Dancers perform at Ryerson Theatre on Oct. 19 during the Toronto International Flamenco Festival. PHOTO: Levent Erutku

The other TIFF

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By Roderick Fitzgerald

On Ryerson Theatre’s stage, a woman stands alone facing a quiet crowd of people.

She makes a move, gliding through the air. Behind her, three people sit: one starts to clap, another sings and the last person strums a guitar. The music flows around the woman as she moves; unlike most situations where the dancer moves to the music, the music follows the dancer.

These movements are none other than flamenco, a type of Spanish folk music and dance.

The Toronto International Flamenco Festival, which visited Ryerson Theatre on Saturday, Oct. 19, is now in its seventh year. The festival’s goal is to educate those unfamiliar with flamenco through workshops, movies and performances.

But it’s not only for newcomers – the festival also helps local flamenco artists.

“We contracted international artists to teach our local artists so that they can keep improving,” says Lionel Félix, the festival’s founder and producer.

The festival included acts like Triana Project, Rie Ishizuka, Renka and headliner La Lupi, a flamenco performer who hails from Malaga, Spain.

For many of them, it’s more than a job or hobby.

“Flamenco to me is my life passion,” says Iryna Gordon of the Triana Project. “It’s a way for me to express my artistic ideas.”

Flamenco originated in the south of Spain and finds its roots in Polish, Arabic, Gypsy, and Hindu culture. It combines music, percussion and dance, and uses very few instruments.

Though the guitar and cajon (a hollow box that you sit on and use like a drum) are common, the most widely used “instruments” are performers’ hands.

Félix says that, as flamenco spreads across the world, “many artists are now using the violin, the piano and other influences from different parts of the world.” Back in Ryerson Theatre, La Lupi concludes her solo performance and the clapping stops, but only momentarily.

Seconds later, the crowd rises in a standing ovation.

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