Monique Salez and Co. at the Atrium

Hats off to Lorna Harris, a friend and supporter of Dance Victoria and Victoria’s best organizer of social events. Last Friday, my partner Bill and I met Lorna and a dozen other friends who had travelled on the Dance Victoria tour to Spain in 2012 at Zambri’s Italian restaurant. There we were led to a long table set in the beautiful courtyard of Victoria’s Atrium building. There’s a very special quality about the Atrium. It’s deceptive in a way. One feels as they are dining al fresco, an illusion created in part by the glass roof overhead, a wall of windows soaring four stories on the south end of the building and the trees planted near the middle of the space.

Monique Salez
Monique Salez

We had all gathered for a prix fixe dinner before a performance by flamenco dancer, teacher, signer, drummer Monique Salez. The fourteen of us guests had bonded on our 16-day trip to Madrid, Grenada, Sevilla and Jerez de la Frontera two years ago. Since then the friendships have continued to grow. Many of the women at Friday’s dinner and performance were draped in beautiful mantillas they had purchased in Spain.

After a delicious dinner we were escorted to the opposite end of the Atrium where we sat in front row seats. There, on a tiny stage we were entertained by four or five dancers, including Salez, a wonderful guitarist (Jake Lee) and soulful singer Haida Guchie. It was enthralling, to be just feet away from committed artists, interpreting the music in a very authentic way. It brought back memories of Spain, and the tiny sweaty flamenco clubs where the performers bare their souls night after night. Salez and guitarist Lee had spoken to our group at the table before the performance, explaining the subtle regional differences between the dances we would see, the insight adding to our appreciation of the art form.

I couldn’t help but think, once again, about how fortunate we are to live in this city where dance is thriving on so many levels. Thank you Lorna Harris for your commitment to culture and your awesome ability to bring friends together. And congrats to Flamenco de la Isla, producers of Victoria’s multi-venue Flamenco Festival.