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Ms Hermanas Photo 1On May 3rd, “Mis Hermanas,” Thicker Than Water: My Sisters and I concluded an all too brief run at the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre in Vancouver, Canada. The stirring production which included Flamenco dancers, Latin acoustic guitars, slides of old photos and film, painted a beautiful mural of Choreographer / Artistic Director, Rosario Ancer’s life growing up in Mexico, her move to Spain and her subsequent emigration to Canada twenty years ago.

The presentation began with all the house lights down and the stage lights very dim, as beautiful melodies streamed from the acoustic guitars of Victor Kolstee and Manuel “El Lito.” Singer “Angelita la del Lito” delivered a passionate solo, and as the stage lights came back up, seven sisters were seated posed like statues. Their lives would form much of the narrative, which the audience would hear in Rosario Ancer’s recorded voice, as she sat in a chair near the front of the stage.   

There is no better way to describe this production than to quote Ancer’s own words as they appeared in the program, and so in a significant departure for this magazine, we will defer to her, rather than writing our own synopsis. “While on a visit to Sevilla Spain, I was awakened by the sound of church bells and the powerful scent of orange blossoms. Memories of my hometown, which I left thirty years ago, came flooding back. It was an emotional experience, and I could not hold back tears as I relived my childhood. Ever since that time, I knew I had to find a way to revisit and redefine the very deep essence of myself. This is a story of eight Mexican sisters bonded together forever by tragedy. They grew up in rural Northern Mexico and moved later to the city, where to this day they still meet on a regular basis. Only one of them left home to pursue her dream, and now she wants to tell you their story before the West Coast rains wash away her memories. It is an enduring love, family traditions and values, intercultural relationships and influences, the power of love and the joy of life even at times most difficult. While this is a personal story, it is also a story that in Canada-a land of immigrants-could be anybody’s story.” 

Rosario Ancer’s parents died while the family was still young, and eventually, as one of the oldest sisters, the responsibility became that of Rosario to help care for her younger siblings, despite the fact, that from her youth she had harbored a dream to become a dancer. There are many people who will have witnessed this production, who will understand what it was to sacrifice for family, or knew of someone in their own families, who made those sacrifices. I have no further to go in my own family, than a father who gave up a promising hockey career, to help provide for a widowed mother.  

This is however, not a story of sadness, but one of sweet memories told through the talented dancers, Fiona Malena (Anadelia), Marien Luevanos (Rosalba), Claire Marchand (Rebeca), Myriam Allard (Guadalupe), Rosario Ancer (as herself), Veronica Stewart (Maricela), Nanako Aramaki (Matilde Elisa) and Afifa Lahbabi (Alejandra). Each of the choreographed dances brought to life the unique personalities of the sisters, as evidenced in the flamboyant, colorful dance of Matilde Elisa, which appeared to accurately reflect the description of her person.  

One of the biggest surprises occurred three quarters of the way through the presentation, when it was sprung on an unsuspecting audience, that not only does Rosario Ancer have seven sisters, but she also has three brothers. Just in case you are not counting, that adds up to eleven siblings!

The grand finale came with the dancers standing in a semi circle clapping to the beat of the music, as each of them moved towards the center and took their turn one more time, demonstrating their skills at Flamenco dance. It seemed as though each one inspired the next dancer to even greater heights. Yes, Rosario Ancer, the young woman who had left her home in Mexico decades earlier also danced to the delight of the audience.

Our story ends not on a wistful note to be back home in Mexico, but only expressing a longing that when her sisters meet each week, that she could join them for a few moments. You get the sense from Rosario Ancer’s words that she will always be proud of her Mexican heritage, cherish the time spent in Spain and where she met and fell in love with her husband Victor Kolstee, who is the Music Director for “Mis Hermanas.” The story is also one in which she tells how she has fallen in love with the west coast of Canada, even if she does take some playful pokes at how much rain we receive.

“Mis Hermanaa,” Thicker Than Water: My Sisters And I is a beautiful story, that teaches the uninformed a lot about Mexican culture, inspires all of us to pursue our dreams, and sheds light on what is like to move to another country, and be able to say that you are proud of both your homeland and your new home.

 This review by Joe Montague  published in 2008 is protected by copyright and is the property of Riveting Riffs Magazine © All Rights Reserved.   All Rights Reserved This interview may not be reproduced in print or on the internet or through any other means without the written permission of Riveting Riffs Magazine, All Rights Reserved