Esmeralda Enrique has more pizzazz in her left pinky than I could ever muster in my entire body. While I love to hit the dance floor, my overall look errs more on the side of Elaine Benes. Needless to say, I am no flamenco expert. Esmeralda Enrique, on the other hand, has been sharing her know-how with Toronto for over 30 years as the founding director of the Academy of Spanish Dance. I caught up with this powerhouse mover and shaker (no pun intended) and learned a thing or two about the dynamic world of Flamenco.
Located in the basement of Toronto’s hub for arts and culture (401 Richmond St.) is the Academy of Spanish Dance. The school currently boasts approximately 130 students, many of whom have been with Esmeralda since she first opened her door in 1982. The spacious studio also hosts the award winning Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company, one of Canada’s foremost Flamenco dance and music ensembles. Guest talents from Spain like Juan Ogalla, Manuel Betanzos, and Naike Ponce are just a sample of the stars Esmeralda has worked with. Her rockstar roster and legacy in the larger Flamenco community insists that she is an important fixture in the city’s artistic landscape.
For Esmeralda, dancing and flamenco combined is a passion project that has shaped her life’s history and continues to teach her something new every day. Flamenco begins with the premise that dancing is an emotional, full body expression that incorporates every single limb to tell a story through exceptional means. With each body part doing something dissimilar, to a different time signature no less; do not be fooled by the passionate faces and fancy swirling skirts! Flamenco and Classical Spanish dance is damn hard and considered two of the most difficult art forms to master. What makes Flamenco such a juicy genre is that it represents some of the more challenging aspects to master within singing, guitar, and dancing. “There is a beautiful connection among the three,” explains Esmeralda, “and there are no words to describe this connection other than osmosis, electricity and intense energy. Not many other dance forms contain this raw energy and three-way communication”.
In March, she will dance alongside company member, Paloma Cortés, in A Night in Madrid, accompanied by the celebrated Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber choir at Trinity-St Paul’s Center. Also expect to be electrified by the world premiere of Portales, a show exploring the breadth of expression and possibility grounded in Flamenco at the Harbourfront Center’s Fleck Dance Theater. Portales (which means “doorways” in Spanish) is about the choices we make in life and the constant wondering of “what if”. As Esmerelda beautifully puts it, “we can never answer these questions but we can always wonder and dream. Flamenco provides a space to embrace, dream, and live our other expressions. To live out our ‘what ifs’. It is about looking inward and expressing what it is that we unearth.”