Sacrifices of a Flamenca

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Sacrifice is synonymous with being deeply involved in an art form, in my case, flamenco dancing. Some offerings to the flamenco Gods are big. Some small. No matter how much we love it, there will eventually be bumps in the road that may have us contemplating just why we do this.

I wager a bet that most flamenco dancers are like me; when it gets tough, we want to dance even more! Each time something negative has been on my path, I just want to stomp on it with the full force of my nailed shoes and keep going. It is precisely THAT kind  energy that fuels my flamenco fire.

With this  mentality in mind, some bumps are just part and parcel of being a committed dancer. We accept it. We prepare for it the best we can. And we keep on keepin’ on. Some fallout from pursuing my passion for flamenco is expected, is worth it, and is ok.
Lack of personal time– I go to class several times a week and practice, practice, practice. I practice at home, engage with online tutorials and communities, as well as listen to music and watch videos constantly. I’ve rushed to class straight from work, given up Saturday mornings or afternoons with my family, been in class until late at night, eating when I can, or even passed up other events or outings because of a class or show. Free time easily becomes “dance time.” It is necessary for this art form, to learn all you can and hone your skills at every opportunity. The learning never ends, which also means your studies often come before “me time.” It is a delicate balance, to be sure, finding time for yourself when you work full-time, manage a household, have children, plus adding in a demanding hobby like dancing. I’m here to tell you, it can be done. It takes effort but it is super important to carve out some self-care and down time for yourself. It will re-energize you and allow you to give more to your dance. It took me a few years to figure this out.

Financial burden– Becoming a performing dancer requires more than just skill, technique, and passion. It also requires costuming, shoes, and accessories. A myriad of them. The art form of flamenco comes with handcrafted shoes to keep your tootsies safe from injury, custom-made dresses, skirts, and blouses, hair adornments to match, jewelry, mantons, fans, castanets, and the list goes on. None of this is cheap. But having beautiful costumes to shake your tail feathers in is part of the flamenco deal. I have to budget carefully in order to get one nice thing a year. This doesn’t include additional costs like attending class, special workshops, and any travel-related expenses to dance or take workshops out of town. The money can rack up fast! And, it’s continual…you will always need to add to your wardrobe, so the financial aspect is never ending. You need a wide open wallet.

Overuse of your body– We are artists, yes, but we are also athletes. As such, we are working our bodies hard and sweating like crazy each class, workshop, or performance. Do this two to three times a week and it can take a physical toll. You can stretch and use proper technique all day, but, sometimes, the body just says, “no.” We’ve coined a term at my studio called, “flamenco ass.” Yep, you dancers know what I’m talking about! That lower back pain that aches like you’ve had an elephant sitting on your butt. Your arms, feet, and legs, will also be sore at given point in time. It is expected with all the physical exertion flamenco dancing brings. Let’s add here, too, the simple cuts, scratches, and bruises left from fans and castanets! Avoiding injury is certainly possible, with proper self-care and technique. Alas, some of us are older and it happens anyway. Listen to your body and don’t push TOO hard.

There are more, like sacrificing time with family or  in relationships, the mental roller coaster of learning to be confident in your dance, pandemics that keep you away from class and society so you must pull from your will to stay in the game, and the constant need to be dancing, everything else be damned! 🙂 Well, these are true for me, anyway.  🙂

All of these “sacrifices” are made acceptable and manageable because of how much I love being a flamenca, being a part of a beautiful community, the bonds made with fellow artists, the fun of it, and how much it permeates my soul. All worth it! Your artistry does not have to sacrifice!

A Look Back at 2019- My Break-Out Year!

I was a butterfly, finally released from her cocoon, free to wander the world in search of adventure. That is what 2019 felt like for me. After nearly two years of on-again, off-again dancing due to injuries, surgeries, and recoveries, 2019 was my break-out year! It was filled with lots of soul-enriching and fun dancing, traveling, and writing.

2019 started off in Spain, going to the Jerez Flamenco Festival in February. It was not only my first time there but also my first trip totally on my own. I will definitely be doing more of that! It was so nourishing and empowering!

You can read more about my trip to Jerez here:

https://fleurdeflamenco.wordpress.com/2019/05/12/the-flamenco-camino-less-traveled

Mi hermana and beloved maestra, Carmen Ledesma, came back to Louisville during the summer to teach a workshop. Chayito Champion accompanied her as cantaora and it was wonderful to add a new flamenco spirit to the family. It is always such a heartfelt joy to be in Carmen’s presence but it also invigorates my flamenco passion to learn from her. She is truly a blessing on my flamenco journey.

