Montreal dance roundup: Quebec flamenco show bridges fire and ice

Jim Burke – MONTREAL GAZETTE – 13 novembre 2019

From the heat of the Andalusian south to the frozen North: Quebec company La Otra Orilla slams both fronts together next week with the contemporary flamenco show Magnetikae, which plays at Place des Arts from Tuesday to Nov. 23.

Formed in 2006 by dancer Myriam Allard and director/musician Hedi Graja, who met during studies in Andalusia, the company (which translates as The Other Side) have made it their mission to upend traditional ideas of flamenco. Setting this most passionate of dance forms on an ice floe goes some way toward achieving that.

Speaking by phone, Allard explains that the idea for the show came from “the fact that we’re living in Quebec doing this very fiery southern art form, and for six months of the year we live in cold and snow. Also, Hedi was born in North Africa, so for him also living here is a six-months-a-year battle.”

This is the fourth Danse Danse show for La Otra Orilla, following 2010’s El12, 2013’s Homoblablatus and 2016’s Moi et les autres. Like that last show, Magnetikae sees not just Allard subject to her own choreography, but the three musicians (including Graja) as well — another departure from flamenco norms.

“Flamenco is quite static in its traditional format,” says Allard. “The musicians are sitting down and the dancer performs in front. But we really wanted to break that. We wanted to see the space (used by) everybody on stage, whether it’s the dancer or the musicians.”

Magnetikae feels particularly timely, and not just because we Montrealers are muffling up for six months of shivering right now. Ice floe imagery and visions of northerly extremes are bound to get us thinking about the front line of the climate crisis. Magnetikae, though, isn’t about addressing those issues — at least not directly.

“We’ve been asked whether there’s a political discourse, environmental issues and so on,” Graja says, joining Allard on the phone. “When you touch on this geographic area, it can be very politically sensitive. But we’re not positioning ourselves into the debate. I think it’s important to leave space for the public to actively construct meaning.”

Rather, as Allard explains, Magnetikae takes a much more existential approach.

“We researched into the concept of the magnetic north and how it actually moves, how its strength works on our bodies. That very much relates to how flamenco came into my life in a very powerful way — something that somehow I had no control over. And then we really went into how geography influences us in our everyday life. Are we defined by where we come from, or is it where we live that actually influences who we become?”