BAR HARBOR — Guitarist Gregoire Pearce and dancer Lindsey Bourassa will lead a flamenco dance and music workshop and performance Saturday, Feb. 13, at College of the Atlantic. The Portland-based duo began collaborating in 2015. Pearce is married to singer and voice teacher Sarah St. Denis, who grew up in Bar Harbor.
A classical guitarist, composer, arranger and audio engineer, Pearce described himself as having been “a dopey little kid listening to Van Halen and the Beatles and Led Zeppelin.” He studied music theory, arranging and composition in college at the University of Massachusetts Lowell with trombonist Paul Gay.
Studying flamenco guitar was “mind-melting” for someone coming from a Western musical background, Pearce said. “Everything that is pertinent to this style has nothing to do with how we think about music.”
For one thing, flamenco music is organized into twelve beats. Accents on certain beats don’t line up at all with systems in Western music of 3/4 or 4/4 time, he said.
That unique rhythm is one element that creates tension in the music.
“Good grief, there’s so much tension,” he said. “There’s such fire and raw emotion that drew me to flamenco in the first place.”
It’s an emotive release, which he said was important for the gypsy population in southern Spain where the style originated. “They were oppressed for centuries,” he said. “Music was a way to get out emotion and to celebrate.”
Modern flamenco has a jazz component as well, as guitarists have learned from players in other genres over time. “The traditional posture only allowed them to play certain chord progressions,” Pearce said. Adopting different postures is healthier for the musician and also allows them to play different chords.
Pearce and Bourassa, who has studied in Spain, Cuba and France, often improvise in live performance.
During a recent show in Portland, he said, “we were playing a south American piece, a really cool waltz by Antonio Lauro. So it’s got three beats stuffed into a flamenco structure of 12 beats. When we were halfway through, I just called out ‘bulerias.’ [a quicker-tempo flamenco style]
“Lindsey and [palmera percussionist] Molly Angie were just right there with me, and we improvised for five or six minutes.”
Just as often, he said, the signal to try something different will come from Bourassa, with a look or a toe tap.
“It is a true gift to work in collaboration with Gregoire,” Bourassa said in a statement announcing the duo’s next project. “He honors the tradition of flamenco while integrating an artistic voice that is sincere, bold and stunning.”
The project is a contemporary multimedia flamenco show called “El Lobo y la Paloma” (“The Wolf and the Dove”), exploring themes of death and the stages of grief. It will include elements of film, poetry, costume and set changes along with music and dance, Pearce said.
They plan to include some pieces from the new project in the COA performance. The debut performance of “El Lobo y la Paloma” is set for July at the St. Lawrence Arts Center in Portland.
The workshop on Feb. 13 is set for 2-3 p.m. and the performance for 7-8:30 p.m. Each is $10 for the general public and free to the COA community.