Rachel James is the newest member of the Maria Osende Flamenco Dance Co. A seasoned professional flamenco dancer, Rachel made flamenco the primary focus of her professional life years ago and has been a wonderful asset to our flamenco community, since moving to Nova Scotia in 2018. Rachel soon started teaching at Maria’s dance school and in 2020 she took over the coordination of the school’s student dance group “For the Love of Flamenco”, led by the amazing Linda Palmer for over a decade. Rachel will be continuing to teach with Flamenco School Maria Osende both online and in the studio.
In January 2021, Rachel started working as the arts administrator for Atlantic Flamenco, so as well as being on stage and in class, she gets to contribute to our community behind the scenes too!
Rachel is an experienced Flamenco dancer and has performed in a variety of venues across Canada. Rachel began her Flamenco career as an assistant teacher and company dancer with Ritmo Flamenco in Toronto. More recently Rachel has danced as part of Maria Osende Flamenco Company and as a teacher with Flamenco School Maria Osende. As Rachel began her dance education as an adult, she particularly enjoys teaching adult students. She understands the unique challenges that come with pursuing your passion slightly later than expected!
What is your relationship with Nova Scotia (born here, moved etc)?
I moved here a few years ago.
What brought you to Maria Osende Flamenco Company?
I got in touch with Maria about classes when I arrived in Nova Scotia and she invited me to perform in one of her shows, which was great.
What do you remember about your first encounter with Flamenco?
I remember seeing clips of flamenco dancing on television when I was young.I thought it was so clever, how they made lots of different rhythms with their feet. Also the music was beautiful.
What prompted you to study flamenco?
I had always wanted to learn to dance but growing up in rural south Wales didn’t give me many opportunities for dance classes. A few months after I arrived in Canada, I took my first flamenco class and I was completely hooked right from the beginning.
What do you love about Flamenco?
I love its multidisciplinary nature and honesty of expression.
Which Flamenco artists inspire you the most and why?
I love the dancers that let their big personalities shine on stage. La Truco, Israel and Pastora Galvan, Rocio Molina, La Lupi. Of course I also take a lot of inspiration from my most significant teachers and mentors, Valerie, Anjelica and Roger Scannura in Toronto and Maria Osende here in Nova Scotia. They are all very talented performers and I’ve gained important lessons and insight from every one of them. Plus numerous other artists both here and in Spain.
Are there any challenges you faced along the way? What did you do to move forward?
I started my dance training in my mid-twenties and I found it incredibly challenging. I quickly realised that I had to commit to a lot more practice outside of class to be able to advance. Dancing never came easily for me, but I knew I would see some progress if I worked hard.
What do you think is the most important attribute or skill to have to progress in Flamenco?
Determination, curiosity and a love of the process.
Do you remember the first time you performed in a Flamenco show? How did it go?
It was a student show in Toronto. I was so nervous my legs felt like spaghetti, but I survived and it was a great bonding experience with my fellow classmates.
What is your favourite Flamenco memory (eg studying, watching, performing)?
The first time I was able to dance in a class that had a flamenco singer. It was a new connection to the music that I had never been aware of before.
Anything else memorable about your flamenco journey that you would like to share?
A few years back, I also started teaching flamenco dance. I especially love teaching the brand new and beginner students. It’s wonderful to watch their skills and confidence develop.
How have you stayed connected to Flamenco during the last year of quarantine and distancing?
I’ve been teaching and taking flamenco classes online, interacting with and learning from people all over the world.
Any current or future projects you would like to tell us about?
Hopefully something towards the end of this year as things start back up again. I also teach intro and beginner level classes online regularly through Flamenco School Maria Osende. In September I will be teaching in the studio again too.
What do you do outside of Flamenco in your day-to-day life?
I recently started work as the arts administrator for Atlantic Flamenco, so that has been keeping me busy. It’s interesting to be able to contribute to the local dance community in a different way.
Do you have any other interests (and do they contribute to your progress/success with your Flamenco speciality)?
I learned some musical instruments when I was a child, which I think helps with picking up rhythms in flamenco. During lockdown, I started taking regular online ballet classes with Maria, who is an exceptional ballet dancer and teacher (as well as flamenco!). It’s something I have always wanted to do and I also met a lovely bunch of people in the process.