CADIZ: HEART OF FLAMENCO choreography by Esmeralda Enrique, at Premiere Dance Theatre (207 Queens Quay West), through Sunday (December 14), Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 3 pm. $23-$28. 416-973-4000. Rating: NNNNN
if you think holiday-season shows are all about nutcrackers, pantomimes and skating Disney characters, you should head on down to Harbourfront. If you get lost, just listen for the thunderous sound of shoes stamping and stomping. Esmeralda Enrique and her Spanish dance troupe have inadvertently begun a mid-December tradition that's guaranteed to kick the temperature up a couple of notches.
"People have said it's appropriate, that it gets rid of the cold," laughs the veteran dancer and choreographer in lightly accented English, a week before her company's latest flamenco creation goes up at the Premiere Dance Theatre. "But it wasn't planned that way. December is just when the theatre was available."
For over 20 years, Enrique has challenged our idea of flamenco, exploring its historical and cultural roots and nurturing a couple of generations of flamenco dancers, many of whom have no Latin blood whatsoever.
"I've always found flamenco the most challenging and complete dance form," says Enrique. "It's not just footwork and rhythm. The whole body has nuances. On top of that, there's so much room for personal interpretation."
For her new show, the Texas-born artist was inspired by the city of Cádiz, once a jewel in Spain's cultural crown but now delapidated, pummelled by centuries of invaders.
"I used to go in and out to perform," explains Enrique. "I never took an intimate look at it. I found it a bit sad, especially the old section, which goes back more than 3,000 years. But I always found the people outgoing and gregarious. They are one of the joys of the city."
In her research, Enrique discovered songs, rhythms and customs that came out of Cádiz - all of which will inform her show. Included in the program are two tributes, one to Cádiz-born composer Manuel de Falla, the other to flamenco singer Enrique el Mellizo.
One of the best things about an Esmeralda Enrique show is being part of an audience that isn't afraid to shout out their own feelings after a passionate solo or bravura display.
"It's part of the culture," says Enrique. "It's not disrespectful. They won't shout out in the middle of a sad piece. But in a climax, it's a way of sharing our individual selves as well as what we do together."