With an 'Ole,' kids learn dance

February 02, 2011|By Nicole Charky

The La Cañada Flintridge Public library was anything but quiet on Saturday.

Children and their families screamed out “Ole” and “Bravo” for a twirling, stomping performance by Spanish Flamenco dancer Susana Elena.

Elena performs in libraries in an ongoing series that promotes free community arts throughout Los Angeles County. Joining her for this performance was classical guitarist Almer Imamovic and his wife, classical flautist Jessica Pierce. The two form the group AlmaNova.

The dancer taught the children in the audience the Pasodoble, the double-step dance of the bullfight, and showed how the matador, or Spanish bullfighter, escapes from the bull.


Using castanuelas, or castanets, Elena bent her back forward and backward in dramatic swoops, clapping the castanets with her thumbs. In between her dances, AlmaNova played captivating music performances and Elena taught the audience how to make Flamenco flowers by rolling their wrists, fingers and hands.

By the end of the show, more than 10 children were invited on-stage to practice a hip-shaking rumba Flamenco dance while adorned with colorful, glittering scarves.

“We’re going to put our hands together and rub them, because this dance is hot,” Elena said.

At the end of the dance, the children sent the scarves flying in the air, yelling “Ole!”

For the past four years, Elena has performed these 45-minute shows with audience participation — especially children — in mind. She also takes her dances to multicultural events in the Los Angeles area.

She started learning Flamenco in Los Angeles.

“When I first saw Flamenco, I thought that the women’s bodies and they way they moved were so beautiful,” Elena said. “The movement of the women’s upper body actually dates back to ancient Greece.”

It hasn’t always been easy to find a place in the area to learn and practice the traditional dance, she said.

“It’s been a challenge to find the right kind of teacher,” Elena said. “In my opinion, you need to go to Spain, because that’s where the energy is and that’s where the riches are and the most knowledgeable people. This is one of those dances where you need to go to the country.”

There are many influences in Spanish dance, including Greek, Roman, Ancient Phoenician, Arabic, East Indian, North African and some South American too, Elena said.

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