Laguna Dance Festival launches winter season with virtual flamenco show

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Flamenco dancer Irene Rodríguez will be showcased Dec. 4 at a virtual show hosted by Laguna Dance Festival. Photo courtesy of Nelson Ramírez de Arellanos

The Laguna Dance Festival will present its 16th winter season as a virtual event series designed to get supporters on their feet and dance, keeping the organization strong through donations.

Laguna Dance Festival’s primary public event, “Dance Like No One’s Watching,” will be held at 6 p.m. on Dec. 4. Audience members will experience a dance sampler by acclaimed international flamenco dancer Irene Rodríguez, filmed in Laguna Beach.

This show was commissioned by Laguna Dance Festival to help keep dancers dancing. The first 75 guests to purchase tickets will receive an autographed fan with which they can learn a flamenco-style fan dance taught by Rodríguez. Performances by talented recipients of Laguna Dance Festival’s 2020 Young Artist Scholarship program will also be highlighted.

A special surprise announcement by a Laguna Beach celebrity will take center stage to round out the evening. Guests donating $100 or more will have access to the online Dec. 4 performance and the entertaining fan dance instruction. Donations can be made at

“One advantage of the virtual world is that you can dance with abandon as if no one’s watching,” said Joy Dittberner, executive director of Laguna Dance Festival. “You need not care whether you do all the steps correctly. We hope that arts lovers near and far will enjoy this presentation and contribute generously to make sure our organization has the resources to continue bringing dance and dance education to audiences in whatever form and to encourage young dancers to pursue their passion.”

Like all the performing arts, dance is best experienced in-person, so festival organizers found creative ways to engage audience members during the pandemic.

“We landed on flamenco, a flamboyant dance style that we think will translate well to an online experience,” said Jodie Gates, festival founder and artistic director. “Irene is a dynamic artist whose movements you will be able to experience up close in the comfort of your home. Another advantage is the opportunity to expose our community locally and nationally to our local artists, performances, and mission.”

For 15 years, Laguna Dance Festival has presented internationally renowned dancers, choreographers, and dance companies to entertain patrons and educate and inspire local students. The pandemic has devastated the industry by closing theaters and practice studios, canceling tours, and furloughing thousands of staffers, according to a press release.

Despite this unprecedented challenge, Laguna Dance Festival has carried on by offering free live solo performances at The Promenade on Forest Avenue, free online dance classes, and virtual performances on social media channels.

Laguna Dance Festival’s 16th season offers opportunities for dance lovers to dig deep into their passion through free online panel discussions with:

  • Flamenco dancer Irene Rodríguez at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 22.
  • Maria Kowroski, principal dancer with New York City Ballet, and Desmond Richardson, co-founder of New York-based Complexions Contemporary Ballet, at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 2.
  • Jodie Gates, former Joffrey ballerina and Laguna Dance Festival’s artistic director, will share favorite clips from her performing career at 5:30 p.m on Dec. 9.

Lastly, festival coordinators will offer a virtual dance intensive over two weekends for dancers wishing to hone their craft: Dec. 5 to 6 and Dec. 12 to 13. These limited-participant Zoom sessions will bring together internationally renowned dance artists from Complexions Contemporary Ballet, New York City Ballet, and Gibney Dance. NYCB ballerina Maria Kowroski, dance icon Desmond Richardson, and Jake Tribus from Gibney Dance will teach online classes in ballet and contemporary.

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