will dance tonight at the Mary Irwin Theatre, a performance which will include live musicians. |
Although born in Calgary, the flamenco dancer has delved deep into her own Latin heritage, lived for several years in Spain to study her chosen art form, and is the founder of her dance company, as well the founder, energy and artistic director behind the International Flamenco Festival in Calgary.
"It is an art form, a passion and a life imbued with the love of flamenco," Malena explained. "You become completely immersed in it, as it consumes you."
Her original production, Puertas (doors) will come to the stage tonight at the Mary Irwin Theatre in the Rotary Centre for the Arts. It brings with it an impressive collection of world musicians and singers who are renowned artists in their own right, promising to entice the audience into another world with their exotic performances.
The show will explore and meld and tell the stories of four cultures that have had a significant impact on the development of flamenco: East India, Arabic, Latin and Jewish. The production uses a variety of musicians, singers and dancers to infuse the flamenco experience, including the use of a newly created instrument, the hang drum, invented in 2000.
"It is a melodic instrument, which is made in Switzerland, has beautiful resonance and sharp sounds," Malena said. "It is very evocative of flamenco, and it is very difficult to get because it takes so long to handcraft it and there are only a few who can create it."
The sound created is fiery and captivating, as is the vocal accompaniment in the show and the other musical instruments.
Her appearance in Kelowna will be the first Western Canadian tour, although she has been a respected and sought-after dancer across the United Kingdom, Spain, Israel, Mexico and the United States.
"Flamenco itself is a very challenging art form," Malena said. "You must integrate with the music, you must improvise, you must be highly responsive to the music, the feeling, the song. It's all highly responsive. You must be able to feel the piece and express it with huge physicality, with body language, and create the percussion with your feet.
"Flamenco is a passion, one that you can spend your life learning how to perfect, to bring out through self expression."
Some of the allure of flamenco is the extravagant costuming that creates the dazzling flashes of colour on stage. True flamenco dresses are an expensive part of the dance, but add so much to the entertainment and enjoyment of the show, with vivid colours and sweeping trains that are "kicked" out of the way as the dancer takes advantage of the stage.
"This is all part of the very visual form of dance, from the set design to the music, the expressive vocals. It all serves to enhance the experience," she said. "And it looks good with the long fluffy dresses, and all of the fast footwork."
Her latest wardrobe was commissioned and created by a Spanish designer in Seville, who was "shocked when she found out how many dresses I required and how quickly," Malena said.
"These costumes are very extravagant, the design work is intricate, the materials are elegant," she added. "It became quite amusing when she had to work so hard and so quickly - without even fitting me - and we did the costume exchange at 2 a.m. at a public place - like a drug deal going down!"
The opening act for Puertas will be performed by the Mission Dance Studio, including a unique flamenco fusion/ballet created by director Tanya Bakala.
The Puertas artists include Liron Ma from Spain on guitar and Hang drum; Juan Murube of Spain on flamenco song; and Simone Mor of Italy and Spain on multi-instruments.
"Everyone is welcome to try this exciting art. Be ready for a full-on flamenco experience."
Following the tour of the west, Malena will take Puertas on tour and will be experiencing the cultures of Turkey and Germany, before returning to her home in Alberta.
What: Puertas, featuring Fiona Malena Flamenco Ensemble.
When: Tonight, Sept. 12, at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mary Irwin Theatre, Rotary Centre for the Arts.
Tickets: In advance, $25, available by calling 250-717-5304, or $30 at the door.