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Flamenco-based dance company Pasión y Arte (PyA) heralds spring with a free, outdoor celebration featuring food and dance, modeled on the famous Feria de Abril festival in Sevilla, Spain. Traditionally held during Santa Semana, or the Holy Week of Easter, Sevilla’s Feria de Abril began as an agricultural event that evolved into a large community celebration. Artistic and executive director and PyA founder Elba Hevia y Vaca explained that “it grew to be a very large event,” taking up 24 blocks with people dancing sevillanas—a form of Spanish folk dance—around the clock.
Dancing all night
Hevia y Vaca attended several of these events in Sevilla, and “got so inspired by this experience,” she said. “The idea of dancing all day and all night with people you love is fantastical.” The sevillana has Castillian roots, and it has become a folkloric dance of the Andalusian people. The dance’s four coplas, or parts, may include props such as castanets or a shawl called a manton. “The four coplas are very specific” despite regional variations, Hevia y Vaca explained. And unlike flamenco, the sevillana is a partner dance.
During the beginning of Covid-19, Hevia y Vaca began teaching sevillanas virtually. “We flamenco-ized it,” she said, since PyA’s performances, classes, and workshops focus on flamenco. The sevillanas group she created at PyA later performed virtually in the Fringe Festival. “I had 50 participants from all over the country,” she recalled. “Now we’re going to gather and dance sevillanas” to celebrate spring and being together in person again.
Hevia y Vaca founded PyA in 2000 with a vision of creating feminist flamenco works by women, for women. Her goal is for women “to be the protagonists of our own stories, not objectified by others, and [to experience] a safe environment of learning in the studio as well.” Hevia y Vaca added that she loves to “make flamenco relevant to me as an artist” and to create narratives in her works, which traditional flamenco does not include.
Now, PyA brings the same spirit of tradition, innovation, and connection to its Feria de Abril. Hevia y Vaca hopes it will become an annual event that grows each year. Participants will learn the four coplas of the sevillana from Hevia y Vaca and PyA company manager Elba Cena Zarate. Don’t want to dance? You can clap to the rhythm, or simply enjoy the dancing, music, and tapas. The free event is BYOB. Wear your celebration finery and bring a dish to share as you celebrate springtime, Spanish style, with Pasión y Arte.
What, When, Where
Feria de Abril. Presented by Pasión y Arte. Free, BYOB, and bring a dish to share. April 30, 2023, 1-4pm at Pasión y Arte, 6411 Overbrook Avenue, Philadelphia. pasionyarteflamenco.org.
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