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Reviews and Articles - Excerpts

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"Portée par une grâce un peu sévère assouplie par des courbes absolument troublantes mises en évidence par des robes plus magnifiques les unes que les autres, Evelyne Benais, fondatrice de l’ensemble avec le guitariste Bob Sutherby, a développé une technique de danse tout à fait stupéfiante. Considérant la précision et la qualité de la sonorité des pas, on pourrait dans son cas parler carrément de musique. Certaines des pièces accompagnées par l’OSQ ont pris l’allure de véritables concertos pour talons et pointes.

"Sur scène, on remarquait également la présence d’un chanteur, Sean Harris, dont la voix déchirante et tendre à la fois avait la capacité d’évoquer en quelques secondes des images qu’on dirait venues directement d’Andalousie.

"L’interprétation simple et touchante de la chanson La foule par Maral Perk, une autre danseuse de l’ensemble, a semblé toucher profondément... la foule, précisément. La même interprète a enchaîné avec une danse à l’éventail particulièrement sensuelle."

"Carried by a somehow severe grace that is softened by stunning curves, Evelyne Benais, founder of the ensemble with guitarist Bob Sutherby, has developed a technique of dance that is absolutely astounding. Given the precision and quality of the sound of her feet, one can literally speak of music. Some of the pieces accompanied by the Orchestre symphonique de Québec were like veritable concertos for heels and points.

"Sean Harris' voice, at once heart-rending and tender, had the immediate capacity to evoke images of Andalusia…

"Maral Perk's unaffected and moving flamenco interpretation of Edith Piaf's "La Foule", profoundly touched the audience… She then launched into a fan dance, which was particularly sensual."

"The group performed to a full house, and had the audience absolutely captivated the entire way through. From their entrance onto the dimly-lit blue stage, to their fiery exit after a spirit-lifting impromptu encore, looking around the auditorium would show you only entranced faces staring at the stage and face-splitting grins. The performers commanded the audience's attention." 

"El Viento Flamenco In Concert delivers a gorgeous and accessible flamenco that is made in Canada." 

"The evening show in Convocation Hall began with El Viento Flamenco. Every time I see this group they are even better than I remember them.

Dancers Maral Perk and Megan Matheson, egged on by the wonderfully hair-curdling voice of Sean Harris and the astonishingly sharp handclapping of the entire cast, the ground rhythms of percussionist Tony Tucker, and above all by Bob Sutherby's passionate flamenco guitar playing, balanced the fluidity and airy grace of their hand, arm and swaying torsos, with near violent heel and toe taps. They were dressed in white (Perk with black polka-dots) and their dances led to Evelyne Benais' dramatic finish in black." 

"... a fascinating, intense and deeply rewarding musical experience... an unforgettable fusion of ornamented line, furious rhythm and keening emotion... one of the great connections between the Rock and Iberia." 

"Evelyne Benais's El Viento is arguably the most popular dance group in the Maritimes. The company has been influenced by the raw, earthy gypsy element of flamenco rather than the more polished concert variety. The group members do not go by Spanish versions of their names. They remain dancers Benais and Megan Matheson, singer Sean Harris, guitarist Bob Sutherby and percussionist Tony Tucker. The women don't wear traditional fussy flamenco costumes, nor do they sport the de rigueur middle-part/chignon hairstyle. If they weren't performing flamenco, El Viento would look like an East Coast step-dance band, and that's its charm.

"El Viento's mandate of solo dance numbers with musical/vocal interludes is individualistic and it works. Benais is tall and imposing and Matheson is nubile and sexy. Both can cut the footwork. The musicians are excellent , and Harris is a sweeter singer than most cantors."

"Fuente Ovejuna is a fascinating experience of a dark Spanish story with social satire and socialism.

"This is the kind of production that is Dalhousie theatre department's gift to the city: an opportunity to experience a passionate, stimulating, historical drama never before performed in Halifax.

"Much of the passion and intensity in this production, presented with El Viento Flamenco, is carried by flamenco singer and dancer Maral Perk, a remarkably magnetic performer with a voice of astonishing depth, beauty and soul...

"Director Roberta Barker, who moves the play along swiftly and naturally, wisely brought in Evelyne Benais of El Viento Flamenco to choreograph. The presence of Claire Hodge, flamenco guitarist; Megan Matheson, dancer and percussionist, and Perk adds a layer of emotional power and Spanish culture to this play."

