Dance links cultures
Sula Boxall will perform with Flamenco Rosario in Flamenqueando on Sept. 17 at Vancouver Playhouse. (photo by Tim Matheson)
The Vancouver International Flamenco Festival Sept. 10-20 features a lineup of local and international flamenco artists – including local Jewish community member Sula Boxall.
Founded by Flamenco Rosario in 1990, the festival is apparently one the few devoted to flamenco outside of Spain. It features both free workshops and ticketed performances by several different groups and, this year, “celebrates flamenco’s Spanish Gypsy origins with the Vancouver première of Mercedes Amaya Company (Mexico/ Spain).”
Boxall will perform with Flamenco Rosario in Flamenqueando on Sept. 17, 8 p.m., at Vancouver Playhouse. They will open for Mercedes Amaya Company.
“I am honored that Rosario [Ancer] asked me to be a part of Flamenco Rosario’s performance on Sept. 17. These types of opportunities do not come along very often in Vancouver,” Boxall told the Independent. “It is an amazing opportunity to grow as a dancer and be a part of her creative process and experimentation. To be dancing in the same performance as the renowned Mercedes Amaya is humbling and intimidating. Being able to watch other performers and learn from them is a chance for professional development; I’m looking forward to the other performances and workshops that the festival has to offer.”
Boxall was born in Vancouver. “My parents had moved to Canada three years previously from South Africa,” she said. “I grew up in the Kitsilano area, attending Trafalgar Elementary and the Prince of Wales mini school. I moved to Victoria to study at UVic before continuing my studies at UBC. Currently, I am an elementary school teacher in Vancouver and teach children’s flamenco classes at Centro Flamenco.”
She has always wanted to dance.
“Since I was able to walk, I’ve been dancing,” she said. “When I was in preschool, I would create performances in my living room for my parents. I begged for dancing lessons until my parents agreed to start me in ballet at age 5. I continued to dance for the next 11 years. After a nine-year break from dancing, I was drawn back into it with flamenco. For the last eight years, it has grown into another important part of my identity. Dancing is something that is a part of me and I am a better person because of it.”
According to her bio, Boxall studied ballet, modern, jazz and character dance at Arts Umbrella. When she returned to dancing in 2008, “she found a way to renew her love of dance with flamenco at Centro Flamenco” and Ancer’s mentorship was “an integral part of her development as a dancer.”
Boxall started Flamenco Rosario’s three-year professional training program in 2010, she traveled to Spain in 2012 and studied there, she regularly attends workshops in Vancouver and, in 2013, she had her first solo performance. She regularly performs around Metro Vancouver, and also participated in the Vancouver International Flamenco Festival in 2014.
“Flamenco is an art form that has connections to many cultures, including the Jewish culture. I feel that my love of the traditional Jewish melodies is closely tied to my love of flamenco music,” said Boxall about why she is particularly drawn to this dance form.
“Having the opportunity to move and feel through flamenco dance allows me to express myself,” she added. “Flamenco is incredibly complex and diverse and demands lifelong learning. It takes years of study to understand flamenco and, even then, there is always more to learn. The challenge is what draws me to continue and work on improving my skills and understanding.”
As for other aspects of Judaism or Jewish culture that play a role in her life, Boxall said, “When I was growing up, I regularly attended the Peretz Centre in Vancouver. Through the Peretz, I was allowed to explore different parts of Judaism and gain a greater understanding of my cultural background. The culture, traditions and history continue to be very important to me and my identity, in particular the elements of family and community. With my family and friends, I continue to celebrate the holidays and enhance friendships in the Jewish community.
“I’ve especially been drawn to the music and the way it moves my soul. My mother gave me a large book of Jewish music for Chanukah years ago and I continue to find joy in learning new songs.”
It is interesting to connect the secular humanist philosophy of the Peretz Centre with the way in which the weeklong flamenco festival is described on its website. Since it began, the festival has “grown to a mature understanding of Vancouver’s multicultural audiences by nurturing the form’s hybridized roots in Sephardic, Persian, Gypsy and Indian cultures, and by striving to reflect and connect its diverse sociocultural identity through work narratives underlining flamenco’s universal message of humanistic tolerance.”
For tickets and information about the Vancouver International Flamenco Festival, visit vancouverflamencofestival.org or call 604-568-1273.