Finding Beauty in Darkness

Experimental dance/film combo explores the edges of flamenco

For most people flamenco likely brings to mind the passionate intricate footwork of the dance the swirl of a polka-dotted skirt fiery guitar rhythms and smoky vocals.

Don’t be too attached to that definition of flamenco when considering Rosanna Terracciano’s latest work We All Need to Say GOODBYE/ADIOS .

“The whole thing is an experiment” says Terracciano adding that approach is in keeping with her general philosophy towards flamenco. Although she uses traditional flamenco as the foundation for her performances her creations strive to expand the boundaries of the style. “With the more experimental work that I do you don’t know what to expect” she says. “I don’t even know what to expect I’m pulling from different traditional things and playing around.”

We All Need to Say GOODBYE/ADIOS is a short pay-what-you-can event that combines an eight-minute film with a live performance. Terracciano made her first film about two years ago and is enjoying the opportunity to create in that medium again. “That process of making the first film really validated for me how much I enjoyed working with film and how I felt I was really able to express what I was trying to say through the film medium in a way very different from live performance” she says.

More abstract than narrative the film features Terracciano herself but is “not particularly dance-heavy.” Instead it explores the visual possibilities of props like peinetas (ornamental hair combs) and fans.

The live performance also uses props in unconventional ways but your first tip-off that this is experimental flamenco might be the music. “Some of those songs are really soft and some of them are really rhythmic and some of them are absolutely chaotic” says Terracciano who worked with flamenco guitarist David Matyas and experimental percussionist Chris Dadge who is known for his work with Bug Incision and Lab Coast. To create the recorded score Dadge manipulated Matyas’ guitar sounds and has added heavy percussion. At times the familiar flamenco guitar will be clear and familiar and at others it is altered beyond recognition.

Both the film and the dance are explorations of loss. Inspired by a quote from Jeanette Winterson “But not all dark places need light” Terracciano doesn’t shy away from the deeper darker feelings that come from a sense of loss. “We need those moments of darkness… we have to embrace them we can’t sweep them under the rug” says Terracciano. “Some people can really find beauty in those kinds of moments and some people can’t.”

She acknowledges that certain audience members may find the work dark and intense and says “you have to wade through a lot of darkness in any experience of loss but at the end there’s growth.”

There are only a few people in Canada who experiment with flamenco the way Terracciano does and even in places like Spain the practice is rare. “I just want people to come and have an open mind be willing to think beyond the boundaries of what they consider to be flamenco; that’s the most important thing” she says.

After all any art form is about expression and connection no matter what its label may be: “Flamenco is a form that comes from emotion — whether it’s the traditional stuff or experimental stuff — and it’s a sincere emotional experience.”