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Major milestones for Carola Zertuche’s Theatre Flamenco

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Carola Zertuche, artistic director of Theatre Flamenco of San Francisco, is celebrating her 10th year with the 50-year-old company. (Courtesy RJ Muna)

For her 10th anniversary as artistic director of Theatre Flamenco of San Francisco, Carola Zertuche did something new: She auditioned young dancers for the troupe’s 50th season performances.

“It’s a big step for the company; I’m looking for dancers that will join the company, says Zertuche, adding, “I want to give them the opportunity to be in a big production. That’s where you learn the most.”

In addition to the 10 new dancers she found in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, “El Latir del Tiempo/The Beat of Time” (onstage this week Mountain View and San Francisco) includes performances by Zertuche and world-class collaborators Pastora Galvan, Cristina Hall and singer Juana la del Pipa.

The show offers classic flamenco music and dance, as well as avant-garde interpretations of the form (“always respecting what is flamenco, without going crazy,” Zertuche adds).

Zertuche, who began flamenco as a youngster in Torreon, Mexico, was serious about it from the start: “I heard the cante (singing), I didn’t even want to go to high school; I was there [practicing] in my garage,” she says.

The professional world opened up to her when she went to Mexico City in her late teens and worked with great artists. Later, she lived in Spain for two years (“You have to go to Spain,” she says), cementing her craft.

To that end, she works with great Spanish veterans of the genre — Galvan and especially her singer, Juana la del Pipa — to keep her shows’ quality high.

While Zertuche says anybody can learn (and respect) flamenco, to be really good, you have to understand the lyrics: “When I see dancing and have goosebumps, it’s because they’re singing about something that happened in real life. It’s about feeling; it’s not just about doing the steps and following.”

As Theatre Flamenco celebrates its milestone 50th year (founded by Adela Clara in 1966, it’s The City’s second oldest troupe, after San Francisco Ballet), it’s also entering new period of growth, Zertuche says.

No longer relying on temporary spaces, it has a new permanent studio on South Van Ness Avenue, a place to educate children and teens and a place where Zertuche can solidify the company’s (and her business’) future.

Zertuche, who first came to San Francisco for a four-month job, but ended up staying because she met her husband, says, “I like San Francisco a lot; it’s a big dance community. I get inspired by going to see other companies.” She adds, “You still want to push yourself.”

IF YOU GO
Theatre Flamenco of San Francisco
Where: Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 5 (reception at 10 p.m.)
Tickets: $45 to $65
Contact: www.cityboxoffice.com, www.theatreflamenco.org
Note: The show also is at 8 p.m. Nov. 4 at Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St., Mountain View, and 2 p.m. Nov. 6 at Fillmore Heritage Center, 1330 Fillmore St., S.F.

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