Dancer and writer Lindsey Bourassa and her band Olas have gotten into the movie business with the release of “Olas: The Film.” The documentary, which will premiere at Space Gallery in Portland on Saturday, is full of studio footage shot during the making of the band’s new EP, “Tres Canciones” (recorded at The Studio in Portland), along with vignettes individually designed by each of Olas’ eight members.
Olas is made up of musicians and dancers who are all inspired by traditional and modern flamenco, which they uniquely spin into a tapestry of American folk, rock, Arabic and Afro-Cuban music.
GO caught up with Bourassa to chat about her dancing, the film and the music.
What’s the history of your dancing?
I did take some dance classes as a young child, but I actually was much more active as a gymnast for about six years, which taught me a lot about movement, balance, flexibility, strength, poise, conditioning and performance.
After I stopped practicing gymnastics at about 13, I wasn’t involved in any formal dance studies until much later. I began to study dance again when I was a university student in Montreal. There, I started taking salsa classes, and really loved both the dance and the music. I began my studies of flamenco in 2004 while living in the south of France. I continued to study in Portland with Deb Freedman of South Portland, and took workshops in New York, Boston and Montreal when I could.
Eventually, I traveled to Seville in 2008 to study for three months and again this past year, where I completed a nine-month training in flamenco dance, theory, song and music.
When did Olas form?
Olas started in the fall of 2008 as part of my senior project at Goddard College. I had written a travel memoir and wanted to create a performance around that text. I had also been wanting to create a music and dance ensemble reminiscent of flamenco, but that also represented and tapped into my own culture and the talent here in Portland. I began by working with musicians (and friends) Chriss Sutherland and Dylan Blanchard. Through artist connections and friendships, each of the other members of Olas joined.
Can you talk about the foot stomping and hand clapping that is such an integral part of the Olas sound?
The “foot stomping” is called “zapateado” in flamenco terminology, and is integral to the dance. The hand-clapping is called “palmas” and is equally important. In flamenco, both of these elements form part of the music in a percussive sense, and also in a communicative sense.
Your personal vignette in the film is quiet poignant. What was it like filming it?
Filming my vignette was an intimate and a kind of “comfortably vulnerable” experience. It shows a private dance practice in Olas’ practice space as well as a giving of parting gifts to each Olas member as I leave the room, a symbol of my departure for Spain. I usually practice alone or with fellow Olas dancer Megan Keogh. Practice is a sacred time for me, when I play around, make a lot of mistakes, take chances that I don’t always take on stage as I try to work out new dances and polish others.
So to be filmed during the process was somewhat nerve-wracking, but also really liberating and strengthening. Scott Sutherland shot the whole scene in an unobtrusive and respectful manner, making the experience very comfortable. Both Dave Camlin and Scott Sutherland, the filmmakers of “Olas: The Film,” are remarkable in their artistry, kindness and method of being present without diminishing anything from the essence of what they shoot.
What’s your favorite part about being a member of Olas?
Being part of the community that we have created. We are a family. Many of us were friends before we became Olas, and there is a level of support and communication, spoken and unspoken, that allows a deeper connection to the work we do, its deliverance and how it is felt among us. Many of the songs and dances reflect very personal stories, and when we play and dance them, there is genuine care about what we are expressing, because we care very much about each other.
There is also an amazing atmosphere of creative freedom to try new things, to dare to push to new edges in the choreographies, for example, because there is a lot of love and solid support. Artistically, it is unique in that each of us brings something different to the individual works we create and the projects we do. It happens very organically and becomes something that satisfies us in a way that perhaps one single genre could not. The music, dance, place, culture are all one and the same; there is little to no separation.
To me, Olas does something similar; it embodies our own culture, our own little world, while incorporating music and dance into our daily lives. Because of all of these elements, when we convene to practice, something sacred happens. “Sacred” is the best word I have to describe what Olas feels like to me.
Staff Writer Aimsel Ponti can be contacted at 791-6455 or at: