At a studio on Vancouver Street in Victoria, Veronica Maguire is quietly building her own dynasty of dancers.
But they’re not the type of dancers that immediately spring to mind. Maguire is teaching dozens of dancers the art of flamenco.
Flamenco is an art form native to the Spanish regions of Andalusia, Extremadura and Murcia, and includes singing, guitar playing, dance, vocals, hand clapping and finger snapping.
For Maguire, it’s a life-long passion that began 43 years ago. She was a professional ballerina before she ventured into the world of flamenco dancing.
“Flamenco has a passion and is so addictive. It has a culture, the music is inspiring, the singing is inspiring, the passion, the energy that goes into it is very captivating,” said the Victoria resident, who referred to herself as the “grandmother” of flamenco in the city.
“When you have a bad day and you start doing flamenco, all of a sudden it becomes better. It’s because you’re able to express yourself. You can actually express what’s happening inside of you and portray it into the dance.”
To learn more, she travelled to Jerez de la Frontera, Spain to study the art form and over the years has made several pilgrimages to the city to see shows, take classes with some of the top flamenco dancers in the world and get inspired by the culture.
In the fall of 1990, Maguire and her late husband moved to Victoria and a year later decided to open the Alma de Espana Flamenco Dance Company.
Since then, the company has flourished with roughly 75 to 100 dancers enrolled in classes this year and has become one of the finest Spanish dance companies in North America.
This year, it’s celebrating its 25th anniversary.
While flamenco is rooted in Spanish culture, now it’s growing in popularity in Victoria, Maguire said.
“It’s just the culture (in Spain). Flamenco is not just a performance, it’s part of their lives. You can hear flamenco in the streets. You can hear flamenco everywhere, it has a long history with the dynasties of flamenco singers and families in Spain,” she said. “Here, we’re very new and we’re developing our own dynasty (in Victoria).”
Maguire and students in the company will be some of the many performers at the 4th annual Victoria Flamenco Festival from Aug. 1 to 7.
The festival, put on by the Flamenco de la Isla Society, includes local dancers and musicians, as well as artists from Vancouver and Toronto, who will perform in Centennial Square and Cameron Bandshell for free.
“I hope they (audiences) will be inspired. I hope they are entranced with the beauty of the dance and the music,” said festival coordinator Jan Bate, adding each year the number of people attending the festival continues to grow.
“It’s a lot like a live jazz show where all the musicians have a structure that everybody knows . . . but there’s a lot of room for improvisation. It’s very exciting.”
For more info visit victoriaflamencofestival.com.