Flamenco dancing is made up of emotion and the rhythms inherent in the art form. What better way to celebrate Valentine's Day than to witness this fiery, sultry and passionate dance live onstage.

On Thursday, the Music Center at Strathmore offers lovers of all ages a preconcert dinner in the Mansion on the grounds, followed by a performance from the famed Mexican dance company Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana. The program, "La Pasion Flamenca" features dance and music driven by cante jondo and Andalusion folk music, all of which are manifested in lamenting solos, sizzling duets and festive company dances.

"For years, flamenco has been seen in the night clubs and in small restaurants, and we wanted to work on the art form ... and make sure it was accepted as a theater art," explained Carlota Santana, who in 1983, along with Roberto Lorca, founded the company with the vision that the creation and performance of new Spanish dance should find a permanent home in the United States.

There are two parts to the evening's program. "La Pasion Latina" opens the performance. Here, the songs and dances infuse Spanish flamenco with Caribbean, Latino and Afro-Latino sounds. The company of five dancers, two singers and two guitarists performs the festive "Colombianas." Other dances in this act include the "Vidalita-Farruca," similar to the Argentinean vidalita, with amorous and soulful verses.

Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana
Where: Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Info: $25 to $55; 301-581-5100; strathmore.org

The second half of the program is devoted to pure flamenco. For example, "The Tientos Duet" is described in the program booklet a "4/4 rhythm dance ... majestic and sensual, [with] slow, wiry movements [that] let the dancers express emotions easily."

"All flamenco is done to live music, because a lot of it has to do with the dancer working in time with the guitarist [and] with the singers," Santana continued. "There are certain parts where you can make sounds with your feet when the singers are not singing and other times when you cannot do that -- when the singer is singing."

And it is the emotionality that draws audiences into these sensual performances. The feelings expressed by the company are often the same as those felt by the audience.

"It's a universal art form, in a sense," Santana said.