Have you ever been so mesmerized by a culture that wasn’t your own that you aspire to honourary citizenship? Esmerelda Enrique is a dancer so enamoured with Spain that she’s written a passionate love letter to the country in the language of flamenco. Watching her rehearse this week for Letters to Spain at her Academy of Spanish Dance, it was impossible to miss the emotion colouring her performance. There are some pretty intense feelings at the centre of this homage to the country – Esmerelda grew up in Texas in what she describes as a poor family, dancing on her porch with dreams of going to Spain and becoming a flamenco dancer. She grew up with the sense that she’d never get to realize those wishes. Fast forward: she ended up there on a three-month trip that turned into, cumulatively, about 13 years of her life. Now, Spain’s very much a part of Esmerelda and her dancers, and Letters to Spain is her way of giving back. She opened up about the reasons behind her performance:
To romanticize a culture and find it lives up to your expectations is a rare thing. Spain became just as important to Esmerelda as she imagined it would be when she dreamed of it as a child. But she still identifies as an outsider, which is likely part of what connects her with a Spanish poet from the early twentieth century, Rafael Alberti. During his exile from Spain he wrote poems about his yearning for home, and the first half of Letters to Spain is a celebration of his work and that sense of separation from the culture you love:
Lest you think that Letters to Spain is about melancholy, be reassured that this truly is a celebration of everything Esmerelda and her company love dearly about Spain. And that feeling is something visible – Esmerelda points out that while the snapping and clapping and heel clicking of flamenco gives it its staccato rhythm, all of the emotion comes through in the face. So while you’re watching her performance, you’ll be able to see the joy. And you can take a cue from Spanish audiences and respond – let the dancers and musicians know that you’re taking this journey with them:
Letters to Spain is at Harbourfront Centre from Friday to Sunday – go to harbourfrontcentre.com for details.