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Spain's national ballet visits Miami

Spanish folklore is about more than flamenco. The director of Ballet Nacional de España wants to make sure the world knows that.

In the new production "Sorolla," running Nov. 6-9 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Antonio Najarro explores bolero, danza estilizada and other Spanish folk dances. And, yes, the show includes flamenco.

"I was very eager to make a grand show that displayed all the Spanish dances, not only flamenco," Najarro says. "The numbers have very different energies, but they merge in a harmonic way."

The show is inspired by 14 large-scale works by Spanish painter Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida. In this series of paintings, titled "Visión de España," Sorolla, who lived from 1863 to 1923, depicted images of folk dancing and other cultural activities. In the ballet company's "Sorolla," the costumes and set design re-create these images.

"When I found out about this collection, I thought it was perfect to produce a show that would re-create all types of Spanish dance," Najarro says. "We tried to reproduce the paintings exactly like they are. It really looks like you're staring at a painting in movement."

Spain's regional folk dances use different techniques, so Najarro enlisted other choreographers in an attempt to master the styles. "The styles are very complex, and very tiring in the muscular level and physical level," he explains.

But technique isn't everything. Najarro says the performers' expressions and emotions are just as important.

"You have to be able to speak from the heart. The dance is very expressive, very passionate and full of energy," he says. "There are some dancers who have a perfect technique, but they don't convey emotions."

That doesn't happen with his dancers, Najarro argues. "You have to have a special gift to be a dancer with Ballet Nacional de España," he says.

Najarro began his dance career at age 15, and joined Ballet Nacional de España in 1997. In three years, he became a principal dancer, and in 2011, he became the director of the company at age 35.

He no longer performs with the company, and focuses his attention on directing and choreographing. Yet he attends dance classes side by side with his dancers.

"Dancing is my passion. That's when I feel like myself," he says. "But right now, what I feel is the huge responsibility of representing the most important dance company of Spain."

"Sorolla" will appear Nov. 6-9 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., in Miami. Tickets cost $25-$90. Call 305-949-6722 or go to ArshtCenter.org.

bduarte@sunsentinel.com, @babicorb or 954-356-4710

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