Fla­menco dancer lets the move­ment take over

The Hamilton Spectator - - A & E - GARY SMITH Gary Smith has writ­ten on the­atre and dance for The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor for more than 30 years.

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?”

OS­CAR PANTALONE

Lia Grainger is back danc­ing fla­menco at The Pearl Com­pany.

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