Flamenco’s Indian roots on stage

How much of Flamenco is influenced by traditional Indian dance? What part of Flamenco can trace its roots to ancient India? What elements of Indian culture is retained in contemporary Flamenco dance and music? The components of Flamenco, hailed by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, is a complex story.

As a first generation Canadian, born to Malaysian parents of South Indian descent, Deborah “La Caramelita” Dawson-Mourocq has enchanted international audiences for over 10 years with her unique style of dance. Her new show “Nritya” tells Deborah’s story through dance, the story of an immigrant family and an artist connecting with an art form that seems totally foreign, but one that she is historically linked with.

La Caramelita Flamenco Company presents “NRITYA” on Thursday October 3 at 8:00 p.m. at the Venables Theatre.
TICKETS: $30, Students $25 www.venablestheatre.ca

Why Flamenco and Indian music? It is a popular theory that the Roma people, who have greatly contributed to the creation and culture of flamenco, came from Northern India to Andalucía many centuries ago. Through this show, Deborah performs a journey in search of her origins but also a reconstruction of bridges that had disappeared between flamenco and its Roma-Indian roots.The result isn’t an India-Flamenco fusion show but rather a personal story of dependence and independence, adversity and diversity and a unison of global values

One translation of  “nritya” is “storytelling and emotions created by movement”. This word, “nritya”, resonates with the theme of this new production – telling Deborah’s story through dance. 

This fall, for the first time in Canada, international Flamenco company “La Caramelita”, will unravel the mysteries, origins and nuances of Flamenco in a mesmerizing, intimate and original production called NRITYA. Led by Vancouver born artistic director, Deborah Dawson, the production is an Indo-Canadian woman’s exploration of her heritage through flamenco dance.

“We have used existing parallels between two cultures to tell the story of an immigrant family and an artist connected to a seemingly distant art form,” explains Dawson. “As a first generation Canadian, born to Malaysian parents of Indian descent, it was a struggle to find my identity. I stumbled upon Flamenco in my early teens and soon found out that flamenco has some of its roots in India. The idea that I had come full circle,
studying an art form that shared the same background as my family, fueled me to move to Spain – the birthplace of Flamenco.”

“La Caramelita Flamenco Company” is based in Bordeaux, France, where Dawson and her husband, Flamenco singer Alejandro Mendía, call home. NRITYA is powered by guitarist, Guillermo Guillén, who won the prestigious Lámpara Minera Festival Award when accompanying famed Flamenco singer Rocio Márquez in 2008. Multi-instrumentalist, Alex Carrasco brings a modern, electronic beat to NRITYA mixing traditional percussion instruments like the cajon drum with an MPC.
Also joining the company for NRITYA is the Madrid based flautist, Lara Wong. Another Vancouverite that followed her passion to Spain, Wong’s talent transcends flamenco, jazz,
classical, and latin genres. The McGill music graduate’s original bansuri compositions in NRITYA are haunting and desolate, fragile and strong – reflecting values associated with female emancipation, spirituality, and the importance of art in a divided time.

NRITYA seamlessly intertwines familiar Indian songs, such as the spiritual “Kattey” by activist Bhanvari Devi, with the traditional flamenco rhythm, “tarantos” to share religious tones that speak of love and spiritual guidance in trying times. Another example of the company’s blend is the use of Konnakol, the vocal performance of percussive syllables in South Indian Carnatic music, to match the percussive staccato of Flamenco footwork.

“We’ve created a new language – a new algorithm if you will, mixing various Indian influences with flamenco. We try to do this with respect and during the creative process we’ve found that the possibilities are endless,” – explains singer Mendía.