Twirl of the Skirt as West Side Flamenco Group Turns 30

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With a whip of a skirt and a sweep of a brightly colored shawl, the art of flamenco dancing is one that instills a burning passion into practitioners and viewers alike. Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana on the Upper West Side is a not-for-profit group whose vision is to bring the many styles of classical and modern Spanish dance into the limelight. The dance company, over the course of 30 years, has become one of the most prominent flamenco groups in NYC and the nation and has performed in countries such as Spain and Colombia. Flamenco Vivo is known for presenting theatrical dance spectacles such as Burlador, based on the Don Juan legend, but the company performs classic Spanish dances, as well. The company's most recent project was the "Flamenco in the Boros" tour, which ran in mid-April. It featured professionals from the U.S. and Spain performing traditional flamenco dancing alongside students at multiple venues across New York City. At Casita Maria in the Bronx, the company performed the stunning "Seguiriya," a slow dance designed to instill a feeling melancholy within the viewer. The dancers, Leslie Roybal, Laura Peralta and Isabel del Dia, brandished scarves called mantones, which are emblazoned with many colors and patterns. These were swung around with hypnotizing intensity as the dancers dipped and swayed. The dancers twirled to the twanging guitar of Jed Miley, who laid the foundation for the beautiful voice of Barbara Martinez. The "Flamenco in the Boros" event in particular is part of a celebration to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the group's illustrious history. "We are very excited that our flamenco company was able to make it 30 years," said Carlota Santana, the founder and artistic director of the program, who is recognized throughout the flamenco world and is a member of the faculty at Duke University. "We were the first dance studio made by flamencos for flamencos in NYC." Flamenco Vivo's mission began in 1983 when renowned dancers Roberto Lorca and Santana started the Spanish Dance Arts Company as a way to present the world of flamenco outside of the dance clubs. "We wanted to bring flamenco out of the clubs and make it theatrical,"said Santana. She explained that flamenco was popular in the early '80s, which set the scene for Santana and Lorca to open the company. Their aim was nurturing the growth of flamenco and Hispanic culture, teaching the dance styles to those interested in performing and providing a stage for existing professionals in the U.S. and Spain to come and showcase their talents in New York City. Unfortunately, in 1987, Lorca's life was cut short by AIDS, but Santana persevered and continued to welcome dancers of all skill levels with open arms. Santana said she has seen "people from all walks of life taking classes-the young and old, and men and women alike." The company engages in community outreach programs and has also lent its talents to several of city's public schools, where they teach dance instructors, Santana said. Participants will study, get the history and culture, and learn how to integrate the art into their basic course standards, according to Santana. The company has two bases of operation- the NYC location and one in North Carolina-and Santana looks forward to "raising the next generation of flamenco dancers." For more information, call 212-736-4499 or visit

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