South Aiken High School Spanish students got a study break like no other Friday afternoon when the Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater tapped its way into the auditorium.

The ensemble, an Aiken Performing Arts Group Educational Outreach Program, featured the dancers, entertains and informs students on different aspects of the performing arts, all while the ensemble reaches out to spread the Spanish culture through dance, music and literature.

Flamenco, a style that can express happiness – cante chico; sadness – cante jondo; and everything in between – cante intermedio – was the focus dance, as even the first segment involving classical and neo-classical dancing, a style that combines classical and flamenco, included it.

“In the southern part of Spain, flamenco, a culture unto itself, is the music and dance of the people,” said Jorge Perez, Ensemble Español executive director.

In addition to learning about the program and some Spanish history, the students got to participate in part of the performance.

Irma Suaraez Ruíz, company associate artistic director who also performed in the program, and some of the dancers led a presentation of Spanish clapping – called palmas – which come in two forms.

One is a sharp sound made by striking three fingers against the palm of the opposite hand, and the other is a more muted noise sounded by the cupping of hands.

To add into the authenticity of the performances, the dancers used little, wooden clapping instruments; it was Ruíz who revealed what they were – castanets.

The session ended with the students asking questions about the dancers’ history, practice schedule and more information on the program.

Darryl Ellcraig, a 10th grader from Andrea Neira-Gregory’s class, enjoyed the beginning performance the most.

“To me, it was the best dance,” he said. “It had the most emotion in it.”

Perez was very enthused by the program, as reaching young people is crucial to the ensemble, he said.

“Think about how many lives we touched today,” he said. “This is dear to our organization. Wherever we tour, we always ask, ‘Where’s the nearest high school?’”

Leonard Perez, one of the performers whose been with the company since 2009, enjoyed coming out to Aiken, a community he sees as having a true heart for the arts.

“I love performing here,” he said. “The community has a cool energy and appreciates the arts.”

For more information on the ensemble or the outreach program, visit or