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Meet the Spain pavilion's backstage star

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Carmen Infante (left) teaches Spanish folkloric dance to many girls and women, including Shelagh Williamson (right).

CINDY CHAN Enlarge Image

Carmen Infante (left) teaches Spanish folkloric dance to many girls and women, including Shelagh Williamson (right). Photo Store

Some of Folklorama’s shining stars don’t appear onstage, like the Pabellón de España — Spain pavilion’s own Carmen Infante.

Originally from the Spanish city of Córdoba, Infante began dancing at the young age of 12 with a dance group called Grupo de Coros y Danzas de Córdoba. They performed folkloric dance all over Spain, France, and North Africa. Infante later immigrated to Canada in 1967, but she brought her heritage with her.

She formed Sol de España, a Spanish folk dance group, which became a regular act at the Spain pavilion in 1986.

Infante became the heart and soul of the pavilion. She helps to cook food in the kitchen, makes costumes, and choreographs traditional Spanish dances. Infante also received the El Orden del Mérito Civil award from the King of Spain for maintaining Spanish culture, as well as a Women of Distinction award in 2009.

"If you could just see her dance," one of Carmen’s students, Shelagh Williamson, gushed. Infante laughed, shaking her head no.

"In folklore, everything’s beautiful. Showing all the background, all the generations coming back, like Roman, Jewish . . . we have all these influences in folklore," Infante said.

Williamson has volunteered with the Spain pavilion for almost 14 years. Eventually the pavilion became a family affair, with her daughter dancing in the show and her husband managing the bar.

Although she is not of Spanish descent, Williamson fell in and has remained in love with the culture for a long time.

"For me, definitely it was the music and the dance," Williamson said. "Then over the years, I would say (my family and I) got more and more involved because of the nature of the Spanish people.

"They’re truly wonderful people. I go to Spain now every two years. I just got back a week ago. Spanish people love life, and there’s no other way to describe it."

There were three shows each evening at the Spain pavilion, which ran Aug. 4 to 10. The first two shows featured regional folklore dances as well as Pueblo dances, which are country dances. The third show was a live flamenco show featuring a guitarist and dances choreographed by flamenco teacher Claire Marchand.

For a list of all pavilions, visit folklorama.ca

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