Singapore Flamenco Festival showcases Asian performers and dance forms

Dancers from Flamenco Sin Fronteras. Chinese flamenco dancer Zhen Zhao performing with Indian musicians.
Dancers from Flamenco Sin Fronteras.PHOTO: ANDY TAN
Dancers from Flamenco Sin Fronteras. Chinese flamenco dancer Zhen Zhao performing with Indian musicians.
Chinese flamenco dancer Zhen Zhao performing with Indian musicians.PHOTO: FLAMENCO SIN FRONTERAS

The Spanish dance gets an Asian twist in a cross-cultural show, part of the Singapore Flamenco Festival

In an upcoming flamenco production called Versatility/ Flamencasian, there is finger- snapping and hand-clapping, foot-stamping and skirt-twirling, all of which are performed to the passionate strains of - wait for it - guzheng and tabla.

In this double bill taking place tomorrow and on Sunday, flamenco gets an Asian twist.

The first segment pairs flamenco with Chinese dance, belly dance and Indian kathak dance, among other traditional art forms.

In the second segment, prominent flamenco dancers from Singapore, Japan, China and Taiwan will perform, including Hiroki Sato from Japanese flamenco troupe Arte y Solera, who has been known to merge flamenco with the Japanese art of butoh, noh and kabuki.

At the end, all the dancers will come together for a grand finale.

This cross-cultural show is part of the Singapore Flamenco Festival 2016, organised by local flamenco school Flamenco Sin Fronteras. The festival is in its third year and takes place over four weekends from tomorrow to June 12.

  • BOOK IT / SINGAPORE FLAMENCO FESTIVAL 2016

  • WHERE: Various venues  

    WHEN: Tomorrow to June 12. Versatility/Flamencasian is on tomorrow and Sunday; La Fiesta is on May 27; Misa Flamenca is on June 11 and 12

    ADMISSION: Various. Versatility/Flamencasian: $25 and $30; La Fiesta: free; Misa Flamenca: $35 and $42

    INFO: For information on other programmes, go to www. flamencosinfronteras.com.sg

Like previous years, the festival offers a mix of ticketed and free performances to cater to serious flamenco lovers and those new to the dance form.

The event is organised by the couple running the flamenco school: Morocco-born choreo- grapher-dancer Antonio Vargas, 75, and his Singaporean wife, Daphne Huang Vargas, 44.

He says they chose not to bring in flamenco stars from Spain because "we want to move away from Andalusia and bring the Asian flavours to the festival".

Mr Vargas has been dancing flamenco from a young age and playing flamenco guitar and percussion. He formed his first flamenco company in 1962.

He also acted in the Baz Luhrmann dance movie, Strictly Ballroom (1992), as well as choreographed a flamenco segment for Mission: Impossible II (2000).

His wife Daphne has 10 years of flamenco training and works as a doctor for the elderly in the day.

Both teach flamenco classes at their school in Lorong 24A Geylang.

The couple have never performed together publicly and will do so for the first time on June 11 and 12 in Misa Flamenca, a production that pairs flamenco dance with a choral performance of classical chants taken from the Catholic religious mass.

Mrs Vargas is one of the 10 company dancers who will be performing in the 90-minute show, which will be staged in the School of the Arts Studio Theatre. Mr Vargas will come on in a cameo.

Providing musical accompaniment are a choral ensemble comprising eight singers led by Singapore tenor Leslie Tay, as well as guest flamenco musicians, Antonio Soria and Sergio Munoz from Spain.

To get more people to learn about flamenco, the festival offers ticketed dance, flamenco guitar and percussion workshops, as well as a free community outreach programme at Kallang Community Centre on May 27.

The programme includes a low-impact flamenco workshop designed for seniors as well as a special performance, Drama Flamencas: The Hero's Journey, a drama with flamenco dance and music which will be performed by participants from the Singapore Association for Mental Health.

Mrs Vargas says: "Flamenco is for everyone. You can grow old with flamenco - there's no age limit."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 20, 2016, with the headline 'Dancing flamenco to guzheng and tabla'. Print Edition | Subscribe