At Tierrita Flamenca, a flamenco-dance company populated by little girls with slick black hair, long colorful skirts and hand fans, the girls are encouraged to have attitude. The baby troupe is the brainchild of Claudia de la Cruz, who runs the Claudia de la Cruz Flamenco Institute at her "underground," lower-level studio at Cal State Fullerton's Grand Central Art Center in downtown Santa Ana. She created the dance company in 2004 after she noticed that some of the students in her kids' classes were harboring dreams of becoming professional flamenco dancers. The institute offers classes in the form, which evolved from Moorish, Sephardic and Gitano musical traditions in southern Spain, to children as well as adults at all levels. Students can learn everything from traditional Sevillanasto castanet and palma(palm) techniques. Those who become addicted to what de la Cruz calls the "flamenco lifestyle" can audition for her adult dance company, Tierra Flamenca, after one year. After several years, she says, students may be invited to join her professional dance company, which tours nationally.
"If I don't dance, I die," says de la Cruz, a native of Monterrey, Mexico, with family roots in Jerez, Spain. De la Cruz's institute gets our hearty ol?: If we didn't have the mighty little piece of Andaluc?a that she brings to OC, surely we would die.