I was fortunate enough to write and have four articles published in International Living, which is a dream come true. Travel writing full time is a long-term goal and I enjoy it so much, so it was amazing to reach this initial achievement. I am active in pitching story ideas to travel-related resources, so hopefully, 2020 will see more of my work published! You can read my articles at the links below.

Roman Holiday: Staying in a Converted Roman Monastery

Popular Food and Eating on a Budget in Spain

Things to Do in Cádiz, Spain (For Free)

Discovering Seville by Getting Lost in Adventure

I expanded my flamenco journey in the fall by traveling to Los Angeles to take a weekend workshop with Rina Orellana. This was the first time I had taken classes from anyone outside my home studio or Spain. It was a remarkable experience and I made lifelong friends. I’m so glad I stepped outside that box! Read more about this fabulous trip at https://fleurdeflamenco.wordpress.com/2019/12/15/a-flamenca-weekend-get-away

Not only did my flamenco expand, but so did my hula dancing. I started learning under Kumu (hula teacher) Tina Eggert out of Chicago and became part of a local halau (hula school). We have workshops and practice regularly and it has allowed me more performance opportunities, as well. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning new hulas under a very sweet and skilled Kumu. As with flamenco, I love sharing my passion and cultural traditions with the local community!

In fact, I performed in 11 community shows this year with Flamenco Louisville and in four hula shows. You don’t know how much I love being able to say that!

I snuck some non-flamenco traveling in there, too. In addition to going to Jerez and Los Angeles in 2019, I also made visits to North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Florida, for special occasions and to see family.

One last flamenco event for the year had me on a plane, again. This time to see Farruquito in San Antonio, TX! I have never traveled out of town for “only” a show! But more of that is on the agenda, for sure! It was a spectacular show and taking my youngest daughter and abuela made me so happy!

I still had upsets in my life this year, to be sure. It wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows. Each time negativity struck, I mixed it up into a fat, juicy albondiga and devoured it. Each time I stepped away from my over-thinking or analytical self, it was a huge success. I stopped giving decision-making so much power and just said, “Heck with it, I’m doing this.”  Plenty of happy surprises, memorable moments, and a stronger sense of self were the result. I am liking this side of myself very much! 🙂

A flamenca weekend get-away

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Living the life of a flamenca, opportunities are all around to travel and immerse yourself in studying this art form. That’s exactly what I did when I boarded a plane in the wee hours of a still October morning. I was headed to Los Angeles for a weekend get-away to attend Rina Orellana’s inaugural  flamenco workshop for her online membership students!

For me, gathering knowledge from different teachers is vastly important in becoming a fully developed flamenco dancer. It’s how you are able to manifest all the teachings into your own personal style and voice. It’s how you grow as  dancer. Everyone who touches your flamenco path leaves behind a little bit of fairy dust for you to gather up on your journey. This weekend in Los Angeles was no exception!

So, what do you teach to a group of flamencos from all over the globe and at different stages of their journey? Por fiesta, of course! Perfect choice because no matter how many years you have been dancing, you can always build on this element. I picked up some cool new moves to add to my toolbelt!  The three-day workshop consisted of learning tangos and bulerías por fiesta, accompanied by a guitarist, Kai Narezo, two of the days and a cantaora, Reyes Barrios, on the third day. They are both highly talented, patient, and fun and it was an exciting element to add to our weekend workshop. Nothing beats dancing to live musicians!

The first day of the workshop was a mixture of introducing us to what we would be learning overall, diving into the tangos portion, and a lovely meet-and-greet tapas reception afterwards. This was such a nice touch because we were able to get to know one another in-person versus in the online group as we had done for months.

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Day two’s workshop held three hours jam packed with tangos and bulerías sassiness and fun. It is exciting for me, not only to experience Rina, but also other students. Everyone brings something so different to the table and I love witnessing that! So much thirst for dancing!

That afternoon, Rina scheduled private shopping time at Flamenco West, a quaint but totally awesome flamenco shop in Playa del Rey. Five of us hopped in my rental car and drove to the beach for some flamenco browsing. The owner, John Silva, was on hand to assist us personally and we owe him a lot of thanks for dealing so pleasantly with all of us flamenco crazed ladies invading his store. Some bought shoes, some bought clothes and I walked away with a gorgeous and perfectly fitting red skirt. To top it off, a few of us went to the beach afterwards and ended up dancing in the water! It doesn’t get any better than that!

