This week’s Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to Esmeralda Enrique. Thirty years ago, a young woman from Texas came to Canada after spending 13 years in Spain perfecting her artistry as a flamenco dancer. She had trained, performed and toured with many of the best flamenco companies in great demand at the time (Paco Ruíz, Miguel Sandoval, Antonio del Castillo, Sara Lezana and Cristóbal Reyes).
Toronto offered opportunities to aspiring flamenco artists with popular venues like Don Quixote. At the insistence of a very persuasive friend, Esmeralda Enrique came to Canada – a move that would profoundly change her life, make a huge impact on the Canadian dance scene and develop a generation of Canadian flamenco dancers that are unsurpassed.
Performing for the first time in Toronto, she saw her future husband in the audience. He returned every night and finally they met. The rest as they say is history. Esmeralda stayed in Canada, married and in less than a year started both the Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company and Academy of Spanish Dance.
The stars that aligned to bring Esmeralda to Toronto changed the legacy of flamenco in this city and in Canada.
Esmeralda has always kept her connections with Spain alive and over the years has brought more than 50 teachers and performers to join her company for EESDC’s Toronto Seasons and to teach at the Academy. These vital links with flamenco artists from Spain sets Esmeralda and her company apart from other Canadian flamenco dance companies. Her dancers have benefited from the cultural cross-pollination, remained current in their art and have been challenged to reach beyond their own expectations.
Esmeralda’s love of flamenco and her desire to share that with others has enriched many lives through the presentation of EESDC’s annual Toronto Season (part of Harbourfront Centre’s NextSteps Series), its performances on main stages and at community festivals (Hispanic Fiesta since 1981, among others) and through classes at the Academy of Spanish Dance.
The Academy of Spanish Dance is recognized both in Canada and aboard as a centre for superior training in flamenco. The Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company is broadly hailed for its innovation, versatility and artistic excellence. The company has achieved support from municipal, provincial and federal arts councils. Esmeralda and the members of the company have received over 11 Dora Mavor Moore Award nominations and Esmeralda herself is the recipient of numerous awards including Guía Hispana’s Raices Hispanas Award 2003; and she was named one of 2008’s 10 Most Influential Hispanic Canadians by the Canadian Hispanic Business Association.
To sustain this dedication for 30 years is an accomplishment to celebrate and EESDC wants to share this legacy during its 2011-2012 season with its audiences, dancers, musicians and everyone one who has been part of the journey.
Find out what Esmeralda had to say in this week’s shout out…
Nikki: Do you remember the first time you started dancing?
Esmeralda: I don’t, actually. But I do remember always having dance in my life. One of the earliest recollections is of not being allowed by my teacher to perform a dance because I was too young, maybe all of seven years old.
Nikki: Do you remember the first song you choreographed to? (Or your earliest memory):
Esmeralda: It was a flamenco piece that I worked on in my living room with my Mother’s help and encouragement. I performed it at my grade school.
Nikki: Your personal advice for dancers when it comes to free styling/improv?
Esmeralda: To let the music enter your body, to connect with all your senses, to let go of set routines or sequences and let the body move and do what it knows how to do.
Nikki: Getting in the zone to choreograph, what does it take for you?
Esmeralda:I read poetry; I study historical events and people and try to understand why things evolved as they did. I try to become more aware of the ordinary things that surround me daily because I believe in their importance. Architecture, sculpture, paintings, food and friends are a source of inspiration. All these things I try to let seep into my being and take in as much detail as possible, no matter how small.
Nikki: Who are some of your biggest influences in the Dance industry?
Esmeralda:I was fortunate to have had teachers that gave me encouragement such as Victoria Eugenia and Luisa Triana. I also am influenced by many artists with whom I have worked, their professionalism on and off stage, dedication, work ethic and total commitment to the art.
Nikki: Name a Toronto Choreographer you enjoy working with and why?
Esmeralda: In my field of expertise, which is flamenco, I have not worked with other Toronto choreographers, but I have worked outside of flamenco with Andrea Nann, contemporary dancer, and Joanna De Sousa, kathak dancer. Andrea because of her commitment to the project, her ideas, suggestions and beauty of form and expressiveness. Joanna because of her perspective in dance, the similarities in style that both forms have and how we often were so in sync with each other’s ideas, almost without need to verbalize them.
Nikki: Name one of your favorite artists to work with and why? (Could be another Dancer, choreographer, musician etc. Doesn’t have to be from Toronto)
Esmeralda: At the moment I am working with dancer/choreographer Juan Ogalla, from Spain, last year’s Dora Mavor Moore Award winner for Outstanding Performance. His choreographies are intellectually stimulating, of a high level of difficulty and are a pure joy to dance. He is also very friendly, demanding and helpful.
Nikki: Are you currently working on any projects?
Nikki: Qualities you think Toronto Dancers possess?
Esmeralda: As far as flamenco dancers go in recent years I have seen the level of understanding of the art and desire to learn more about it grow tremendously, which to me is an indication that the flamenco seeds that were planted here, in part by me some 30 years ago, have taken firm root and will thrive. Love and respect for the art and the desire to learn more, these are the best qualities these Toronto Dancers possess.
Nikki: Any advice for emerging dancers and choreographers working/training in Toronto?
Esmeralda: I cannot emphasize enough that flamenco must be respected and cherished. We must study its history, while keeping current with todays evolution. It is a world cultural heritage, a beautiful, living art and we are the keepers of a sacred trust.
THANK YOU ESMERALDA FOR SHARING YOUR LOVE & PASSION WITH T.D.O.T. CONGRATS ON 30 YEARS XO
CHECK OUT SOME FOOTAGE OF ESMERALDA