Flamenco Jam

In flamenco dancing there's what you see onstage, and then there's what happens after the show. Flamenco choreographer Ilisa Rosal says that following performances, dancers enjoy hanging out. But they don't go to a quiet pub somewhere to cool off over refreshments. They go to a club, where they can keep moving -- and start jamming. They go to let loose, strut their best stuff, experiment, and feed off one another's passion for the foot-stomping, finger-snapping elegance that is flamenco.

That's the old, Spanish art form stripped to its essence, a pure brand of flamenco all its own, and it will be on display at the Performing Arts Network this weekend when La Rosa Flamenco Theatre holds a juerga. Roughly translated, juerga means "party," says Rosal, the company's artistic director. No scripted choreography, no program. Just a fun and intimate jam session during which audience members are encouraged to clap along and reward the performers with an occasional "ole!" or to join the pros for sevillanas, in which dancers line up in two rows and periodically whirl past each other with a flourish. "We like getting together and improvising at these events," Rosal notes. "We're just singing and dancing for our own enjoyment. That's the feeling we're trying to re-create for the public. We want people to see what flamenco is really like."

If the company's last juerga a few weeks ago is any indication, the group puts on quite a show. The women wore long polka-dotted dresses, scarves around their shoulders, and little flowers in their hair; the men sported ruffled butterfly-collared shirts opened halfway and tight, black pants. For an hour and a half, eight dancers took the stage one by one. They tap-danced across a hardwood floor, bringing their arms over their heads to strike the classic flamenco pose. They leapt like acrobats and pirouetted like ballerinas. In the background dancers clapping and tromping to the rhythm sat on chairs and waited their turns. A musician strummed his guitar and wailed songs bursting with happiness or ridden with melancholy. "It's electric," Rosal remarks. "People are blown away by the energy."

Rosal, a Jewish native of Miami, founded her troupe in 1985, after several years of study in Spain. The company, which offers classes at its studios, has presented several concerts, performed at arts festivals all over South Florida, and held workshops for schools. La Rosa draws from a pool of twenty artists, some of whom pursue independent careers around the world but still contribute regularly.

For the juergas Rosal invites prominent flamenco artists who happen to be visiting town to complement her own talented group. She says she isn't sure who'll be dropping by this weekend, or what exactly they'll be doing. It is, after all, a party. But aficionados can be sure of one thing: The evening will showcase some of the niftiest steps this side of the Iberian Peninsula.

-- Alex Salinas

La Rosa Flamenco Theatre's juerga takes place at 7:00 p.m. Saturday, July 10, at Performing Arts Network, 555 17th St, Miami Beach. Admission is $12. Call 305-672-0552.

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Alex Salinas