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That night was another wonderful addition to the weekend festivities. I had a front-row seat to a marvelous show Rina put on, open to all workshop attendees as well as the local community.  She was joined by the guitarist and cantaora from our workshop, a cajón player, and a local bailaora, Vanessa Albalos.  Wow, is all I can say! It was a special treat to see Rina “in action” and what a soulful, sassy dancer she is ! And Vanessa just blew me away! The aire in the room was palpable. It was truly an amazing performance by all and an amazing night of flamenco camaraderie.

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The third and final workshop day included finishing up our bulerías instruction, reviewing both palos on last time, and a fun fin de fiesta! Having both the guitarist and cantaora here this day made it extra special. Three hours has never gone so fast. It was a bittersweet day, for sure, because I really felt connected here and, honestly, it took me by surprise how hard it was to say good-bye.

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Rina is such a gift to flamenco. It is hard to find such generous and patient teachers. She exudes so much energy, you are bound to absorb some of it. What a fantastic person and breathtaking dancer! And don’t get me started about all the wonderful flamencos I met that weekend. They came from near and far (as far as the UK and Canada!) to share their passion for flamenco with like-minded souls. Everyone came from different learning environments, from different levels of experience, to converge in sunny LA for a glorious weekend, all for the love of flamenco. Bonds were made, friendships forged, and inspiration shared. We met for brunches before the workshops, shared life stories, and laughed together. My circle of lifelong flamenco friends has happily grown.

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To say weekend re-energized me is an understatement. Sometimes, life gets in the way of your passion, no matter how hard you try for it not to. This was the kick in the butt I needed to re-fuel my flamenco engine. Rina, nor the flamencos in attendance, were ever just going through the motions. The genuine desire to share flamenco, was alive and well that weekend!!

Muchas gracias Rina Orellana!!

What I cannot speak, I dance

It has been a few months since I have written here. There are several reasons for this; I’ve been writing more travel-related (paid and published) articles, I have been performing more (always good news), and, as opposed to last year, just getting out from behind the four walls and enjoying life more. There is another reason. Words have escaped me lately. I between all the smiles and performances and writing about the fantastic cultures I have momentarily resided in, I am holding a compartment closed deep inside myself.

Here’s the thing. I have feelings, thoughts,emotions, opinions that I cannot express to anyone. That may sound silly, being a writer and all, but in my heart, I feel it’s true. I do not want to upset or offend anyone or hurt feelings. I dothAX2SS996 not want the Spanish Inquisition reconstructed on my behalf. Mostly, I don’t want to disappoint people. There are things people close to me won’t understand or like. I shouldn’t care but I do.

These are also things I cannot write about, publicly or privately. I just can’t seem to find the right words. I have written about many personal things, but I cannot find the words in this case. Major life decisions are in front of me and I am keeping it all inside. At least until I figure it all out for myself.

This, my dear readers, is where my flamenco dancing comes in. Through all of these pent-up thoughts, through confusion, sadness, loss, and disappointment, through doubt and contemplation, there is my beloved flamenco to pour it all into. When I’m on the dance floor, nothing else exists. Trouble melts away and strength manifests. I can – and do – take everything I’m feeling inside, all the unspoken things, and release them when I dance. It makes the process somehow more manageable.

Flamenco is accepting and forgiving. It doesn’t  judge or hold a grudge. It doesn’t express displeasure or ask questions. It doesn’t expect anything from me other than what naturally flows through my veins. It just lets me be whatever I feel at the time, all the time, every day. With flamenco, I can be myself. Flamenco gift wraps my pain and sets it at my feet, waiting for me to unwrap my dance.

It has been a true gift in my life. My passion for flamenco is fueled more and more every day as I realize it gives me back everything, and more, that I give it.

When I can’t speak the words in my heart, I can still dance them.

The flamenco camino less traveled

Every time another cobblestone is placed on my flamenco path, I become more committed to my journey. Each time I dance, each place I visit, each person I meet, each maestra I learn from, each moment I absorb, all fill my soul just a little more with the joy of flamenco. It is crucial to my flamenco experience to dive deeper not only in class, but outside the walls of the studio, as well.  20190225_193422

My recent trip to Jerez de la Frontera, Spain is no exception. Well, there was one exception, I was flying solo. My previous trip to Sevilla was alongside 10 other dancers, teachers, musicians, and significant others, which was absolutely lovely and meaningful. It provided many guides on my trip.  Since it was my first trip to Spain, that was perfect. I enjoyed the camaraderie immensely.  This time, however, going to Spain alone, I was forced to see things from a completely individual perspective. And that was nothing short of empowering and soul-enriching. And so much fun!!

