Flamenco beats in Alhambra (California)

Flamenco dancers will take over Wahib’s Lebanese restaurant next Saturday night for a special show of the improvised art form with roots tracing back to Arabic, Spanish, Indian and Jewish cultures. Alhambra’s own flamenco expert and an owner of Center for World Dance, Clarita Corona, will be behind the scenes at the Main Street restaurant performance. Community Contributor Elizabeth Chou visited her studio recently to look into how the fiery flamenco dance took hold in Alhambra.

The dancers advance. Their upper bodies are triumphant, their feet furious, stomping out an intricate rhythm across a scuffed, battle-worn floor. As they work to keep up with the unrelenting beat, yells of pent up frustration rise, piercing the air.

East Los Angeles native Clarita Corona laughs easily and is often bashful when it comes to talking about herself, but when it comes to dance, like her students, she does not hold back. “People think that if you’re a dancer, this is just a hobby, that this is just for fun and it’s really not,” she says. “It’s a lot of hard work. It’s extremely physical and there is a certain kind of dedication that happens, whether it’s a little kid, teenager, it doesn’t matter who it is, if somebody is working for something or they are involved in the arts, it’s because they’re driven by something to get to that final point.”

Corona has operated Arte Flamenco, an Alhambra dance studio specializing in world dance, since 1999. It started as a rehearsal space for her touring flamenco dance company and expanded into a school of flamenco dance. Arte Flamenco also offers an array of world dances that include Mexican folk dancing, Polynesian dance, and several different styles of belly dancing, including Egyptian, tribal fusion, and cabaret.

The dance styles offered at her studio, which she operates with partner Art Juaregui, circle the globe in origin, but they are all connected, says Corona. Their studio also serves as rehearsal space for a Brazilian and Middle Eastern dance company, and together with Corona’s flamenco group, they form a community of dancers who perform at various functions around Los Angeles and around the world. A member of the Council of International of Dance, Arte Flamenco holds an annual celebration of world dance showcasing Bollywood, classical Indian, classical Chinese, belly dancing, and flamenco.

At the end of one of their world dance shows, Corona had one of their percussionists get up on stage and play a beat. She says members of the audience were moved by the performance, later coming up to her and telling her, “We never knew how connected we were.”

Arte Flamenco and the Center of World Dance is located at 230 West Main Street. Tickets to the Flamenco Night dinner show at Wahib’s are $25 and can be purchased by calling (626) 458-1234.

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