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"El Viento Flamenco"
Review by "The ShanMonster", http//shanmonster.bla-bla.com, October 16, 2001

Evelyne Benais of El Viento Flamenco

If the Fredericton Playhouse was not sold out, it was pretty damned close to it. My press pass scored me a sweet seat: fifth row centre. I sat anxiously in my chair and waited for the show to start. There was no set to look at--just a stage, two plain wooden chairs, some microphone stands and stage monitors, and two small drums. I took a peek through my programme and happily discovered a breakdown of the evening's performance. I've been to many dance/music performances that didn't have this luxury, so I was impressed by the simple photocopy. I learned the first piece would be a tango.

El Viento Flamenco is made up of four core performers: Evelyne Benais (dance), Sean Harris (voice), Bob Sutherby (guitar), and Tony Tucker (percussion). The three men came out and took their places. They were simply dressed. Sean wore a grey suit and his long, blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail. Bob and Tony wore black pants and white cotton shirts. Bob began to tune his guitar, and the simple act let me know what a treat I would be getting. The first strum sounded exotic, and the combined notes hit me like a sirocco. The music fulfilled all my expectations. Bob is a wonderful guitarist, and I watched his fingers with an avid fascination. They crept around on the strings like hunting spiders.

Sean began to sing. His voice has been described as rich, strong, soaring, and heart-rending, and yeah, I think that about says it all. He's all that and a bit more. He has a voice with great power, but also manages to bring his voice down to a soft, plaintive lament.

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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.

Evelyne walked on stage regally. She wore a full off-white skirt with a ruffle at the hem, a black floral body suit, black fishnets, and a front-tied white blouse with blouson sleeves. She bore an ardent expression upon her face, the intensity of which was matched by the ferocity of her dancing. Her foot movements were tight and controlled. Pent-up energy suffused her body, exploding in carefully metered bursts through her arm gestures and regulated stamping. The flesh of her cheeks shook with the sheer force of her foot movements.

After a while, the musicians stopped playing, and Evelyne performed a dance/percussion solo, her feet beating out complex rhythms. As the rhythms picked up in tempo, the musicians joined in once again, and the style changed into something more welcoming and flirty. This next dance was an alegria. The word alegría means joy, and the dance certainly evoked this reaction in the audience. Evelyne came back out in a white and black polkadot dress with a spandex bodice and a full skirt with double ruffled tiers and sleeves. Smiles bloomed like flowers all around me. Evelyne's hitherto stern expression melted into smiles of pure pleasure and occasional teasing pouts. Her skirts flew higher and higher, and hints of flamenco's Middle Eastern ancestry peeked through. I saw hints of familiar shimmies and hip articulations. It's easy to tell she loves this dance, and loves sharing it with an appreciative audience.

The evening ended with a well-deserved standing ovation and an encore. If El Viento Flamenco are performing in your town, you really ought to check them out.

I managed to speak briefly with Evelyne and Sean after the show. Apparently, they had held a short workshop in Moncton the day before (damn. I'd like to have attended!), and are planning on relocating to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Perhaps there will be more local interest in world music and dance as a result. I sure hope so....

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