New honor society hosts flamenco performance

Staff Writer
Since 2013, I have primarily covered the Anoka-Hennepin and Spring Lake Park school districts as well as the city of Spring Lake Park for ABC Newspapers.
Zorongo Flamenco performs at Anoka High School April 22. Photos by Olivia Alveshere The new Anoka High School Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica brought Zorongo Flamenco to Anoka High School to expose Anoka to a piece of Spanish culture. Fans are a traditional element in flamenco dance. Extremely rhythmic, Zorongo Flamenco’s performance involved some fancy footwork. Scarves are another traditional element incorporated in many Spanish flamenco performances. All five dancers moving together had the audience shouting “¡Olé!” and “¡Arsa!” repeatedly. “Where am I, Sevilla?” asked Susana di Palma, Zorongo Flamenco director, as the Anoka High School auditorium applauded wildly April 22.
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The new Anoka High School Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica brought Zorongo Flamenco to Anoka High School to expose Anoka to a piece of Spanish culture.

Shouts of “¡Olé!” and “¡Arsa!” filled the Anoka High School auditorium April 22 as the new Anoka High School Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica hosted Zorongo Flamenco.

Previously the more informal Spanish Club met periodically, but creating the Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica took the club “to the next level,” according to senior Lucas Manke, who is in Advanced Placement Spanish this year.

“We wanted to make it more serious,” said junior Morghan Park, one of about 40 students currently participating in the society.

To be involved in the Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica, students must be enrolled in Spanish 3 or a more advanced course, maintain a B+ or better on average in all Spanish courses taken, and be willing to complete a number of service hours promoting Hispanic culture, according to Lynnae Bina, who serves as the society’s co-adviser with fellow Spanish teacher Kelsey Walz.

So far, the society has hosted a few small events – a Spanish Talk-A-Thon at lunch, a Night of the Radishes celebration (an annual tradition in Oaxaca, Mexico, each December), etc. – but the main event for this first year has been bringing Zorongo Flamenco to perform a show in the high school auditorium.

The Minneapolis company was founded by Susana di Palma in 1982, and its mission is to “enrich our community by drawing people close to the beauty and energy of the flamenco tradition and, by expanding on that tradition, create an innovative art form that explores the issues of contemporary life,” according to Zorongo Flamenco’s website.

Flamenco, an art form combining singing, guitar playing, dancing and more, originated in Spain hundreds of years ago.

One singer, two guitarists and five dancers performed at Anoka High School April 22 for a crowd of approximately 400.

“There’s so few opportunities to see something like flamenco in this area,” Di Palma said.

Manke, Park and junior Alyssa Wicks introduced Di Palma and gave audience members a brief history of flamenco before the performance began last week, encouraging everyone to show their enthusiasm for the performance by shouting “¡Olé!” and “¡Arsa!” at any time.

Senior Cole Williams was not sure what to expect, but he was quickly absorbed in the show, yelling with eagerness at the dancers along with a row of his classmates.

“That was really unique,” Williams said when the performance concluded. “It got really exciting.”

Strong rhythms were felt throughout the show – dancers and musicians clapping their hands, stomping their feet and snapping their fingers.

“It’s really rhythm that unites it all,” Di Palma said.

When the show was over, audience members stood as Di Palma took the stage to introduce the ensemble.

“Where am I, Sevilla?” she asked with a laugh. “¡Viva España, y viva Anoka!”

Going forward, the Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica hopes to get even more involved in the community, according to Bina. “We want to find a good local charity that has a Latino focus and kind of adopt them.”

The Spanish program at Anoka High School continues to grow. More students are progressing through five Spanish courses, eventually taking the AP Spanish Language and Culture exam. And more students are passing that exam. In 2009-2010, Anoka High School’s pass rate was 33 percent. Last year, it climbed to 92 percent, according to Bina.

“The teachers make it fun,” Park said. “Now we have that same passion. I want to become fluent.”

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