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Columbus Makes Art: Griset Damas-Roche on Sharing Flamenco and Ballet

Jane D’Angelo Jane D’Angelo Columbus Makes Art: Griset Damas-Roche on Sharing Flamenco and BalletGriset Damas-Roche moved to the Columbus area in 2015 and now teaches Flamenco dancing. Photo courtesy OhioDance.
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Jane D’Angelo recently sat down with Griset Damas-Roche a Cuban dancer and teacher. In January of 2014, during a vacation traveling to the United States, she received an invitation from Flamenco del Corazon, a Columbus based dance company, to teach a workshop. After this, she decided to settle in Ohio with her family and recently opened the U Will Dance studio in Plain City, specializing in flamenco, ballet and stretching. Griset will perform and teach at the 2016 OhioDance Festival & Conference, April 22-24.

Griset Damas Roche.

Griset Damas-Roche.

Jane: Where are you originally from?
Griset: La Habana, Cuba.

Jane: When did you begin dancing? How did you become serious about Flamenco dance?
Griset: From 4-8 years old I was selected to study gymnastics. I started ballet at the age of eight at the Ballet National of Cuba. In Cuba you are not allowed to study ballet until eight, and many of the girls danced. The ballet school was all day from 7 a.m. to 9 or 10 p.m. You would have school and then dance classes all day and night. It was a prestigious school and you were selected through an audition.

At 18 years old I was invited to study at Flamenco National Ballet of Cuba. At age 24, I was invited as a special guest to perform in Bogota, Columbia. I liked it there and stayed in Bogota for 17 years, teaching and performing ballet and flamenco.

Jane: You have traveled and lived in many places. Where is your favorite place, and why?
Griset: Columbus, Ohio. We moved here in 2014. It is a safe place to raise a family as I have a four-year-old daughter. The pace is slow and tranquil and very family oriented. In Bogota we felt unsafe. There are many thefts and we did not feel safe in our own home.

Jane: What do you consider to be one of your greatest achievements?
Griset: In Columbia I was a soloist for Maestro Antonio Canales in the show “Bolero.” He is a famous flamenco dancer from Spain. It was an honor to be chosen for the part and to work with him. Also in Columbia I had a successful dance studio and we performed each year.

Jane: What is your favorite part about dance?
Griset: I enjoy working with musicians and collaborating on a dance piece. In Flamenco dance the musician’s tempo constantly changes, so having a good rapport with the musician is important.

Jane: How do you feel about the difference between teaching and performing? Do you have a preference?
Griset: I love performing and creating dances. I am always listening to music while I drive or watch TV and create dances in my head.

Jane: Have you encountered any new experiences here in Columbus that you did not experience before moving here?
Griset: In Cuba I prepared myself through dance studies, and in Columbia I gained experience. In Columbus I have the opportunity to share flamenco with this community. I recently opened a dance studio in Plain City and perform and teach throughout the state. I also have taken over for Flamenco Dance Columbus.

Jane: What do you miss about Cuba or Bogota?
Griset: I miss my family and the beautiful beaches in Cuba. I miss the food in Columbia.

Jane: What do you see as part of your future here in Columbus?
Griset: In five years I would like to have my own Flamenco dance company in Columbus.

OhioDance invites you to volunteer and/or attend the 2016 OhioDance Festival & Conference from April 22-24, 2016 at BalletMet, 322 Mt. Vernon Ave., Columbus, OH 43215. Please call or email us for discounted tickets at [email protected] or 614-224-2913 (mention Columbus Underground). To find out more information go to ohiodance.org and like us on Face book, Twitter and Pinterest!

Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting art and advancing culture in Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art. Each column will be written by a different local arts organization to give you an insiders look at how #artmakescbus.

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