Finding the groove: The uniqueness of Flamenco | TheUnion.com

Finding the groove: The uniqueness of Flamenco

Dance has been around for centuries, and there are many dances that captivate and enchant audiences. The flamenco is one of those dances.

To hear Sianna Chauhan tell it, she didn't find flamenco as much as flamenco found her. After attending her first flamenco dance class in 2012, she was immediately hooked on the centuries-old study of rhythmic visual art and, in her own words, was "transported from that moment on."

Five years later, Sianna and her friend Nuria Rubio have formed FlamenKaz, a collective of dancers and musicians who bring the passion of flamenco to life. The group will be performing Friday and Saturday at The Stone House in Nevada City, and again on Thursday, Nov. 30, at Golden Era on Broad Street.

The performances will all differ from one another, with various musicians joining the mix for each show. For The Stone House dates the dancers will be accompanied by renowned guitarist Gopal Slavonic and singer Leta Gibney.

Gibney will also join the lineup for the show Thursday, Nov. 30, as will vocalist Felix De Lola. Gabriel Navia will demonstrate his spectacular flamenco guitar skills, and highly acclaimed flamenco dancer Bianca Rodriguez will join the troupe that night for the special performance.

Everything in rhythm

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By tradition, flamenco blends stylistic song, dance, and guitar. Rightly considered folk art, it is often thought of as passionate, intense and precise, a notion that Chauhan confirms wholeheartedly.

"Our hands are clapping; we use the table to make sounds," Chauhan said. "There's singing and making sounds in rhythm. Fingers are clicking. In flamenco, you are always dancing with different people or different music. Our name [FlamenKaz] made me feel like I could invite more people in. It seemed more inclusive."

Chauhan and Rubio first met in a flamenco dance studio in the north of Spain.

"Nuria was there," Chauhan said, "and we were dancing and I just kept thinking 'Wow, she is a beautiful dancer!'"

As the two got to know each other better through dance, Chauhan learned that Rubio was accomplished for a reason: she had been studying flamenco and a specialized style of flamenco called Guajira since the age of 10 as she grew up in Mexico City.

Chauhan admits that she can't dance the Guajira like Rubio.

"There is a sense of flamenco that you can only get when you work as relentlessly as she does," Chauhan said. "This [Guajira] is a complicated dance, and one doesn't just perform it; one specializes in it."

More than a dance

Having been born to an Indian mother and Kenyan father, Chauhan spent most of her life in York, England. Her initial fascination with flamenco began when she learned that the timeless dance had its beginnings in her mother's native land. It became a way for her to feel closer to her roots.

"[Flamenco] is actually originally from India," she said. "It moved up through Africa, then to Europe and eventually to Spain," where she said it became more popular and eventually synonymous with Spain and its colorful culture.

Chauhan mentions that much of the language of flamenco is very old and derived from Sanskrit, the primary liturgical language of Hinduism.

"Flamenco is becoming more and more popular all over the world," she said. "It's actually huge in Japan, and there are more flamenco dance schools there than in Spain. There's a huge demand to witness it."

"Flamenco attracts a lot of women," Chauhan said. "Something moves them that makes their hearts full. There's an energy; a feeling. Something happens in the heart and soul."

To the members of FlamenKaz, their chosen dance is much more than just an artistic form.

"If I was to [describe flamenco with] one word I would say: breathtaking," Chauhan said. "If you have knowledge of music, if you play instruments, or have knowledge of music in any way you will instantly be drawn to flamenco."

According to her, "It's visual. It's passionate, strong, and it's a very powerful dance for a woman to dance. Men too but when you see the woman coming out she is showing how powerful she is inside as well as outside."

It only takes watching the flamenco be performed once to understand what Chauhan shares: "To be good at flamenco, one must study tirelessly much as an athlete would."

"It can take 15 to 18 years of training before you are going to be good," Chauhan said. "You are learning acutely the physicality."

Of FlamenKaz upcoming shows Chauhan said, "I want people to know the uniqueness of flamenco; to have them keep eyes and ears open for the complexity. It will take them on a journey."

KNOW & GO

WHAT: FlamenKaz — Flamenco dancing and music

WHEN & WHERE: 6 p.m. Friday & Saturday at The Stone House.

9-11 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30, at the Golden Era, both in Nevada City.

TICKETS: At the door

INFO: For more information contact Sianna at Flamenkaz@gmail.com