ESPAÑA 50 – The Spanish Dance Society’s 50th Anniversary Celebration Performance @JoburgTheatre

The Spanish Dance Society will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a show, España 50 at The Fringe, Joburg Theatre on October 17 and 18, 2015.

The programme will feature guest artist, Angel Muñoz, one of Spain’s most recognised Flamenco dancers and teacher; the works of nine leading choreographers from Gauteng, Cape Town and Durban and a 54 dancer-strong company from the Spanish Dance Society, as well as invited dancers from Alianza Flamenca – all renowned for bringing the power, passion and virtuosity of the art of Flamenco to South African audiences.

The programme will comprise, not only Flamenco dancing, but also an item of Danza Estilizada (Classical Spanish dance) and a variety of Regional dances. Apart from performing two solos during the show, Muñoz will be choreographing a number with selected dancers taking part in the course (a Flamenco dance course will be conducted in both Johannesburg and Cape Town), as a rousing finale to the show.

Muñoz, who has captured the attention of audiences and critics around the world, began his studies with Inmaculada Luque in his native Cordoba. As a student at the Conservatory of Dance he performed with Javier Latorre’s Ziryab Dance and since then has travelled with many international artists. In 1994 he won the prize “La Mejorana” in the National Contest of Flamenco Art in Cordoba. He was principal dancer with the companies of Jose Antonio, and Maria Pages in Spain and with Maria Benitez in the USA. He is the principal dancer and guest artist with the Paco Peña Company and he has created choreographies for his own company; for collaborations with the guitarist Victor Monge, “Serranito” and with Juan Manuel Cañizares, with whom he has released a record. He was in the Zeffirelli movie Callas Forever and performs often in London, America and throughout Europe and Asia. He previously worked with Flamenco Vivo in 1996 and 2010.

The Spanish Dance Society, formed to promote and preserve the art of Spanish dancing in all its forms, was founded by the late Mercedes Molina and Rhoda Rivkind in 1965 and is now an internationally recognised society which offers a syllabus (taught worldwide) for the recreational and professional study of Spanish dance. Rivkind was initially appointed the Society Secretary, but then became the Executive Administrator, a position which she still holds today; other key founder members were Marina Keet, Geoffrey Neiman, Mavis Becker, Hazel Acosta, Deanna Blacher, Theo Dantes, Madame Gitanilla, Bernard Lyle, Fiona Rodel, and Bernice Lloyd. After the death of Molina in 1978, The Mercedes Molina Spanish Dance Theatre continued into the early ‘80s with Geoffrey Neiman, Rhoda Rivkind and Hazel Acosta contributing to its artistic direction. The company closed in October 1982.

This production and Muñoz’ visit, has been made possible with the support of The Embassy of Spain and Vega Instruments SA (Pty) Ltd.

España 50 takes place at The Fringe, Joburg Theatre, on Saturday, October 17 at 3pm and 7.30pm and on Sunday, October 18 at 3pm and 6.30pm.

The Spanish Dance Society was formed by senior teachers from Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. At the suggestion of Ivy Conmee, an examiner for the Royal Academy of Dance, a syllabus was created by founding members Mercedes Molina, Rhoda Rivkind and Madame Gitanilla, from Johannesburg, Mavis Becker, Deanna Blacher and Marina Keet from Cape Town, and Theo Dantes and Bernie Lyle from Durban. Later Enrique Segovia set the boys syllabus and other professionals contributed to the development of the organisation. The basic components of Spanish dance, including the existing Escuela Bolera exercises and dances, were arranged into a method to teach the technique of Spanish dancing.

The founders had all studied with reputable Spanish teachers and/or performed with well-known Spanish dance companies. They based the exercises on the work of these teachers and set the standard as that needed in a Spanish dance company. The pupil is prepared with basic components that comprise the dances. The technique is broken down into castanet playing, steps, footwork, arm movements and various different types of turns, which are taught progressively in a series of seven graded junior levels and three senior levels, each examination culminating in the presentation of two or three dances of regional, classical or flamenco styles.There is also a pure flamenco syllabus, if the dancer wishes to study that exclusively. Most students follow both syllabi. The ensuing three examinations for training a teacher are comprised of knowledge of all the prior work, the theory and historical background plus an understanding of the music, dance psychology and anatomy. The final examination for teachers also includes the Pericet Escuela Bolera syllabus and dances, as codified by Marina Keet based on her classes with Eloy Pericet in Madrid. Syllabus books, theory and recorded music are available to accompany the syllabus. This Spanish Dance Society has spread worldwide, and at present is taught in Australia, Canada, Cyprus, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Malta, Mexico, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, the USA and Spain.

The aim of the Society is to promote interest in the art of Spanish dance, pursuing excellence in presentation, execution and instruction. Examinations are conducted annually in each centre by external examiners. The Society provides free revision classes in the main centres for the teachers after each examination session, of which there are often two per year in some countries. The Society’s syllabus is used in degree courses in South Africa and the USA.

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