A Larne native who works as a dance promoter in Malaga has described the local public’s reaction to his flamenco shows as “fantastic.”
Flamenco dance promoter Les Baird brought The Flamenco Show, directed and choreographed by renowned Spanish dancer Vicente Renero, from its Iberian home to East Antrim with two performances in Larne and Ballymena earlier this month.
The performances marked the dance company’s first visit to Northern Ireland to perform flamenco, a dance originating in Andalusia in southern Spain.
The folk dance involves the combination of several art forms including cante (singing), toque (guitar-playing), baile (dancing) and palmas (handclaps).
The flamenco style is renowned for its emotional flamboyance and intensity. Les told The Times: “The reception of the Flamenco shows was great in both venues, they had standing ovations at every performance.
“Some people actually returned to see all shows bringing their family and friends. The ultimate compliment really!”
The Larne man said that the company was impressed by the warm and enthusiastic welcome of the East Antrim public. He continued: “People cheered at the end of every number. As they left the theatres I was on the door every night to thank them for their support.
“Every single person said how beautiful and vibrant the costumes were, how professional the dancers and musicians were, and that it was the best £25 they had ever spent. All very positive!”
In addition to his passion for flamenco, Les is also an enthusiastic Irish dancer, a skill which he learned at the tender age of three-and-a-half from his mother Patricia Mullholland.
It was therefore particularly special to Les that he was able to combine his visit with the flamenco tour with a personal project in his mother’s memory.
After losing his mother to illness, Les determined to stage an Irish dancing exhibition for charity at Larne Town Hall to celebrate her
He explained: “My mother was an Irish dancer and her influence and love of dancing saw no boundaries. Then after losing her suddenly four years ago to illness I decided to do something in her memory.
“I had been looking for something to do in her memory for four years, and apart from two memorial statues that were presented to two dance festivals in Belfast and Stuttgart I had come up against a brick wall with what to do. Then I started wondering what people did with their old redundant costumes lying at the back of their wardrobes.
“Also as most families has been touched by cancer I thought it a good, productive idea to give the entrance door monies to the NI Hospice and Macmillan nurses.
“When I emailed my friends and contacts in the Irish Dance world the response was fantastic. It will keep growing and I have already been approached by other Borough Councils to have it placed in other towns.”
Around 300 people visited the collection, which displayed around 130 costumes donated by Irish Dancers, their parents and teachers.
Les continued: “The reaction was amazing, people travelled up from Dublin, Derry/ Londonderry, Portadown, all over the province. Many of the dance world thought it was a fantastic trip down memory lane.
“The lady from the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, where they have a small exhibition about Irish dancing, popped in on the last day and said our exhibition was stunning.”
The exhibition, which closed on January 17, has raised £800 which will be split equally between Macmillan nurses and the Northern Ireland Hospice.
Les says he “definitely” thinks that more shows need to visit the East Antrim area.
However, flamenco fans may not have long to wait before they witness a repeat performance.
When asked whether he would consider bringing the show back to East Antrim for another tour, Les exclusively revealed that his company is already in talks regarding the possibility of returning next year.