"In 19 years of covering the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival, I have never heard such a powerful uproar from a festival audience, and this was no rock concert. The audience ranged in age from eight to 80.

"... El Viento Flamenco literally kicked things off for a bold, energetic first [set] ... I can't remember any Folk Harbour concert presenting a more consistently brilliant lineup at a single event. No wonder the tent hardly emptied from the first hot-tempered strum of Bob Sutherby's flamenco guitar to the last shouted "Ba-dum" of [Lenny] Gallant's 'The Band's Still Playing'.

"Sutherby, by the way, is a superb guitarist, his tone and style impeccably crisp, while Sean Harris's searing tenor, Maral Perk's darkly intense alto, Tony Tucker's percussion and the intricate rhythms of hand claps and heel-hammers from Benais and her dancers provide a dizzying context for Benais's sinuous dancing, her arms and fingers tracing mesmerizing arcs and ornaments in the air with astonishing fluency and grace.

"It was a grand beginning to an unforgettable evening."

"El Viento Flamenco knows drama.

"With sudden, precise movement, Evelyne Benais can pack drama into the smallest gesture, and Bob Sutherby will underline that with a flourish of his Spanish guitar.

"Benais ... is a commanding presence in an art form that asks female dancers to rule the stage.

"Flamenco is all about the music, because the dancers take part in making the music, pounding out the rhythm with their hands and feet.

"El Viento plays that up nicely ... with call-and-response communication between Benais and Sutherby's guitar, or Tony Tucker's percussion.

"[Singer Sean] Harris showcase[s] his vocal prowess. His crystal-clear voice slips easily into falsetto as he pours out plaintive longing.

"The group's other singer is Maral Perk, who also dances. It's particularly impressive when she does both.

"For two numbers, Benais and Perk are joined onstage by four of Benais's students, so that the stage is filled with musicians and dancers in lush, colourful costume.

"The combination of ensemble pieces, solo dance and music make the show feel very full, and, at more than two hours long, quite satisfying."

"THE SAYING 'you're not getting older, you're getting better' rings particularly true for flamenco dancers. 'In flamenco, age is appreciated,' says Evelyne Benais, founder of El Viento Flamenco. 'You never have to retire.'

"You see, for those of us interested in Flamenco, there is life BEVF and life AEVF. That's 'Before El Viento Flamenco' and 'After El Viento Flamenco'. The BEVF times were dark, cold, filed with the futile search for authentic and soulful expressions of the human condition. AEVF life is rich, meaningful; something akin to the state of wholeness and Contentment the Buddhists would call Nirvana, like a place the Christians would call Heaven. You can now find musicians and dancers emerging from workshops and classes, Spanish Juergas and small cafes, spilling contagious rhythms out on to Barrington Street. Life just doesn't get any better than this."

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"On it's own, this musical fusion of gypsy passion and orchestral arrangements would have been a joy. But when flamenco dynamo Evelyne took the stage ... this performance was quite simply electrifying."

"... Sunday night's performance by Symphony Nova Scotia and El Viento Flamenco was one of the most stunning performances of the year."

"There was not a dull moment as each member of El Viento focused intensely on the music that clearly drives them."

"El Viento Flamenco gives a show that captivates, thrills and inspires."

"... It's not just about the beauty of the movement; it's also the interaction between dancer and musicians."

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"... El Viento Flamenco scored one of the biggest receptions of the festival with their Spanish folk dancing. The highly stylized flamenco genre was expertly performed by guitarist Bob Sutherby and singer Sean Harris as well as Turkish-born singer Maral Perk and percussionists Tony Tucker and Ian MacMillan.

"But it was largely dancer and troupe-leader Evelyne Benais's gig. Her tall, statuesque figure expressed pride and danger, her heels clicking out rapid patterns as adrenalin producing as the sudden, too-near stutter of a rattlesnake."

"The rhythm of the music is beguiling. The timing of the group is bang-on, with seamless transitions between varying time signatures. The clapping, drumming, and foot tapping is ornate and exotic to western ears for whom 3/4 time is almost foreign. The rhythms are mesmerizing, but not as arresting as the dancing of Evelyne..."

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"Le theatre a vibre sous les coups de talons de la danseuse, les accords endiables du guitariste et la voix transcendante du chanteur."

