Flamenco dancer lets the movement take over
Who knew? Hamilton is a hot haven for flamenco.
A few years ago when six-foottwo flamenco dancer Lia Grainger flapped her ruffled skirts at The Pearl Company, the place sold out immediately.
Well, Grainger is coming back with her new show Audacia!, part of a cross-country tour it’s here one night only, on Aug. 27.
Expect live musicians, singers and, of course, flamenco dance. It’s going to be a hot ticket in more ways than one.
Grainger grew up playing basketball in Vancouver. She gave up hoops and foul shots for the clicking of heels and the passion of dance. “I was searching for something more creative than bouncing a ball,” she says.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Grainger says, “I loved the basketball court. But then I discovered something that allowed my creative urges to let go.”
Now living in Seville, Spain, Grainger is a flamenco convert.
“It’s something that takes you inside yourself,” she says. “When I first saw it I knew I was hooked. I went to this little club on Cambie Street in Vancouver and saw flamenco on film. I just wanted to feel the emotion that dancer felt.”
A journalist, Grainger’s work appeared in Readers’ Digest International, Chatelaine and The Walrus. She still loves to write, but these days she expresses herself mostly through dance.
“There’s something so passionate about it. It takes you inside yourself. You go through a whole range of emotions. You feel the intensity of life. It’s not just about doing steps. Those are just the beginning.
“I love the way flamenco allows me to be cheeky. It’s a contrast with Canadian culture. You can be intense, ferocious and more in touch with your inner being.”
Grainger, 35, started dancing about 12 years ago. “Of course I was too tall. Flamenco dancers are usually compact but I’ve found a way to adapt.
“I love the interplay, the way the dancer connects with the musicians onstage. There’s such a range of emotions here. Some dances are playful and full of fun. Others take you to darker places. They explore pain, loneliness and death. Even here though there’s the sense of being a survivor.”
Grainger loves the ritual of preparing to perform. “It’s stepping into another person’s shoes. You create an alternate image. People who know me are surprised. They find something totally different than the Lia they know offstage. I tell them you have to go all the way with this art. You have to fully explore yourself. It’s all so physical. You work yourself up to an emotional pitch.”
Lia Grainger isn’t disturbed that in some ways she’s usurping another culture.
“I’m of Polish and Ukrainian ancestry and their dance is decidedly different from flamenco. In some ways I feel like an outsider. But you know Spain’s roots are very mixed and flamenco dance is gypsy culture from all over. It’s always evolving and changing.”
Grainger likes that Audacia! is being performed in smaller towns and cities across Canada. “Audiences in these places are so enthusiastic. And I like performing in small venues where it’s possible to forge a real intimacy with the audience. The Pearl is like that.”
Living in Spain offers both challenges and rewards for Grainger.
“I can afford to be an artist there. Life is just less expensive. And everyone knows flamenco and comes to see it,” she says. “Do people think it’s strange to see a tall woman from Canada dancing flamenco in the local theatres and clubs there? I don’t know. They might think a foreigner can’t do it like a Spanish person. I can’t worry about that.”
Right now Grainger is into pushing boundaries.
“At The Pearl I’ll be dancing a farrucas, a dance traditionally done by a man. I just put on my trousers and the dance takes over. That’s what it’s all about, right?”
Lia Grainger is back dancing flamenco at The Pearl Company.