Spanish steps 

Pasión Flamenca tackles the circle of life

To live is riotous. To live is silent. To live is a wide sweep of the arm and the intimate call of a finger, bent. To live is to spin with joy, to arch with lust, to defy the deities' demands with a thunder of heels, to lean into the pain of carnal decline.

This weekend, Pasión Flamenca presents ¡Vivir! (To Live!), a theatrical flamenco production that reflects the cycle of life, at Emory University. Beginning with the crescendoed stillness of creation, a bulerias and an alegrias surge through the frivolity of adolescence and the merriment of love, only to crash upon the desolation of a broken heart. A wiser joy emerges in the tango that follows, passing into the patient pleasures of life's latter days.

"Flamenco is about life as an art form ... all your sorrow and your happiness, frustration, anger, love," says Ulrika Frank, Pasión Flamenca's dancer and choreographer. A Swedish Laplander, Frank grew up in an Arctic expanse far from the hot breath of the Andalusian basin where flamenco was born. Yet the rhythms of flamenco captured her. Like gypsies, she says, "Laplanders are also a haunted people."

Flamenco began as song, with only the clapping of hands as accompaniment. The dancers and instruments were later additions. It is rooted in traditional forms that are centuries old, but every performance is an intimate expression within those forms.

"It's a very personal art," says guitarist Witold Tulodziecki, who plays with an assured serenity that belies the blur of his fingers. "Contrast is very important: from complete silence to heavy metal speeds or faster ... so loud it's like a machine gun and then suddenly it stops, silence ... so you can go forever."

Pasión Flamenca also features Carmen Deal, a singer raised in Andalusia who wraps her voice sensuously about the ankles of Frank's staccato steps, as well as bassist Michael Cady and percussionist Jerry Fields, who provide a hypnotic undercurrent to the group's mesmerizing visual, musical and cultural dialogue.

Pasión Flamenca presents ¡Vivir! (To Live!) April 26-27 at 8 p.m. in Emory University's Cannon Chapel, 515 S. Kilgo Circle. $20 advance, $25 door. 770-641-6673. www.atlantaflamenco.com.

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