"Victorieuse et dominatrice ... Evelyne fait taire la guitare et le chanteur d'un dernier coup de talon."

"The audience could have listened to them all night long and still be calling for more ... many a new fan of the sensual and mysterious art of flamenco were created, thanks to El Viento Flamenco."

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"This is dance with attitude... the precision and power of Benais' gestures and postures are so energetically executed they almost blow you out of the hall."

"It is a powerful show, a wonderful blend of cultural influences."

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"First she takes Halifax, then she takes ... PEI?"

"As the show begins, the room is already packed with excited and expectant fans. Their attention is heralded by the emotional strumming of Sutherby''s guitar ... After several moments of music, Harris' first heart-rending vocals pierce the air... And then, as though lifted up by the union of age-old music and soul-drawn song, Benais begins to dance -- hands, feet, and skirts flying with a grace which almost seems itself an extension of the music."

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"Evelyne Benais ... continues to captivate her audiences."

"The audience cried 'Ole' to the fiery passion of Newfoundland flamenco dancer Evelyne Benais as she cut up the floor in a storm of stepdance more exciting than Riverdance.

"The woman in flamenco is not a devotee, but a powerful, controlling presence of sheer life force. Her elegant hands slow the time as she catches her breath for another dazzling stomp with her lightning feet.

"Backed up by a dynamic band of two guitarists, a percussionist and soaring singer... Benais is a technical tour-de-force, a charismatic performer whose energy, artistry and passion make any girl want to get into a red, flared dress and dance her heart out."

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"Dancin' round the world"

Review by Janet French, Dalhousie Gazette, February 1999

"..the show was stolen by El Viento Flamenco, Newfoundland's one and only flamenco ensemble. The crowd was dazzled by the frantic footwork of dancer Evelyne Benais and the fine accompaniment of Sean Harris, Bob Sutherby, Alex Schwartz and Adam Staple.

"The musical members of El Viento Flamenco hammered out an infectious rhythm, while Benais in her amazing dress, radiated with irresistible sensual charm. Although the reverberating clicking of Benais' shoes was most impressive, she demonstrated that Flamenco is at least 50 per cent attitude, displaying her proud countenance to the audience throughout the performance. The audience was certainly swept up by the festive spirit, with clapping and hollers of 'Ole!'"

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"World dance at Live Art New Dance Festival"

Review by Denise Williams (reprinted from http://www.eteast.com), February 1999

"The music was beautiful, technical, and the players drew the audience in because we could see how much they were enjoying themselves.

"But when Evelyne stood up, she commanded the stage.

"In a scoop-neck, red silk dress that she wore with the shoulders and upper body of a queen, she was a formidable figure on stage...Even when her heels were stomping so fast that even her cheeks were shaking, she never lost that rigidly dignified composure. The flamenco is sensuous and passionate, but also asserts a large measure of untouchable power. With matchless charm, Benais was a regal beauty with thunder in her heels.

"I guess I wasn't the only one impressed. The first standing ovation of the evening belonged to El Viento Flamenco."

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"Evelyne Benais recently returned from further studies in Spain and, as in the past, with each return to St. John's brings new depth and understanding to the art form. I think one of the main elements which makes Benais's performances so wonderful is the respect she has for Flamenco. Her understanding of the discipline goes beyond execution of the steps. There is a concept of history and a respect for the art, and these come through every performance."

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"International Drama Festival"

Review by Gordon Jones, The Evening Telegram, July 2, 1997

"Evelyne Benais [performed] a transfixing 10 minutes of Flamenco dancing ... self-absorbed and compelling ... I would like to see more."


"Kittiwake Dance Theatre heats it up"

Review by Kathleen Lippa, The Evening Telegram, April 17, 1996

"Evelyne Benais was the evening's high point. Her 'Three Flamenco Rhythms' were superb, brilliantly performed, with Bob Sutherby accompanying her on guitar. The twirls of her wrists and drill-like, clicking heels were powerfully sensual. Stories were told in the body of her dance. Music undulated from her steps, while confidence radiated from her statuesque figure."


"Stunning performances"

Review by Linda Rimsay, The Evening Telegram, April 14, 1996

"The highlight of the evening ... was Evelyne Benais's FLAMENCO ... a thoroughly enjoyed addition to the festival. What made it stand out ... was the professionalism. There was a decided respect for the art form and for the audience."

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