Mozaico Flamenco's Kasandra "La China" spreads joy and happiness in troubled times

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      Flamenco is hot and can be unpredictable. According to the artistic director of Vancouver-based Mozaico Flamenco, Kasandra “La China”, that’s because it’s a live art form that thrives on the interaction of a guitarist, singers, hand clappers, and the dancer.

      “A lot of it is improvised in the moment,” she told the Straight by phone. “The audience is a huge part of what we do.”

      But when there’s a ban on live events and audiences are forbidden from attending venues due to the pandemic, this entails improvisation of a different form. And “La China” is hoping that her solution—a prerecorded production of three celebratory solos offered through the Dance Centre—will still bring her fans to their feet, albeit from the comfort of their own homes.

      “La China” stressed that she stayed away from the deeply profound numbers that flamenco is famous for.

      “I thought it would be too depressing,” she said.

      Instead, she will open with “Tangos del Titi”. For this cheeky performance, she will don a bright yellow dress and an equally bright red hat. “Titi” has many meanings in Spanish, “La China” said, but in this instance it refers to a person’s aunt.

      Next, she’ll perform an alegria from the beach town of Cadiz, which is often the first port of call in Europe for cruise ships.

      “Alegria means joy and happiness,” she noted.

      Both of these performances will feature Peter Mole on guitar and Maria Avila as the singer.

      Video: Watch the trailer for Mozaico Flamenco's upcoming performance as part of the Discover Dance! series.

      Her final number will be an original composition by Cuban-born musical artist Josué Tacoronte, who has been playing for “La China” for years. She said that this will be a “Colombianas”, which is inspired by Colombia and tells the story of Spaniards who travelled to and from that part of the world.

      “We usually don’t do it in Vancouver because it requires expertise from Latin American countries,” she explained. “I have a piece from him that’s four minutes.”

      “La China” revealed that this one will feature her rapid footwork along with percussion and a big Chinese fan tail. So it will be up to videographer Chris Randle to pull all of “La China’s” moves together in the editing bay.

      “This is going to be more of a technological feat, because I cut multiple versions of myself dancing,” she said.

      “La China” is grateful that the Dance Centre, the Shadbolt Centre, and Small Stage have continued supporting flamenco performances despite the pandemic. She contrasted this with the situation in Spain, where COVID-19 has delivered a devastating blow to this art form.

      “I actually think the industry is quite decimated because they’re in the third wave there,” she said. “And the government ceases to support it in any way.”

      That has resulted in the closure of famous Spanish flamenco venues, which means some of the world’s best musicians and dancers are now unemployed.

      “So we’re seeing a lot of them turn to carpentry and trades now, which is quite depressing,” she said. “Here in Vancouver, I feel like the dance scene is trying to maintain a sense of vibrancy as much as it possibly can.”