“Risk is the only way we know we are alive”: Hot-Blooded Flamenco with Kasandra La China

“Risk is the only way we know we are alive”: Hot-Blooded Flamenco with Kasandra La China

Coming in hot! Arts Whistler Live! gets a little spicy with some of the hottest, most passionate flamenco dancing sure to transport you to the romance and heat of southern Spain. Pack your bags for this “vacation via dance” for La Tarara, May 6, at Arts Whistler Live!

My two left feet make it difficult to cut a rug on the dance floor, let alone to buy flamenco shoes.

That’s where Kasandra La China comes in. As elegant as she is passionate, I spoke with Kasandra to find out more about the passion and history behind the dance of flamenco.

For people that don’t know a lot about flamenco, tell us a bit about the dance.

Flamenco originates from Jerez de la Frontera, a town in the South of Spain. The origins are from the Gitano aka Roma people aka Gypsy, not the Spaniards. The dance was born out of tragedy and oppression and flamenco perhaps is most famed for deep profound song, like the Solea. In this art form, the cante or song is revered. The dance interprets the song. True flamenco is an interplay between dancer, singer, guitarist, and palmero (hand clapping). It is very spontaneous, raw, and much is improvised. Our dancer Ivan Vargas comes from a gypsy dynasty “Los Maya” from Granada. Born in the caves of Sacromonte, he was born into a flamenco family and has been dancing all his life.


On the other side, Spanish dance, folk dance, Spanish ballet was originally for the aristocracy. The dancers are well trained in the academy and move onto perform in the National Ballet of Spain. They are highly trained in contemporary, ballet, folk, bolera, Spanish, and flamenco. This is the background of Emilio Ochando, our other guest dancer and six-time choreographic award winner. (The difference, you will see, but one is sweaty passionate emotional dancer. The other is more intellectual, contemporary and trained.)

Tell us a bit about the history of flamenco dancing?

Flamenco originally was from the gitanos that lived along the Guadilquivir River that runs through the south of Spain.  It was born of the cante or song. There are many song forms with different time signatures. The dance was originally informal, done in parties, family gatherings and weddings, etc.  It was not until about 100 years ago that the flamenco shoe with nails in toes and heels were created.


Where did you start your dancing career?

I started in 1995 with Oscar Nieto and Mozaico Flamenco in Vancouver, BC in my adulthood.  Passionate about flamenco, I have made eight trips to Spain studying for 1-3 months at a time and have studied in Madrid, Jerez de la Frontera and Seville with many flamenco masters over two decades.

What advice do you have for someone looking to be a professional dancer?

Flamenco is very musical, so it is important to study music as much as the dance.  It is important to diligently practice dance technique and choreography in the studio, but when it comes time to dance with a live cuadro, it is with reckless abandon that we dance flamenco. Risk is the only way we know we are alive.

What can people expect from the show?

People are in for a great treat because Ivan Vargas and Emilio Ochando are two of the hottest male dancers in Spain right now.  We have feisty duos with these guys, romantic duets between myself and each of them, percussive conversations and world class music.  It is a very high octane show.  Our musical director, Gaspar Rodriguez, has produced over a dozen full length productions that have toured the world and our singer Vicente Griego is one of the best singers in the USA.


Expect feisty duos, romantic duets, hot-blooded flamenco, and world class music at La Tarara. Come early to grab a drink at the bar and explore the Teeny Tiny Show in The Gallery. Tickets available at artswhistler.com

Get Tickets!


by Jillian van der Geest


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