"El Viento Flamenco"
Review by "The ShanMonster",
http//shanmonster.bla-bla.com, October 16, 2001
If the Fredericton Playhouse was not sold out, it was pretty damned close to it.
My press pass scored me a sweet seat: fifth row centre. I sat anxiously in my chair and waited for
the show to start. There was no set to look at--just a stage, two plain wooden chairs, some microphone
stands and stage monitors, and two small drums. I took a peek through my programme and happily discovered
a breakdown of the evening's performance. I've been to many dance/music performances that didn't have this
luxury, so I was impressed by the simple photocopy. I learned the first piece would be a tango.
El Viento Flamenco is made up of four core performers: Evelyne Benais (dance),
Sean Harris (voice), Bob Sutherby (guitar), and Tony Tucker (percussion). The three men came out and
took their places. They were simply dressed. Sean wore a grey suit and his long, blond hair was pulled
back in a ponytail. Bob and Tony wore black pants and white cotton shirts. Bob began to tune his guitar,
and the simple act let me know what a treat I would be getting. The first strum sounded exotic, and the
combined notes hit me like a sirocco. The music fulfilled all my expectations. Bob is a wonderful
guitarist, and I watched his fingers with an avid fascination. They crept around on the strings like
Sean began to sing. His voice has been described as rich, strong, soaring, and
heart-rending, and yeah, I think that about says it all. He's all that and a bit more. He has a voice with
great power, but also manages to bring his voice down to a soft, plaintive lament.
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The rhythm of the music is beguiling. The timing of the group is bang-on, with seamless
transitions between varying time signatures. The clapping, drumming, and foot tapping is ornate and exotic to
western ears for whom 3/4 time is almost foreign. The rhythms are mesmerizing, but not as arresting as the
dancing of Evelyne.
Evelyne walked on stage regally. She wore a full off-white skirt with a ruffle at the
hem, a black floral body suit, black fishnets, and a front-tied white blouse with blouson sleeves. She bore
an ardent expression upon her face, the intensity of which was matched by the ferocity of her dancing. Her
foot movements were tight and controlled. Pent-up energy suffused her body, exploding in carefully metered
bursts through her arm gestures and regulated stamping. The flesh of her cheeks shook with the sheer force
of her foot movements.
After a while, the musicians stopped playing, and Evelyne performed a dance/percussion
solo, her feet beating out complex rhythms. As the rhythms picked up in tempo, the musicians joined in once
again, and the style changed into something more welcoming and flirty. This next dance was an alegria. The
word alegría means joy, and the dance certainly evoked this reaction in the audience. Evelyne
came back out in a white and black polkadot dress with a spandex bodice and a full skirt with double ruffled
tiers and sleeves. Smiles bloomed like flowers all around me. Evelyne's hitherto stern expression melted into
smiles of pure pleasure and occasional teasing pouts. Her skirts flew higher and higher, and hints of
flamenco's Middle Eastern ancestry peeked through. I saw hints of familiar shimmies and hip articulations.
It's easy to tell she loves this dance, and loves sharing it with an appreciative audience.
The evening ended with a well-deserved standing ovation and an encore. If El Viento
Flamenco are performing in your town, you really ought to check them out.
I managed to speak briefly with Evelyne and Sean after the show. Apparently, they
had held a short workshop in Moncton the day before (damn. I'd like to have attended!), and are planning
on relocating to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Perhaps there will be more local interest in world music and dance
as a result. I sure hope so....
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