By Thea Neal
Master's student, liberal studies
DURHAM, NC -- Designated "the Keeper of Flamenco" by Dance magazine, Carlota Santana made the best of the carpeted floors Wednesday at the Franklin Center.
Santana gave an interactive lecture on the basic elements of the Spanish Dance at Wednesdays at the Center, presenting a dance typically performed on hardwood to best resonate the sound of flamenco shoes.
She will continue to infect Durham with the flamenco bug with a series of events the rest of the week.
A mix of Arabic, Judaic, Spanish and Gypsy cultures, flamenco has been passed on for centuries. Coming from persecuted individuals who fled to the mountains of Spain, Santana said, the dance includes castanuelas, or castanets, which create the definitive noise of flamenco.
Santana and Roberto Lorca founded the Spanish Dance Arts Company in 1983 to bring flamenco to mainstream audiences. Lorca passed away in 1987, a casualty of the AIDS epidemic. Santana continues to carry on his legacy with the company Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana.
At Duke, Santana currently teaches 'The Art and Cultural History of Flamenco" a mix of both dance technique and historical knowledge.
Santana, a New Yorker who speaks both Spanish and English, prompts a few raised eyebrows from audience members who heard her voice, which has just a scant Spanish accent to it.
"When you know flamenco, people expect you to have been born in a cave in Grenada," she laughed.
Gender roles are shifting as time goes on. Despite being a "traditionalist" herself, Santana is pleased that women and men are sharing each gender's typical dance style.
"Over the past 10 years, women have become very strong in footwork, and also started wearing pants instead of the flouncy skirts," she said. “For a society that has been pretty macho, there has been a lot of women upfront. I thought it was the most feminine thing you could be," she said. "Not soft and sweet, but tough and strong too."
Perhaps this is good for women, as the ornate, frilly skirts can themselves be difficult to master.
"Women have to go to a special class to learn how to kick it," she said.
Santana also stressed that flamenco dancers don’t have to be your typical "dance body type."
"Flamenco comes in all shapes and sizes," she said.
Upcoming Flamenco Vivo Events
Friday, Oct. 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Holton Center
Flamenco Vivo will join the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month with a Company performance, plus a performance by and screening of La Virgen llegó a
la Maldita Vecindad. There will be a workshop and talks with the audience after the performances.
Saturday, Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. at Hayti Heritage Center, with reception to follow
Sunday, Oct. 9, at 2 p.m. at the Nasher Museum
Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012 at Page Auditorium