Flamenco Festival evokes emotion through dance
Amid the ruffles and fans, bright colors and castanets associated with Spanish flamenco dancing, exists Jelena Sanchez's grandma and grandpa.
"There is a deep appreciation for music and dance in Spain. People express their joy and sorrow through song and movement," said Sanchez, a Spanish instructor at North Central College in Naperville.
"The lyrics of the songs are poems that tell individual stories about love, happiness, pain, life and death," she said. "I can relate to the words, they move me every time I hear them. I can hear my mother, my grandmother and my grandfather in the lyrics."
The dance and the music blend together to create a freedom -- freedom to remember, freedom to forget, freedom to be.
The Spanish instructor heads North Central College's fifth annual Flamenco Festival throughout February, showcasing the emotion-packed rhythmic music and dance of the Spanish culture.
The festival -- with dance classes, films, a lecture and photography exhibit -- is an opportunity for all people, regardless of heritage, to get in touch with themselves, she said.
"Japan is one of the leading consumers of flamenco. Japanese women are normally discouraged from showing their emotions in public and flamenco gives them the opportunity to express their passions. The same is true for Americans," Sanchez said.
"My students are awakened and feel liberated from their own selves when they come to class. They are encouraged to forget about their obligations, who they are, and to look in the mirror and believe they are beautiful and strong."
On Wednesdays throughout February, Sanchez will teach Sevillanas dance for beginners from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. in Heininger Auditorium at Larrance Academic Center, 309 E. School St. Admission is $5 per person per session and goes to benefit the college's Spanish club. Sevillanas is a fun party and festival dance.
North Central College sophomore Stephania Rodriguez, 20, of Aurora took her first flamenco class last year and fell in love.
Rodriguez, president of the student group Fusión Española, said she's excited for others to share at the festival.
"My family is of Spanish descent as well, and I had always been curious about the culture but never really knew anything about it," Rodriguez said. "It was just very liberating that I got the courage to dance on stage."
The festival is sponsored by Fusión Española, Student Governing Association and the Office of International Programs.
Three free films will be shown in Meiley-Swallow Hall throughout the month. "Latcho Drom" tells the story of the migration of the Gypsies or Romany people using only song and dance. It shows at 3 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3. "Carmen" shows at 3 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20, and tells the story of a flamenco teacher obsessed with a beautiful dancer. The film "Flamenco Flamenco" shows at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21, featuring music and movement reflecting the history of the dance.
A free photography exhibit titled "Flamenco Fusion" is on display weekdays Wednesday, Feb. 15, through Wednesday, Feb. 29, in Kiekhofer Hall, 329 E. School St. It's meant to inspire and engage viewers with portraits of new era student flamenco enthusiasts.
A guest flamenco pro, Chiara Mangiameli, lectures on "The Rhythms and Expression of Flamenco Song and Dance" at 11 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 16, followed by a hands-on tango-flamenco workshop at noon in the Madden Theatre at the Fine Arts Center, 171 E. Chicago Ave. Both events are free.
Chicago-based flamenco group Las Guitarras de España, influenced by Latin American and Middle Eastern styles, rocks out a free performance at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, in the theater at Meiley-Swallow Hall.
For Sanchez, if teaching a flamenco class each semester is opening new doors for students of all ages, this festival is blowing the doors wide open.
"You don't have to be Spanish to love flamenco," she said. "Many foreigners are also fascinated with this art form. They become hooked once they try a class because of the freedom and confidence it gives them."
For information, visit northcentralcollege.edu/show or call (630) 637-SHOW.
If you goWhat: Flamenco Festival
When: Throughout February
Where: North Central College, 30 N. Brainard St., Naperville
Cost: Free, cost for some activities
Info: northcentralcollege.edu/show or (630) 637-SHOW