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Wednesday, December 13, 2017


(Linda Vargas & Demi Fernandez. Pic by Val Adamson)

The Linda Vargas Spanish Dance Company has become a well-established institution of Durban. Since its inception 35 years ago, the company has used innovation, creativity and the highest standards of professionalism to build a loyal and extensive following of Spanish dance in South Africa – whilst developing a style and ethos that is also unique to Durban, where all its performers have come from.

In 2017, the Linda Vargas Flamenco Dance Company began celebrating its 35th Anniversary with a guest appearance in the 25th Anniversary Shall We Dance production. The company continue their year-long celebration, with their annual showcase at the UKZN Centre for Jazz and Popular Music: Memorias Flamenca from December 14 to 17.

The celebrations will culminate in their 35th Anniversary Gala production at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre in July 2018. This Gala production will be a celebration of the Linda Vargas Company's 35 years of creativity and will bring together the best in terms of dancers, musicians and choreography. It will explore the diverse range of the company repertoire both musically and stylistically and will showcase the legacy and contribution that this company has achieved since its inception 35 years ago.

Memorias Flamenca will begin taking audiences down memory lane as we look back at our legacy of 35 years. The show will include fresh interpretations of previous highlights, some old favourites, as well as new contemporary choreographies. Memorias Flamenca sees the launch of Linda Vargas’s new young dancers’ project: Siyanda (isiZulu for “we are expanding”). The show will also include guest appearances by members of the Flamenco Del Sur Company from Cape Town – headed by Linda’s sister Juana Vargas. There are only four performances, which usually sell out very quickly, so book early to avoid this treat not to be missed!

Memorias Flamenca will once again be backed by Demi Fernandez and Neil Gonsalves, these world renowned musicians in their own right who will also present new musical arrangements alongside the dance. Their unique style and talent continue to leave audiences spellbound. They are joined by Bryan Stone on percussion and feature live singing by Gemma Schumann. It will be a joyous exploration of the past and the future which remains grounded in the company’s rich legacy to dance in South Africa.

In the early years, the Linda Vargas Company included a variety of styles of Spanish Dance in their productions, including classical, neo classical, regional and flamenco. Subsequently the company became more specialised in flamenco. They began their journey in great opera productions at The Playhouse Theatre in Durban and the State Theatre in Pretoria. Linda was invited to choreograph and perform in the international production of Carmen, where she worked with the world renowned director of the London Opera, Sir Michael Rennison. Linda and her company produced their first major production at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre where they were invited to perform as part of the Federico Garcia Lorca Festival in 1986. Subsequently the company was invited to participate in the grand opening of the Playhouse Theatre Complex in the mid 80’s, from where they produced numerous productions in association with the Playhouse Theatre over the 35 years.

The multicultural fusion of music and dance which gave rise to flamenco stands testament to the power and beauty of cultural fusion in art and inspired their choreography and production of Desert Flowers at the Playhouse Drama Theatre in 2004. This production received critical acclaim for its pioneer work in fusion of dance styles. It comprised a cast of over 30 dancers from Indian, African, Classical Ballet and Flamenco genres. Demi Fernandez composed the original music score which was performed by Durban’s leading musicians. The Linda Vargas Company has continued to include fusion choreography in its more recent productions while always remaining true to the original essence and purity of the Spanish Classical and Flamenco forms.

Linda and Company have made rich contributions to the Dance culture in Durban and have toured South Africa extensively. They have participated in numerous collaborative productions with The Playhouse Dance Company, NAPAC, PACT, and CAPAB, Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre, Fantastic Flying Fish Dance Company, Mercedes Molina Spanish Dance Theatre and the annual Shall We Dance showcase. Linda has worked with renowned choreographers such as David Gouldie, Ashley Killar, Mark Hawkins, Hazel Acosta, Gerard Samuel, Jay Pather, Neville Letard, Rhoda Rivkind, and Mavis Becker. Linda and her company have been invited numerous times to perform for the Spanish Embassy in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Pretoria, and Cape Town. They have participated in numerous outreach projects and educational workshops at schools and continue to promote Dance and Culture at every opportunity.

Neil Gonsalves holds a Master’s degree in Music and currently lectures at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He has performed in various national music festivals with numerous South Africa jazz and Afro-beat luminaries as well as his own band, Tonk. He has also toured internationally, including a four-year stint as part of Johnny Clegg’s band. He has released a solo album North Facing which represents a blend of modern South African and Nordic Jazz.

Demi Fernandez was born in Brazil of Spanish parents and spent many years living and performing in Flamenco Tablaos in Spain. Demi has also appeared as leading flamenco guitarist with numerous South African and international Spanish Dance companies.  He is resident guitarist for the Linda Vargas Flamenco Dance Company and Alianza Flamenca. He has composed musical scores for several SABC TV productions and also appeared in numerous productions including Guitars for Africa in Durban and at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival. He currently lectures in the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Jazz programme.

Memorias Flamenca runs at the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music on the UKZN’s Howard College campus from December 14 to 17, 2017. Performances are nightly at 19h00 and on Sunday, December 17 at 15h00. Entrance fee R130 (R100 students / pensioners). Bookings through Linda on: or 031 201 0750 (mornings only). Tickets are limited for each performance so advanced booking is advised to avoid disappointment.