“We are left totally stunned, jolted by the magnetic energy that heats up the stage and theatre. […] We realize that these are magical moments, which won’t be repeated anytime soon. La Otra Orilla is a name to remember, and if the troupe comes to Montreal again, run to see them!” (La Presse)
Complex rhythms, heartbreaking songs, graceful movements of the head and hands, heels hammering the floor: flamenco ignites body and soul. It evokes sleepless nights, the bitterness of life and unrequited love. Dating back to 16th-century Spain, the art of flamenco is still very much alive, constantly evolving. Danse Danse audiences will be able to judge for themselves with the new production of La Otra Orilla, a flamenco company in full-flight, founded by dancer Myriam Allard and singer Hedi (El Moro) Graja. With rigour and passion, La Otra convey the essence of flamenco in a contemporary context.
“Time offers both a promise and death, simultaneously.” (Myriam Allard and Hedi Graja)
The number twelve is the starting point for this new piece by Myriam Allard and Hedi Graja. Incorporating symbols from diverse eras and cultures, it is based on the most characteristic rhythmic structure (compas) of flamenco, its inner core. Viewed as a full cycle, the number 12 represents the beginning and the end, the universal concept of the relentless march of time. The time we are granted is simultaneously taken away; the time we seem to be able to seize slips from our grasp. The number 12 is this paradoxical moment, at once the limit and beyond the limit of time, “the measure of the continuity of time, ensuring its persistency, its connectedness, while at the same time representing the break between what is and what is no longer.” (Nicolas Grimaldi, Ontologie du temps)
La Otra Orilla
Formed in Montreal in 2006, the flamenco troupe La Otra Orilla (“the other shore”) arose from an encounter between artists Myriam Allard and Hedi “El Moro” Graja. The company’s artistic directors had similar conceptions of the discipline and the creative process. Their ideas and convictions, in both cases, were based on a deep understanding of the nuances and modulations of the art, acquired after years of study in Andalusia.
La Otra Orilla celebrates flamenco’s timelessness and universality in a repertoire that currently numbers three works: Declaración en idioma flamenco, performed to sold-out houses in Quebec City and Montreal in February 2006 ; Denominacón de Origen Descontrolado, a public and critical success which toured the province during the 2007-2008 season; MuE_s, which was warmly received at the Montréal en Lumières Festival in 2008. Excerpts of Declaración en idioma flamenco were also presented at the Alegrias en la Nacional Theatre in New York, the Festival International Danse Encore in Trois-Rivières, and the Festival of Flamenco in Montreal.
“In MuE_s, presented at Tangente, and Denominacón de Origen Descontrolado, performed at The Plaza, song, music and dance are in perfect harmony with the emotional resonances of flamenco. A desire for perfection […] combines with a sense of spontaneity and beauty in a whirlwind of sensations.” (Cahiers de Théâtre Jeu)
The dance of Myriam Allard stems from an understanding of flamenco in its purest, most orthodox form, along with constant research and efforts to personalize the art. After several years of study in Seville and Madrid, Myriam Allard perfected her dance with such artists as Rafaela Carrasco, Alejandro Granados and Pilar Ortega. Her first professional performances took place in tablaos (cabarets) in Seville, Madrid and Japan, culminating in her creative collaboration on Galvanicas in Seville, by the Israeli choreographer Galvan, one of the leading flamenco artists of the new generation. At the invitation of European and Canadian companies, Myriam Allard has collaborated with the likes of Fani Fuster (Toulouse), Shawn Hounsell (Montreal) and Antonio Arrebolla (Seville). The dancer also conducts master classes in several cities in Europe and North America, including Paris, Vancouver and New York.
“I found her [Myriam Allard] unique among flamenco dancers. She turns like a general and swoops like an eagle, and is the most contemporary of flamenco dancers, fierce and frank and extraordinary to witness.” (The Dance Current)
A multidisciplinary artist, Hedi “El Moro” Graja was born with a foot on either side of the Mediterranean. His artistic path began with studies in theatre arts in Paris, followed by vocal training at the Conservatoire National Régional in Toulouse. It was there that he developed a passion for flamenco, and decided to explore the art in Spain. In Seville, he discovered that flamenco singing was ideally suited to his artistic sensibilities. The self-taught artist initially learned by listening to the master cantaores and by attending the fiestas. He later perfected his art with flamenco singers David Lagos and Rafael Jimenez.
After four years in Andalusia, he returned to Paris, where he completed a degree in the humanities at the Université Denis-Diderot, while at the same time working as an actor with the Le Théâtre du Voyageur.
The Art of Flamenco
In both artist and audience, authentic flamenco infuses body and soul with an emotion at once distant and familiar, with an echo from distant times: the cry of our shared humanity.
Profoundly intense and visceral, the art of flamenco is also extremely complex. Endless hours of study and dedication are required to do justice to the nuances of its vocals, harmonies, rhythms and lyrics, the purity of its choreographic lines and phrases.
The art is the fruit – the wild and magnificent fruit – of Andalusia, planted by ancient civilizations and ripened under a merciless sun. It developed over the course of conquests, migrations, persecutions and upheavals in the southern part of the Iberian peninsula. Born on the fringes of society, flamenco embodied the heartaches of exodus and hardships of life. An art of outcasts, it has roots in Gypsy, Persian, Arabic, Christian, Jewish and even African folk song. The fact that flamenco is often attributed solely to the Gypsies of northern India – falsely – points to the fundamental role they played in spreading it beyond Spain’s borders. For the Gypsies, flamenco is an integral part of their everyday lives, and they have their own special way of performing it and accenting certain styles.
Given that it incorporates elements from pre-Christian times, it is surprising to learn that flamenco as we know it today did not appear until the mid-18th century. Although scholars agree on the “date of birth” of modern flamenco, they also believe that it had been flourishing long before then within families and small communities. The term flamenco was printed for the first time on a program in Madrid circa 1853, when Gypsies began to sing professionally in cafés. It was thus “discovered” and appreciated by intellectuals and high society before being exported to the rest of the world.
Initially, flamenco was expressed solely through song; guitar and dance were later allied to enrich the form. In flamenco dance, the men’s steps are intricate, featuring toe and heel-clicking (zapateados); women’s dancing traditionally depends on the grace and expressive powers of the body, particularly in the baile grande, in which the arm, hand, and foot movements resemble those of classical Hindu dance.
But whether expressed through voice, dance, guitar or all three combined, whether performed by a circle of friends or a troupe on stage, flamenco takes viewers outside themselves, outside of time. From the collective memory of those who forged it, flamenco draws its prodigious power, its unique ability to move us, in sadness and in joy.
Artistic Direction: Myriam Allard et Hedi (El Moro) Graja
Dance and choreography: Myriam Allard
Song and direction: Hedi Graja
Musical composition and first guitar: Caroline Planté
Second guitar: Kraig Adams
Percussion: Éric Breton
Lights: Blanc / Laurent Routhier
Video: Geneviève Allard
Costumes: Susana Vera
La Otra Orilla will benefit from of a creative residency provided by Place des Arts.
Photo: Shany Bélanger