Celebrating 25 years with the Vancouver International Flamenco Festival

Photo by Tim Matheson

Photo by Tim Matheson

The Vancouver International Flamenco Festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary as one of the world’s most prominent annual flamenco festivals outside of Spain. Founded by Rosario Ancer and her husband Victor Kolstee, the festival has been providing Vancouverites with world-class performances by popular flamenco dancers and musicians from around the world, and instilling a strong flamenco presence in the city since its inception in 1990.

When we moved to Vancouver [as a married couple after having lived in Spain with Vancouver native Kolstee for six years], there was very little understanding of what flamenco was,” says Ancer.

The couple set out to start a school that offered progressive training for flamenco: Centro Flamenco. They wanted to offer a recreational program for people looking to have fun and learn about the art, as well as a professional program for people wanting to take flamenco more seriously.

“We already had a wealth of knowledge about flamenco from living in Spain, so then it just became about making it accessible to Vancouverites. From there, it was easy to make the art form popular,” says Ancer.

The evolution of flamenco

Flamenco dancer  Veronica “Bonnie” Stewart.| Photo by Tamara McGill, Lama Photography.

Flamenco dancer Veronica “Bonnie” Stewart.| Photo by Tamara McGill, Lama Photography.

According to Ancer, flamenco is believed to have originated in Andalusia, a southern province of Spain, but no one knows exactly when or how it came about.

“It wasn’t until around the mid-1800s that Flamenco jumped onto the commercial stage as a form of entertainment,” says Ancer.

Ancer feels that flamenco is constantly evolving, and says the performances seen today are different from those of the 1950s or even the early 2000s.

“Most people seem to think of flamenco as very traditional [in the sense that] it doesn’t change,” Ancer says. “Flamenco is changing all the time. It’s always evolving.”

Ancer says that today, flamenco is more prevalent in Vancouver, and worldwide, possibly because of social media platforms like YouTube that facilitate quick circulation of information.

Success: 25 years and counting

The first Vancouver International Flamenco Festival they held was an instant success with tickets selling out two months ahead of the show, says Ancer. Since then, the festival has been steadily growing in popularity and has evolved from a few nights to a full two-week line-up of exciting events held at multiple venues in Granville Island, Downtown, and Kitsilano.

Some of this year’s highlights will include dance performances from the internationally acclaimed Andrés Peña y Pilar Ogalla Company from Spain, the renowned Esmeralda Enrique Dance Company from Toronto, Fiona Malena Flamenco from Calgary and Vancouver’s own award-winning Flamenco Rosario Company founded by Ancer and Kolstee.

The festival performers will hold show-and-tell demonstrations at the Vancouver Public Library to educate Vancouverites about the art of flamenco, with a question and answer period afterward. There will also be free flamenco workshops for novices.

A new addition to this year’s festival is Arte y Pasion, an art exhibit at Basic Inquiry Studio, which Ancer says boasts a unique collection of works by local artists that aim to capture the essence of flamenco.

“We are extremely excited about this exhibit because it’s the first time that we’ve collaborated with a different art form to increase awareness about flamenco dancing,” Ancer says.

Rosario Ancer with Victor Kolstee in Quadrilogue Affective.| Photo by Tim Matheson.

Rosario Ancer with Victor Kolstee in Quadrilogue Affective.| Photo by Tim Matheson.

The festival also recently incorporated a program that caters to children, as Ancer explains that the flamenco rhythm can be quite complicated.

“I mean, kids love it! You just see it in their eyes,” says Ancer. “The rhythm and movements of the dance, the ruffles of the skirts – they get mesmerized! And they especially love being invited up onto the stage.”

Ancer invites Vancouverites to come experience the joy of flamenco and celebrate the Vancouver International Flamenco Festival’s 25th anniversary by immersing themselves in any of the numerous performances and workshops taking place from Sept. 12–27.

For more information, please visitvancouverflamencofestival.org