By RYOKO NAKAMURA
RAFU JAPANESE STAFF WRITER
The powerful sound of the guitar, rhythmic handclaps, inspirational songs, and passionate dances enthralled the audience that filled a Gardena restaurant, El Pollo Inka, on Jan. 17.
A total of 110 people gathered to enjoy the Mikaela Kai Flamenco’s annual student recital.
In addition to eight students ranging in age from their 20s to their 60s who performed on stage, 15-year-old violinist Kaori Shimizu, percussionist Manolo Ikeuchi, guest dancers Jani Quintero and Corina Del Sol, and Barcelona natives Paco and Yolanda Arroyo, the best-known flamencos in Los Angeles, shared their stunning talents.
The students confidently danced to the tune of Paco’s remarkable guitar and Yolanda’s resonant voice, and the audience enjoyed the historical piece of art from Spain.
Flamenco is passionate, energetic, and beautiful. Many of the students are Japanese or of Japanese descent, and grew up learning the beauty of hiding inner emotions. It was challenging for some to express their soul, yet for others, it was a feeling of freedom and an eye-opening experience.
Mitsue Kajikawa and Yuko Tamura came to see her friend Lisa Osada, who performed an impressive solo at the recital for the first time.
“She usually doesn’t wear make-up and is very shy, but today, I was surprised to see her powerful dances and soulful expressiveness,” said Kajikawa. Because of Osada’s costume and dramatic make-up, Tamura said, “When she first came onto the stage, we didn’t even recognize her.”
This was exactly what Michiyo Ando, a.k.a. Mikaela Kai, the instructor, wanted her students to learn from flamenco. “Flamenco isn’t only about techniques. It teaches us the importance of overcoming personal obstacles, such as discovering latent potential and passion and expressing them through dance. This process allows us to feel a great sense of accomplishment and learn confidence.”
It was the third student recital for the Milaela Kai Flamenco dancers. “A student who danced in a group last year performed an exciting solo this year, and a spectator from last year’s recital became one of the dancers this year. Seeing progress like this makes me really happy and proud,” Ando said.
At the closing ceremony, she emotionally appreciated the support she received from many people in the community. She promised to continue her mission, “to spread the joy of this beautiful art form throughout our community.”
Mikaela Kai Flamenco offers group and private lessons at a studio at 16418 S. Western Ave., Unit A, Gardena. For beginners, classes are every Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. and every Thursday at 7:30 p.m. For intermediate, classes are every Tuesday at 11 a.m. Group lesson fee is $20; private lessons are $40/ hour.