Hispanic arts festival is an olé lot of fun

Hispanic arts festival is an olé lot of fun

Posted on : 30/09/2009

The Evening News

Hispanic arts festival is an olé lot of fun

Published Date: 30 September 2009

By HAZEL MOLLISON

FLAMENCO dancers, Cuban musicians and salsa bands are preparing to bring a little sunshine into a grey Scottish autumn.

The city's biggest ever Hispanic festival will kick off next week, with a series of special events to promote Spanish and Latin American culture.

The festival, now in its fifth year, has expanded from three days to two weeks. Highlights include the
UK premiere of an award-winning Spanish flamenco company at the Queen's Hall, and dance workshops for people of all ages.

Artistic director
Maria Conte, who runs Hispanic Arts Scotland, came up with the idea to promote understanding between the cultures. She hopes to raise the profile of the city's 33,000-strong Spanish and Latin American community.

She said: "This has grown a lot in four years. We've now got international flamenco companies interested in coming to
Scotland. There's a big Spanish and Latin American community here, but we don't often have a very high profile. The aim of the festival is to help people integrate better, and celebrate our culture."

"We're definitely aiming to get a bigger audience this year. It's a chance for people to enjoy a flavour of a different culture."

Ms Conte, who has been a dance teacher in
Scotland for more than 20 years, is running the festival with her business partner, Ana Cabrera, and a team of other enthusiasts.

She said they had been disappointed not to secure a main sponsor this year, but many local businesses had chipped in to offer cash or use of their venues. "We've managed not only to survive, but to aim higher," she added.

The festival will kick off with a fundraising night at the Jazz Bar, on Chambers Street, on Thursday 8 October. This will include music and poetry from Spanish, Chilean and Scottish performers.

The world-famous Leonor Leal Flamenco Dance Company will perform at the Queen's Hall on Saturday, 17 October.

The next day there will be a series of dance workshops at Dance Base, in the Grassmarket, ranging in style from traditional Spanish to Afro-Cuban. The finale will be Noche Cubana: Ay Caramba! at the Caves, on Friday 23 October, featuring the city premiere of Lino Rocha's eight-piece band El Salsón, as well as DJs and a salsa band. Prizes will be given for the best Cuban outfits.

Steve Cardownie, the city's festivals and events champion, was pleased to see the Hispanic festival becoming an established part of the city's calendar. He said: "This is a great way to help foster understanding between different cultures in the city. It's good for young people, who might not have the opportunity to go abroad, to experience a different culture in this way.

"We've already got a well established Mela, which is primarily Asian culture, and we've now got a Polish festival as well. The fact the Spanish community are doing the same is great. I'd encourage other groups to consider if there's space in the calendar to extol the virtues of their culture."

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