Flamenco dream: West Van dancer returns home as member of Madrid ensemble

- Domingo Ortega Flamenco's Y Enamorarse (Falling in Love), Kay Meek Centre, Saturday, April 28 at 8 p.m. Tickets: $55 www.kaymeekcentre.com or 604-913-3634.

THE tape had been smuggled into the country.

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It was a Riverdance videocassette, and the celebration of Irish dancing, like all remnants of the West, was not welcome in Iran.

"Back then, we didn't have anything from the west, so all the videos we got . . . they secretly brought it to Iran," recalls Delara Tiv.

Huddled around the family television set in Tehran, 11-year-old Tiv watched as flamenco star Maria Pages took the stage.

Pages' movements were strong and sensual, and much like the scent of bitter almonds can stir memories of unrequited love, that first forbidden glimpse of flamenco stirred something in Delara Tiv.

"I never knew how to reach flamenco, it was just something really exotic, beautiful, but out of reach for me," she says.

Tiv, now 26, is scheduled to take the stage with Domingo Ortega Flamenco on Saturday, April 28 at the Kay Meek Centre.

Not long after seeing the tape, Tiv and her family left Iran for West Vancouver. "My mom especially worried about me, because she didn't want me to grow up as a woman in Iran and not be free," Tiv says.

Adjusting to the elements in her new home proved to be Tiv's first challenge. "It rained for three days non-stop when we had first come. It was a phenomenon for me because in Iran we get rain but it's just like for 30 minutes and it stops," Tiv says.

Besides the rain. Tiv had to adjust to a new school and a new life.

"To tell you the truth, it was the most difficult time of my life, I think," she says. Besides an Iranian accent and limited English, Tiv was beset with the selfconsciousness that afflicts most 11-year-olds who find themselves in an unfamiliar classroom.

"I didn't feel accepted," she recalls of her first years in Canada.

But while her days were a struggle, her nights kindled musical memories of Iran. Tiv's father was a chemical engineer with a passion for the sitar.

"Every night he would come home from work, he would grab his instrument and practise for hours and hours. So I always had his playing in my ear," Tiv says.

While music and dance were a staple of family life, Tiv could sense her love of movement exceeding the familial boundaries.

"It wasn't something that you would dedicate your life to," she says. "In my culture and family. . . the way to live is: everybody has to go to university and before even finishing your bachelor's (degree) you're already looking into grad school, your thesis and honours essay, that's just how life is."

Tiv was set to graduate from West Vancouver secondary and attend the University of British Columbia. when flamenco stamped back into her life.

Seven years after Tiv saw that illicit videotape, her mother returned from Kino Café on Cambie Street with tales of Vancouver flamenco.

"I waited until I got into university and I paid for all my flamenco classes with my student loan," Tiv says.

Tiv studied human geography during brief respites from flamenco classes, and after a university exchange program took her to Spain, she decided to forge a new life as a dancer.

It didn't last long.

Much like a salesman's career can be crippled by laryngitis, a dancer is only as healthy as her feet.

Shortly after settling in Spain, Tiv injured her right foot.

"I couldn't walk, I couldn't work, I couldn't even clean up my room, so I was desperate to come back so my parents bought me a ticket and they're like, 'OK good, now you're coming home and you're going to finish your degree,'" Tiv recalls. "I was kind of scared because I said, 'Oh my god, if I dedicate my life to dance and something like this happens, that means I will die from hunger.'"

Tiv returned to Canada and to the life her parents had mapped out for her.

"I felt like I was in this river. That the flow of it was taking me," she recalls.

Tiv graduated from UBC with a double major in human geography and Spanish literature.

Having contemplated the work of authors like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Julio Cortazar, Tiv earned a scholarship to study for a master's degree at McGill University in Montreal.

In the midst of Tiv's studies her foot healed and she started to hear a percussive siren luring her back to Spain.

"I really liked literature, but I like to dance more than studying literature so I just thought I was fooling myself and I wasn't being honest and sincere. And I felt like a coward for doing that to myself. . . .

I just called one of our family friends, an old man, and I told him how I was feeling, and he actually said, 'Be honest with yourself and do what you love. Because you will regret it if you don't do it now.' And I said, 'OK, well, I'm leaving. When my parents come back, tell them.'" Tiv says.

Asked how her parents took the news, Tiv laughs. "I didn't tell them. They were traveling in Vietnam so they didn't have access to a phone and didn't check their email."

For Tiv, it was a necessary decision.

"I just didn't want any excuses. I did what I could to get myself to Spain," Tiv says. "I had, actually a scholarship to do my master's and also student loans to start my life in Montreal. It wasn't the right thing to do, obviously, but I said, 'I will pay this back when they ask for it, but right now I'm going to use it to buy my ticket to go to Spain and survive for a couple of months until I find work.'"

Tiv ended up sleeping in a spare room belonging to a friend of a friend and finding work as a teacher at a primary school.

"It's very interesting how people I didn't even know came into my life and just helped me on this way. It was very difficult, always, but always I felt the Universe was giving me a hand in this and helping me to survive."

Persian culture has a rich history in Spain, and despite a few inconveniences, Tiv says her transition from Vancouver to Madrid has been a smooth one.

"For me, Spain is something between Iran and the West.

I feel quite at home here," she says. "I was really used to having everything new and functioning and clean, but here the apartments are very old, pipelines are very old, so you always have the shower plugged. The windows are not doubleglazed, it's cold. Everything is old," she says. "And it's not green like Canada. I can't see the ocean here in Madrid."

After spending nearly two years dashing to dance class during her lunch break, Tiv saw the reason she'd come to Spain: flamenco star Domingo Ortega and guitarist Fernando De La Rua.

"When I heard Fernando play I thought it was absolutely magical. Very, very different from all the guitarists I've heard. And then Domingo came out.

I just found him to dance very differently from everything I've ever seen," Tiv recollects. "I said to myself, 'Wow, I really wish I could dance to the sound of guitar and one day with this guy.'"

The musicality of Ortega's movements combined with his playfulness and precision left Tiv awestruck.

Shortly afterward, Tiv discovered Ortega taught dance classes in Madrid.

"I didn't dare enter his class. I just would stand by the door and watch," Tiv says.

Despite having crossed an ocean and risked the wrath of student loan officers to pursue her flamenco dream, Tiv hesitated to cross that last, least geographically significant barrier.

Joining his class represented intensive touring, six-hour rehearsals, ballet classes, technique classes, and possibly becoming the dancer she'd wanted to be since she was 11.

She joined.

Tiv is now a member of the Domingo Ortega Flamenco Company, an elite group of dancers and musicians who tour the globe.

Tiv credits her ascent through the flamenco world to her love of dance, something she believes is reflected in the performance she titled Y Enamorarse, which translates as, "And Falling in Love."

Tiv is planning to perform Y Enamorarse at the Kay Meek Centre alongside Ortega and De La Rua.

As an Iranian/Canadian with a scientifically minded father and a family that prizes academics, Tiv's decision to move to Spain and pursue a career in flamenco was illogical, but for Tiv, it was right.

"Because I fell in love, everything that didn't seem rational, seemed rational to me. And I totally took steps listening to my heart and not rationalizing things and thinking with my brain. .

. . And I think for student or disciple, you need to fall in love with your master to be able to really grasp their information. Adore them to really absorb everything they're teaching you."

Tickets for the show are available at tickets. kaymeekcentre.com.

jshepherd@nsnews.com

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