“Caravan” Merges Middle Eastern and Flamenco Dance


Cordoba city of lights and contrasts;
A melting pot of cultures and architectural influences
From the gypsy duende to the Moorish mysticism, and the Jewish streets
Wherein old ghosts rise under the clapping of Flamenco singers, dancers, and guitarists

-Antonio Palomo-La Marca, 2005

In the mid eighth century, Abd Al-Rahman left his Ummayad Muslim family in Damascus and set out across the North African desert searching for a place that would replicate his beloved home Syria.

His travels led him to a region known as Al-Andalus and a city known as Qurtuba. Spain. We know these places now as Andalucia and Cordoba in southren Spain. Traveling to the Alhambra and to Cordoba, it is easy to see why Abd Al-Rahman liked this region so much. Palm trees and orange groves suffuse the city of Seville that the Qualdiquiver River runs through. The flamenco dancers and music fill the Triana neighborhood there.

The period, which Abd Al-Rahman began, was known as the covivencia, the golden age of Spain, a time when Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived side by side. They influenced one another in art, music, poetry, architecture, and culture. Tt is believed that this is when Flamenco dance and music began.

This is the period Twin Cities dancer Colette Marie Illarde and Margo Abdu O’ Dell is trying to capture in their new work Caravan: from Cairo to Cordoba, takes place this weekend at the Varsity Theatre. Illarde and her husband Scott Mateo Davies have been doing Flamenco in the Twin cities for 10 years with their group called Fuego Flamenco.Director of Margo’s Mideast Dance studies, O’Dell teaches dance and has previously worked with Illarde and Davies. Here they are collaborating to create a time, which echoes of Medieval Spain. Through their dances, they aim to reveal how each of the cultures influenced one another.

“ It wasn’t about doing our dances separately. But really collaborating to create a third thing which includes both Middle Eastern and Flamenco movements,” says Illarde. One such dance is called zambra, a “Moorish Dance”, performed by the Spanish Gypsies. It has both the fluidity of a Middle Eastern dance and the staccato precision of Flamenco.

“One theory is that the dances were born out of geography. Since I do percussive movements with my feet, I couldn’t have done that on sand. Margo accents the rhythms with her hips,” jokes Colette as she talks about the differences and similarities of both dances

Zambra is performed against the backdrop of eight musicians singing and performing North African Rai music, Flamenco guitar, the dumbek, the violin, and the oud.. All of these instruments combined, create a lush sound that makes one feel they are truly in Algeria, or Cairo, but at the same time doing Flamenco movements while swiveling your hips.
The cast of musicians includes people from all over the Middle East: Oran Algeria, Cairo Egypt, Goulimine Morocco, and Cordoba Spain.

The cast of Caravan invites you to yell yallah! and ole! after their performance.

Caravan: From Cairo to Cordoba will play at the Varsity Theatre Friday at 7:30, Saturday 7:30 and Sunday at 3pm
Ticket prices are $20 for adults and $16 for students, seniors, and under 12.
The Varsity is located at 1308 4th St. SE in Minneapolis
To reserve tickets call 612.604.0222
For more information go to www.fuegoflamenco.com or www.margo1.com