One thing I became aware of almost immediately in Jerez was a very real sense of community; in the streets, in shops and restaurants, in taxi’s – everywhere I went, people were warm and familiar with one another. They greeted each other with hugs, kisses and words of affection. I saw this displayed over and over again. Everyone was family.

That carried over into the flamenco studio where I took lessons. Maybe being alone made me more open to seeing things, feeling things, but the honest interest and happiness amongst the flamencos I came in contact with, was, without a doubt, obvious and genuine. As it should be.

One example that stands out for me is of the local dancers and musicians gathered in the plaza every night to entertain the passersby and nearby restaurant patrons. Plaza Plateros was always full of activity and was one of my favorite places to eat and people-watch. The flamenco shows were fantastic and puro. I went there several nights, sitting close by, playing palmas. One night, during the street performers break, a young lady sitting at the table next to me reached down and brought out her guitar. She started playing bulerias – and playing well. The group spoke to one another in Japanese but the music transcended any language barriers! The next thing I know, one of the guitarists friends seated with her begins to sing. You could tell the crowd made the cantaora a bit nervous but she continued anyway. People gathered around them to include the street performers. They chimed in with palmas and jaleos and were happily surprised at this spontaneous musical event. One woman from the crowd even started singing with the timid cantaora.  The spectators cheered them on, including me, until it was time for the street performers to resume their show. And then, the craziest thing happened – the flamenco guitarist asked the young lady if he could try out her guitar, and proceeded to play the rest of their show with it! Only in Spain!

Teachers, shop owners, taxi drivers, other flamenco students, all asked me questions, eager to hear my flamenco story. I made new friends from the simplist of exchanges. I even became the recipient of the warm, affectionate greeting in the streets when I would run into them again. How lovely!!

When one hears of flamenco in Spain, you mostly hear of Sevilla, Barcelona, Madrid, and Granada. I had not heard of Jerez in that context as often. But, I can tell you now, it was a magnificent flamenco town and experience. It seems the less traveled camino (road) to go to Jerez for flamenco, but it surely caught my attention and made me feel so embraced. My flamenco dancing and flamenco attitude flourished there and I will definitely be back!

 

When is it time to hang up my flamenco shoes?

I have experienced plenty of things in my 6-year study of flamenco that could have taken me out of the game. This runs the gamut of physical injury, emotional trauma, self-doubt, conflict with loved ones regarding my time investment, the lack of time, in general, a new job,moving, life-changing events, and the list goes on. I’ve even been given the ultimatum, “it” or me! Needless to say, I am still dancing. 🙂

il_fullxfull.186541163I didn’t choose dance, dance chose me.  I will argue that mentality to my death. I have been dancing my whole life, in one form or another, and cannot conceive it not being there for me. But in contemplating my struggles to keep flamenco in my life, I got to thinking about other dancers, musicians, art aficionados – is there something that would make you quit flamenco – or any other passion you are involved in? Is there some event in your life that would cause you to hang up your flamenco shoes temporarily or permanently?

During the numerous times I could not dance, I found my motivation in other ways, but still remained connected to flamenco. I adjusted and modified and kept in the game. I would practice however I could or however my body would let me, read, watch videos, listen to flamenco music, write about my challenges, etc. It wasn’t the same, of course, but it allowed me to stay “in the loop.” Surprisingly, I improved at things by happy accident!

And now I know, if the moment came where I could no longer fully dance, I have ways to still express myself and would not have to give up my beloved flamenco completely. That, truly, has been a very comforting discovery.

I firmly believe that everyone needs something that feeds your soul. Something that gives you happiness from within. Something that gets you excited and enables you to learn and grow. Dance is that, for me.

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Don’t give up your passion because it is too hard or because you don’t think you are good enough. If the passion and purpose you felt when you first started is gone for good, then you may need to re-think some things. That’s my line in the sand; when I am no longer learning, having fun, feeling energized and empowered, I will stop dancing (God forbid). Until then, bring it on! What is your line in the sand?

This post is definitely not meant to offend, criticize or pass judgement on ANYONE!! We all have our own reasons and motivation for things we do. I fully understand life happens!

