A Message From the Artistic Director

When I was young, I never imagined that I would be a professional flamenco dancer, or that I would be teaching others the same.

But here I am now, doing exactly that - dancing professionally, and helping others realize that dream. I believe now that this was always my destiny...
I started dancing in my native city of Caracas, Venezuela, at the age of six. Flamenco, ballet, tap. In those early days, I enjoyed dance, but, like any kid, there were many afternoons when it would have been nice to stay home, goof around, and be a normal kid - instead of four hours of classes several nights a week. And, like any normal kid, I sometimes voiced this preference, quite loudly.

My mom had other ideas. Mom always made sure that, come Monday and Wednesday, no matter what, I put on that black leotard, those pink tights, and grabbed my flamenco skirt and shoes, ready for a long afternoon of dance classes. Four hours, plus travel time! Precious time that I could have spent watching cartoons, playing with the neighbor kids, and goofing around!

As you can imagine, I didn't always look forward to those long Mondays and Wednesdays.

The funny thing was, as I continued, I found I really liked it! My long evenings saw me become more focused, more determined to succeed. Along the way, I would come to the realization that ballet and tap were not for me. But with flamenco it was different…

I began studying flamenco at Siudy Quintero's Flamenco Academy – which today, is the largest academy in Caracas. I was there at their beginning - one of the Academy's charter group of students, back in 1980. In the years that followed, the Academy grew, and my class advanced in our studies, and we were given many wonderful opportunities to perform in theatre, and on television. We even performed at the Miss Venezuela pageant!

And yet....these great opportunities were also very stressful for me. Here I was, a normal kid, a little chubby and awkward-looking. Perfectly normal – but not in the world of dance. I struggled for a very long time with this. But I didn’t give up - despite the fact that I wasn't built like the next Miss Venezuela, and in spite of not always feeling very confident in flamenco class. I continued to go, but there were many times that I felt very discouraged.

Still, I didn't give up. In class, I would always carefully watch, learn, improve. Watch, learn, improve…. and go home. That was flamenco life for me.

Then I grew up, and my life changed. In 2000, I moved to the States. I was in a new country, with a new life - a schoolteacher, and a wife. But sometimes Life has other plans for you, than the ones you made for yourself. And the path you're on takes some very circuitous turns – so that you don’t even realize that you are headed the right way...

Fate put two remarkable people in my path. The first was Farzan Kendrick - one of my dearest friends today - and the person who brought me back to flamenco. We met when I was singing at a Quinceañera party. During a break between sets, I found myself chatting with him- and somewhere in the conversation, the word 'flamenco' was spoken. I found myself telling him how I had danced flamenco for many years - but that I no longer danced. He became very excited, because he was a flamenco guitarist. He insisted on getting together so that we could practice flamenco. It felt like a crazy idea – and a very good idea. So I agreed.
It was at one of our first performances that Fate brought another person into my life. Though I did not know it at the time, this chance encounter would change the direction of my life forever... I met Ania Bartelmus, an aspiring flamenco dancer. She was in the audience, watching, and after the performance, she approached me, introduced herself, and asked if I would teach her flamenco. I was surprised, and even confused at the idea, and my first reaction was to politely decline. But Ania persisted. But I kept putting her off. I told her I was leaving Atlanta, to pursue my Masters Degree in Spain. And that, I thought, was that.

I did not reckon on the persistence of Ania!

When I returned to Atlanta, some eight months later, there was Ania again, emailing me, asking me to teach her. She wouldn't give up! I think nobody was as surprised as I was when I agreed to teach her. So I got a small piece of wood, and put it in my home. Using the reflection in a window for a mirror, I began teaching Ania and a friend the basics of flamenco.

It is a funny thing, to look back on that small piece of wood, and a reflection in a window, to see how those things took root and grew. More prospective students were appearing, asking to study with me. And now the small room in the basement was being emptied out, and taken over for dance. Then that room was too small, so then it was the garage, commandeered, and set up as a dance studio, with mirrors and flooring.

Then one day, even the converted garage was too small for the school. So the Calo Dance Studio moved into its current space, in Kirkwood. I had a flourishing school, and the students who were studying with me, were not merely flamenco dancers - but actors, singers, and performers, trained in other disciplines. So one day I thought, why don't we do a show?

And then there was a show – Raices. It was wildly successful, sell-out show. So many people called me, and emailed me, asking about future performances, and it finally occurred to me... why not a theatre?

And in that moment, I realized that flamenco was my destiny. And more important, it was the destiny of many people, who had come into my life during my time in Atlanta. So we founded our theatre, and will be presenting the theatre's first show, "Once Upon a Christmas in Olelucia", this coming December.
Never would that shy and awkward little girl, back in Caracas, ever have dreamed of having a professional career in flamenco. Today, I feel so blessed and fortunate to have the Academy and to have so many talented people by my side!

I have one thing to say, in all of this: you have to pursue your dream. You have to go for it. Even if it's one little step at a time. Take that step. Trust in yourself. And when you find that trust wavering - trust in the others who support and encourage you.

Ole con ole y olé!