Edmonton | Cutting-edge choreographers draw from flamenco, martial arts for new hybrid moves

Feb 11 2020

Source: Edmonton Journal – ROGER LEVESQUE Updated: February 11, 2020

“If someone sees the word flamenco and they come, they won’t see someone stamping their feet and all that fire because I’m not interested in that.” – dancer-choreographer Rosanna Terracciano

Rosanna Terracciano has no problem when it comes to upending stereotypes.

She got her degree in civil engineering before quitting to pursue a career as a dancer and choreographer. Contemporary dance was her inspiration until she became obsessed with flamenco. And while flamenco is known for it’s passionate, percussive sense of machismo, she’s exploring a more unlikely, feminine angle that she calls “quiet flamenco”.

Terracciano will delve into it when she performs the next Dance Crush show at Mile Zero Dance, titled Place: Is A City Written On This Body?

The three segments of the show are less impressions of places, more about how those places play on her movements. Each work also comes with different sonic or filmic backdrops.

The show’s three segments start with Calgary, choreographed by Myriam Allard, with an original guitar score inspired by the music of Spaghetti western movies. Terracciano’s own piece, Napoli, addresses her parent’s origins in Italy with a film of her father speaking in his Italian dialect. Finally, a set of three Spanish cities, Madrid/Sevilla/Barcelona (three cities she has trained in) is choreographed by her Spanish friend Juan Carlos Lerida and features Terracciano singing a flamenco song on stage.

I was very curious about how each of these places, these cities, would have an influence of the movements of my body. So the Calgary piece involves a lot of tension that reflects my love-hate relationship with Calgary.”

Terracciano strays from the flamenco tradition in that she’s not as tied to the music as straight flamenco dancers are, as if the freedom of invention in contemporary dance has given her a lease to dance outside the usual steps and beats.

“If someone sees the word flamenco and they come, they won’t see someone stamping their feet and all that fire because I’m not interested in that. It’s boring for me. I lean into a quieter approach and a more feminine movement style. My vision of flamenco is softer, more about vulnerability, intimacy, introversion, and moments of quiet and tenderness.”

Born and raised in Calgary as a child of Italian immigrants, Terracciano recalls she was always interested in some sort of performance activity as a kid, but it wasn’t until her first college class in contemporary dance in the late 1990s that she knew she had found her creative home. She created her first work as a choreographer a few years later.

It was through her mother and a family friend from Spain that she learned about flamenco music and dance. Eventually she realized she had to go to Spain to nail down her education in that centuries-old tradition, and she wound up returning there every year for about 15 years, staying for a month or even six months at a time.

Once Terracciano started exploring her quieter approach it wasn’t long before flamenco purists frowned on her concept, and she says a few still do. But other flamenco masters like Carlos Lerida have also come to champion her work. She often sings and scores the soundtracks for her pieces and incorporates her own short films as integral backdrops.

“They tell me it’s a really unique way to frame flamenco. It’s just starting to enjoy its own niche in Canada. For me there’s always some kind of grounding in my flamenco training, the dance or guitar, that comes into the work I do.”

Place: Is A City Written On This Body? plays Mile Zero Dance 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28 and Saturday, Feb.29. Tickets are $15 for members, $20 general admission plus service fees from Eventbrite (link at Mile Zero Dance) or at the door.

Martial arts provides foundation for movement

Radical System Art.

It’s a concept that Shay Keubler got from studying martial arts legend Bruce Lee and a reminder that Keubler trained in martial arts long before he ever took up contemporary dance.

Now Radical System Art describes the hybrid style that Keubler brings to choreographing original works of contemporary dance, and it’s also the name of his Vancouver-based dance company, founded in 2014.

Edmonton-raised Keubler is back here this week heading up the local debut of Radical System Art in a show hosted by Brian Webb Dance Co. Local dance fans may recall Keubler was also here last fall working with the members of Ballet Edmonton in a splendid show. This time it’s his own company, three male and three female dancers plus himself, and the premiere of a brand new original work titled Epilogos.

I caught up with Keubler recently to get a sense of the R.S.A. philosophy.

“It started from the writings of Bruce Lee and the idea that opposing qualities and energies are necessary for each other. So for me, Radical Systems was a hybrid combination of the art forms that I have studied, a lot of different movement techniques coming together to create something new. But the system part of it is like the balance of structure and chaos, finding form without form, kind of like a martial arts philosophy.”

This particular work, the 65-minute Epilogos, takes on figures of power. As the program informs us, Epilogos is the point in a speech where the speaker attempts to build an emotional response from their audience.

Keubler explains part of his inspiration came from reading a book about Winston Churchill and some thoughts on how powerful figures express themselves in physical movement.

“It’s an interesting time in society now where values seem to be more polarized, fervent and extreme in some ways. These things can unify and separate people. One of the things I decided to do was to look at how gesture was part of rhetoric, part of a speech, part of convincing someone to believe in what you’re doing. There are about eight gestures that we use, from a salesman to a celebrity, a politician or a dictator. I looked at that physical language and how those gestures change.”

Keubler explains there’s a theatrical aspect to the show as the orator moves through these multiple roles.

He also composed about 90 percent of the score for Epilogos drawing from a variety of samples and sound sources, editing everything together to fit the work. It’s very much his concept but also an interpretation on the part of the dancers.

Part of the balance of the radical and the system is that I try to build repertoire and specific movements that come out of my body, but at the same time I’m also trying to channel and harness the strength of the other dancers, so in many ways it’s a blend of what I do and what they do.”

Kuebler started karate around age four and knew he wanted to be a dancer and choreographer around 15, but he feels that martial arts is still his “foundation” both for its physical discipline and underlying philosophy.

It’s very much about yin and yang. You need darkness to have light, and hardness to have soft qualities.”

Brian Webb Dance Company presents Shay Keubler’s Radical System Art at the Triffo Theatre in MacEwan University’s Allard Hall at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Tickets are available from Tix on the Square, or at the box office.