As one of Canada's professional flamenco dancers, Karen Pitkethly is the face of flamenco in Vancouver. This prolific dancer, choreographer, and teacher is a life-long dancer, extensively trained in ballet, contemporary, and flamenco dance. Her journey as a flamenco bailora brings her annually to Seville, Spain which allow's Karen to immerse herself in flamenco culture and study under flamenco heavy weights such as: Merche Esmeralda, Angeles Gabaldon, Felipe Mato, Belen Maya, Juana Amaya, Pastora Galvan, Rafaela Carrasco, Isabel Bayon, Patricia Guerrero, Concha Jareno, Leanor Leal... Karen has been active in Vancouver for over 20 years, becoming a significant figure in Vancouver's growing flamenco scene.
In 2008, the Karen Flamenco Studio opened in the heart of Mount Pleasant. This airy studio loft serves as Karen's headquarters where she teaches over 200 flamenco enthusiasts, rehearses with the Karen Flamenco Dance Company, and creates her feisty dances. The Karen Flamenco Dance Company has become well known for their interpretation of stories such as: "Moulin Rouge", "Sleeping Beauty" and "Swan Lake" told through flamenco dance. This year the company will take on the musical "West Side Story". Karen is very thankful to Fiona for inviting her to perform at this year's Calgary Flamenco Festival.
Karen Michelle Pitkethly
It was a phone call from my kindergarten teacher to my parents which launched my dance career. There was concern from my teacher that I was too shy in class and that some form of extra curricular activity might be a good way to get me out of my shell. So the question of ballet, jazz or tap dance was offered and I chose ballet!
I was then introduced to ballet under the guidance of Mrs Heather McBride of McBride School of Dancing. I studied the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) syllabus and annually passed RAD exams, competed in dance Festivals and performed in year end recitals. Having accomplished my goals in ballet classes I went on to study more about ballet teaching - I enrolled in the University of Waterloo in Ontario and studied the Royal Academy of Dancing (RAD) - teacher training courses which included - Child Psychology, Kinesiology, Dance History/Theory and RAD syllabus. I then accepted an RAD ballet teaching position in Singapore - where I worked for one year helping to implement an arts school for children called ACE Family Lifestyles Singapore . While in Singapore I also helped develop a ballet syllabus for the local ballet schools.
I attended the Contemporary Dance program at Simon Fraser University . Here I studied the Martha Graham technique with the guidance of Judith Garay, and contemporary ballet with Marla Eist. I also attended modern dance "Butoh" classes with Barbara Bourget of Kokoro dance . I taught and choreographed contemporary dance at McBride School of Dance . And also performed in a contemporary dance company (Sharmini Winslow) in Singapore.
My flamenco training began at Harbour Dance when I took a random summer workshop which included flamenco dance. I enrolled in Centro Flamenco and quickly began emerging myself full time, I then began teaching classes and performing in the dance company - Flamenco Rosario . I have also taken numerous dance workshops both in Vancouver and in Spain picking up different dance styles and choreographies from many well established flamenco artists:
Rosario Ancer, Sabas Santos, Raul Salcedo, Sara de Luis, Marisol Moreno, La Tania, Mercedes Amaya, La Winy, Merche Esmeralda, Angeles Gabaldon, Felipe Mato, Belen Maya, Juana Amaya, Pastora Galvan, Rafaela Carrasco, Isabel Bayon, Carmen de Torres, Patricia Lineares, Gabriel Heredia
More recently I was awarded with a travel grant through the Canada Council for the Arts and stayed in Seville taking in dance performances and participating in workshops and daily classes to further my professional development.
Participated in the XI, XIII @ XV|| Bienal Flamenco Festivals in Seville Spain
Karen’s choreography graced this summer's successful Bard on the Beach production of "Much Ado About Nothing" and will be seen at the Arts Club Theatre's fall season presentation of "Don Quixote". Her annual Karen Flamenco shows are not to be missed as proven by this year's three sold-out performances of “Romeo and Juliet”. Her dance company can be seen throughout the city spicing up events such as the 2009 Komasket Music Festival, Olympic 2010 Surrey Celebration Site, and the 2010 Canadian Cancer Society Diamond Ball.
"Having a dance school I am constantly coming up with traditional flamenco choreographies for dance classes. I also take time to work out new choreographies for myself to perform. Aside from the traditional dance forms of flamenco, I enjoy stepping outside the box and trying new approaches to my dance form. Having a dance background in both ballet and contemporary dance I like to explore these avenues within my choreography. I thoroughly enjoy developing new dances and delight in choreography for outside dance companies. I am hired yearly to choreograph flamenco dances for the professional dance company both junior and senior at Arts Umbrella. I have also done pieces for Main Dance, Grupo America, Van Leena Dance Academy, Arts Club Theatre, Bard on the Beach and Ballet BC." - Karen