Van­cou­ver-raised Fin de Fi­esta founder Lia Grainger fol­lowed her art form to the ro­man­tic city of Seville

The Georgia Straight - - Front Page - BY JANET SMITH


For­mer Van­cou­verite Lia Grainger is liv­ing out a fan­tasy: she’s run away to Seville to be­come a fla­menco dancer.

“La Lia”, as she’s known on-stage, was a dancer at the Kino in the early 2000s, then stud­ied un­der Os­car Ni­eto be­fore re­lo­cat­ing to Toronto and help­ing to found Fla­men­gui­tos del Norte. Now she bases her tour­ing Fin de Fi­esta troupe out of the his­toric An­dalu­sian cap­i­tal—a dream come true.

“Seville is beau­ti­ful, but also in terms of dance it’s amaz­ing. There are so many great schools and so many artists,” says Grainger over the phone from Toronto, where her troupe is per­form­ing. She says she spends the bet­ter part of the year in An­dalu­sia be­fore her group be­gins its travel sea­son. “You can re­ally be­come a part of it. I know all the singers now; I know the small venues. It’s not a big city: I can’t walk around with­out see­ing peo­ple I know.” Grainger says it’s af­ford­able enough that she can have her own stu­dio, where she works through­out the winter. “You want to be in­spired by the in­cred­i­ble teach­ers there,” she adds.

“And fla­menco—every­one knows it there, it’s not just the dancers and the mu­si­cians. Peo­ple know the words to the songs, and peo­ple can do the pal­mas,” she con­tin­ues, re­fer­ring to the clap­ping rhythms that echo through the au­di­ence as the dancers per­form.

It must be said that Grainger—a tall for­mer bas­ket­ball player with a dra­matic stage pres­ence— def­i­nitely stands out in south­ern Spain, how­ever. “One thing is I’m six foot one, and there’s no one that looks like that there!” the af­fa­ble artist says with a laugh. In fact, all the mem­bers of Grainger’s Fin de Fi­esta, named for the joy­ous jam ses­sion that comes at the end of a fla­menco show, are now in Seville for much of the year. And all of them have a Cana­dian con­nec­tion: clas­si­cally trained flutist Lara Wong is an ex-van­cou­verite; gui­tarist Den­nis Duf­fin has a long his­tory in this coun­try’s fla­menco scene, and holds a PHD in astro­physics from Mcmaster Univer­sity; Ital­ian per­cus­sion­ist Da­vide Sam­paulo is mar­ried to a Van­cou­verite and splits his time be­tween here and Spain; French singer Ale­jan­dro Mendía’s own band, fla­menco-balkan fu­sion­ists Les No­ces Gi­tanes, played the Van­cou­ver In­ter­na­tional Folk Fes­ti­val last sum­mer; and his part­ner, dancer Deb­o­rah “La Caramelita” Daw­son, is a for­mer Van­cou­verite who trained at Cen­tro Fla­menco. They’ve seen their en­sem­ble’s tour­ing sched­ule ex­plode, with trips through­out Spain and the south of France this sum­mer be­fore hit­ting spots across Canada. “Be­cause we’re all based in Spain, we’re all re­ally in touch with what’s hap­pen­ing now,” Grainger says, stress­ing that the art form there is cut­ting-edge con­tem­po­rary these days. Still, ex­pect an en­er­gized mix all its own when Fin de Fi­esta brings the new show Llán­dola here for the Van­cou­ver In­ter­na­tional Fla­menco Fes­ti­val. Grainger ex­plains its ti­tle comes from a hard-to-trans­late Span­ish word that means tak­ing some­thing sim­ple

and com­pli­cat­ing it. “So there’s a lot of stuff that’s re­ally play­ful,” she says of the show. “We’ve had a lot of time to make it re­ally tight.”

Even though she loves her mag­i­cal adopted city of Seville, Grainger still gets ex­cited about com­ing to Van­cou­ver. She also sees this tour stop at Fla­menco Rosario’s fes­ti­val—an event founded by Van­cou­ver veter­ans Rosario Ancer and Vic­tor Kol­stee that’s cel­e­brat­ing its 25th year—as bring­ing her full cir­cle.

“It’s su­per cool be­ing at the fes­ti­val,” en­thuses

Grainger, who’s es­pe­cially happy to be shar­ing a ros­ter with La Moneta, a Span­ish dancer she con­sid­ers an icon (see side­bar). “I started fla­menco in Van­cou­ver in 2004 and this fes­ti­val was hap­pen­ing then, and I remember go­ing to it and be­ing blown away by all these artists. And then my first class was at Cen­tro Fla­menco, Rosario’s school.

“Be­ing gone so long—i was in Toronto for six years and then Spain—to be com­ing back is amaz­ing.”

The Van­cou­ver In­ter­na­tional Fla­menco Fes­ti­val runs from Satur­day (September 9) to September 24. It presents Fin de Fi­esta at the Wa­ter­front The­atre on September 21.

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