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Fiesta Crowds Fill Courthouse Sunken Garden for Las Noches de Ronda

Mariachis, guitaristas and virtually every form of flamenco dancing were on display at the start of the three-day event

[Click here for a gallery of Las Noches de Ronda photos.]

Las Noches de Ronda breathed new life into the Santa Barbara Courthouse on Thursday night as lawn-chair-toting locals and visitors filled the Sunken Garden to witness a traditional Spanish-style show teaming with dancing and music.

Old Spanish Days continued from the green expanse of the Sunken Garden with a series of 32 performances, including mariachi, virtually every form of flamenco dancing, and an appearance from the Spirit of Fiesta herself.

Noches de Ronda runs through Saturday, and will feature a unique set of performances each night.

Angela Adams, the instructor for the Lompoc flamenco dance group Boscutti Ballet Theatre, said preparation is the most challenging aspect of performing in front of large crowds.

Between last-minute stage fright, hot lights and all that cardio from hopping around stage, supply kits tend to come in handy, she noted.

“We always make sure to bring salty snacks, Gatorade and Neosporin. It gets easier as once you learn the tricks of the trade” she said with a laugh. “The longer your in the lights, the more that nutrition comes in to play.”

One of the more nervous members of her group was Athena Montoya, 16. Though she's been practicing flamenco for 10 years, she says she's learned to cope with the fright by just winging it as she she needs to.

Members of the Linda Vega Dance Studio perform "Zorongo" at Las Noches de Ronda on Thursday night at the Santa Barbara Courthouse Sunken Garden. (Mike Eliason / Noozhawk photo)

“Sometimes I black out for like, 20 seconds, and I just keep doing whatever looks convincing,” she said. “No one can ever tell.”

As the sun the sun started to set, cheers of “Viva La Fiesta” rang out from members of the crowd as this year's Sprit of Fiesta, Talia Ortega Vestal, took the stage.

Friar Larry Gosselin emerged shortly after to perform a prayer, asking each member of the crowd to the clasp hands with the person nearest them; stranger or no.

Gosselin, who was visibly touched by the crowd's compliance, said he hoped each visitor would gain a spirit of unity from the fiesta.

“The sense of style and perseverance that the dancers bring to the stage is really something to see,” he said. “Hopefully that spirit will rub off on the crowds.”

Also present was last year's Spirit of Fiesta, Corrie Jimenez, 19, who performed a form of flamenco dancing called Tientos. Jimenez described Tientos as a more serious form of the dance, saying its all about transferring emotions.

“We are putting it all out there in three minutes, and we try to make every moment count,” she said. “We want to display our emotions to the audience so they experience the same joy and excitement we do, and can feel the same way we do.”

Las Noches de Ronda, Spanish for “Nights of Gaiety,” continues Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and will feature acts including the Montecito School of Ballet, Dance Fever and the Linda Vega Dance Studio. The courthouse is located at 1100 Anacapa St. in Santa Barbara.

Noozhawk intern Shaun Kahmann can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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