Lia Grainger, artistic director of Fin De Fiesta and acclaimed Canadian flamenco dancer.

Flamenco Festival brings life to Victoria’s summer party

Fin de Fiesta performs Aug. 15 at 5pm at Centennial Square as part of the Flamenco Festival Aug. 10 to 16

A group that goes by the name Fin De Fiesta is actually the life of the party.

“Fin De Fiesta translates to ‘end of the party’. At the end of a flamenco show or jam that’s when everyone is free to get up and improvise,” says Lia Grainger, artistic director and acclaimed Canadian flamenco dancer.

Grainger and guitarist Dennis Duffin lead the group that will headline the Victoria Flamenco Festival Aug 10 to 16.

While Duffin, who has performed with the likes of Ventanas, Flamenguitos del Norte, Jesse Cook and David Buchbinder Ensemble, hails from Ontario, Grainger is a Vancouver native who now splits her time between Toronto and Seville, Spain.

“I spent the winter in Spain, I’ve been back in Toronto since April, I’m in BC all of August, then I’m not quite sure if I’ll go back to Seville or Toronto,” she says with a quiet laugh.

The talented artist was once an athlete, playing college level basketball. “I’m pretty tall, I’m 6’2” and thin,” she says. “That’s not advantageous in flamenco. It’s common to work with people who are smaller and it looks silly.”

Happily, she’s found two dancers, Michelle Harding and Maria Avila – both tall and powerful – to accompany her on the BC tour.

“They are both really well established dancers in BC. I’ve wanted to work with them for a while. There’s also a flute player who’s from Vancouver, that I met in Spain, Lara Wong, she’ll be performing at all the Island shows.”

Grainger says flute is becoming more popular in flamenco and she enjoys the addition of the instrument.

Another addition to Fin De Fiesta is Daniel Azcarate, one of America’s premier emerging flamenco cante soloists and currently a professional singer in Seville and throughout North America.

“I’ve performed a lot with him in Seville. He’s young, talented, energetic. He’s a really fun guy. He’ll be with us for all our shows in BC. … I’m excited for everyone to see him.”

Grainger’s switch from athlete to artist was easy once she was exposed to flamenco, she says.

“I wanted to become a dancer in my early 20s. At the time I was a college level basketball player, a serious athlete, but inside I felt like a more artsy person.” In her pursuit of dance, she watched as many performances as she could which led her to Vancouver’s Kino Café which regularly hosts flamenco shows.

“I saw Kasandra (Lea), she’s a Chinese dancer who trained in Seville and performs internationally. When I saw her it was incredible. It’s such a powerful dance form, it’s not subtle at all, you really leave it all out there. It gives you the opportunity to express extreme happiness and also extreme pain – it’s cathartic really. You can really connect with the audience. I just thought, ‘I want to feel like she does’ … or what she looks like she does!”

A decade later, Grainger gets that feeling each time she dances and she’s excited to share it with Victoria audiences.

“I’m so excited to come to the Island. Toronto is a big, dirty city. I’m from Vancouver and spent a lot of time camping on the Island with my family every summer. I have lots of friends and family that still live there – how wonderful to go there (and) do this thing that I completely love.”

Fin de Fiesta performs Suerte, Saturday, Aug. 15 at 5pm at Centennial Square. The show is free. victoriaflamencofestival.com.

Fin De Fiesta performs Aug 15

Victoria Flamenco Festival runs Aug 10-16

 

 

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