Meet the Spirits of Fiesta: Corrie Jimenez and Kailani Cordero
By JORDAN ECARMA, NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER
The third time turned out to be the charm for Corrie Jimenez, this year's Spirit of Fiesta.
The 18-year-old Santa Barbara native had auditioned twice previously and made it to runner-up at last year's auditions.
"I've worked very hard for this," Ms. Jimenez told the News-Press. "I've been working since I was 11 years old, and I've been practicing three hours a day."
Ms. Jimenez performs, along with Junior Spirit Kailani Cordero, 11, at such events as tonight's La Fiesta Pequeña, the famous opening to Old Spanish Days. Both will wear white dresses made by seamstress Candi Cruz.
La Fiesta Pequeña, featuring traditional songs and dances, was an inspiration to both dancers when they decided to work toward being Spirits.
"I think I decided to be a Spirit when I was 5 years old and I looked at all the other Spirits dancing on the Mission steps," Kailani said. "I always wanted to be a Junior Spirit in the white dress."
Ms. Jimenez and Kailani won their respective titles at the Spirit and Junior Spirit auditions in April. Both had dreamed of winning the auditions since they were young.
Kailani, who was born in Goleta and is the only child of Michelle Cordero, has been dancing since she was two years old, she told the News-Press.
"I felt great (at the audition)," she remembered. "I also felt a little bit nervous, but when I was on deck and ready to perform, I felt confident."
Ms. Jimenez, who will dance at 27 different performances for various Old Spanish Days events, honed her interviewing skills for days before the audition.
"I was practicing interviewing and dancing every day," she said. "When I finally (won), it was almost surreal to me. But I knew that my hard work had paid off ... when they announced my name, I was ecstatic."
The San Marcos High School graduate, who plans to attend City College this fall, began flamenco dancing when she was 7 and was the runner-up Junior Spirit at age 11. Her dream of becoming the Spirit of Fiesta began when one of her cousins won the title back in 2004.
"I just remember seeing her up on the Mission stage in her beautiful white dress and seeing how she drew the crowd in," Ms. Jimenez said.
"It was really inspirational for me, and I knew since then that it was the dream I wanted to achieve."
The daughter of Carlos and Deborah Jimenez, she grew up in Santa Barbara with her two sisters, Leanna, 22, and Cristy, 14. Cristy is following in her older sister's footsteps: She is also a flamenco dancer.
The whole family goes to Old Spanish Days each year, and Ms. Jimenez has been part of events like El Desfile de los Niños, the Children's Parade, since she was 3 years old.
"This is a big year, because I can make them proud," Ms. Jimenez said, referring to her family. "I'm excited for them to watch me."
Ms. Jimenez, who studies privately with professional dancer Timo Nuñez, is intent on continuing to dance no matter what she chooses as a career.
"I will keep flamenco in my life and maybe some day become a professional dancer."
For now, both Ms. Jimenez and Kailani are excited to kick off the 2013 Old Spanish Days and become part of Fiesta history tonight at La Fiesta Pequeña.
"It's the opening of Fiesta and I get to wear my white dress," Kailani summed it up. "That'll be exciting."