What I DO hope I can achieve here, however, if you are on the fence or living with restrictions that keep you from participating in your passion as much as you would like, is to offer encouragement and support. Where there is a will, there is a way. Lord knows, I can say that first-hand. It’s up to you to find your “why.”  If you don’t want to give it up, don’t! You might have to be creative, but it’s not impossible.

Keep those dancing feet going and enjoy the journey. This is YOUR story.

7 Ways to Find the Feeling of Flamenco

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“I messed up so much in class tonight!” “I can’t do it/I can’t get it.” “I look stupid.” “Why doesn’t it look like THAT when I do it?” “I just go blank in por fiesta.” All things I have said and have heard others say in flamenco class over the years. As my dance morphs and grows, however, I realize being so focused on getting it right, or being perfect, can make us lose our way with what is really at the heart of flamenco…the aire, the feeling.

∼∼∼”Striving for perfection gets in the way of the feeling.” ~ Gino D’Auri∼∼∼

I have had numerous conversations with flamencas from around the globe about this. We have all had class or performance experience where we feel sub-par. It’s a struggle for all dancers. I’m not a teacher by any means, but I want to share my personal experience on this topic, what I have learned, and what has worked for me in moving past this struggle on my flamenco journey.

  1. Practice – Do I need to state the obvious? To get to a comfortable place, you MUST practice in multiple ways. I find my practice at the studio is different than the practicing I do at home and both are very beneficial. The studio offers guided technique and choreography instruction from my professional teachers. This is totally necessary because you need the foundation and technical knowledge. But my at-home study allows me to hone in on what I specifically need to work on and be a little more exploratory. So do both.
  2. Have a strong sense of compás – I have heard my teachers say many times, almost any move is ok, as long as it is in compás! Know your basic palos and practice the palmas. Compás is vital in flamenco and a core skill. This is something I practice at home…A LOT. I listen to music by different artists so that I am able to identify the palo and absorb the rhythm. I don’t want my ear to hear the same stuff too often and become robotic. I listen first, then try to incorporate palmas. I also use solo compás music to keep me on track. Added bonus? Your palmas will inevitably get better.
  3.  Study flamenco – I cannot stress this enough and have written about it before in https://fleurdeflamenco.wordpress.com/2017/08/23/invest-in-your-passion.  This ties into the practicing at home thing. To fully appreciate and understand an art form, I strongly feel you need to learn about it in as many ways as possible. For me, this includes reading books, watching videos and documentaries, learning the lingo, listening to music, going to see fellow dancers perform, talking with others who take part in that culture, and traveling to take classes from legendary flamencas, when possible.  It doesn’t have to consume you, but if you are serious about flamenco, it should definitely be a part of your life outside the class or studio setting. Give flamenco the time it deserves.
  4. Confidence – Believe it or not, all of the above things helped my confidence greatly! Freestyling at home coupled with the knowledge I gain in class allows me to improvise with confidence. It took several years to get to this point, along with getting over other struggles, but I got there! It takes maintenance, however. Learning to build yourself up needs attention from time to time. It happens for each dancer at their own pace. I want to stress here that comparing yourself to others holds no place in your art. That is a confidence smasher for sure!
  5. Don’t give up – If you are truly passionate about this art form, you will overcome any road blocks, you will get better and more confident, you will bring your voice to your dance, you will grow. Don’t be discouraged. Trust me. I have been through many setbacks in my flamenco studies and knocked down again and again. I have never given up. I love it too much and flamenco deserves as much as I can muster, even if that changes as my life does.
  6. Have fun – It’s not worth it if you only see your flaws or concentrate too hard on perfection and don’t enjoy the process. Fun has got to be a part of it.  The day it is no longer fun for me is the day I will hang up my flamenco shoes (God forbid). Yes, you are cultivating a serious art form filled with richness and history, but you also have to receive, and feel, the joy it brings.
  7. Be true to yourself – I am not a showy, frenzied dancer. I do not have crazy fast footwork patterns. I’m in my element with improvisational moments and prefer quiet, impactful gestures. And I’m totally OK with all of that. Folks, you have to acknowledge your strengths and embrace them. The goal is NOT to dance like the person next to you. That would just be mimicking, not being a flamenco dancer. When you have the floor, do what feels good to YOU. Be true to the unique voice only YOU can bring to flamenco.

lady-dancing-in-festival-hiI will never stop doing these things because I appreciate and understand, for the development of my dance, I must honor it with my effort and dedication. We need to to be reminded of the value in what we seek.  It’s part and parcel of flamenco, or any cultural art form just as demanding. If you are anything like me, you will find it is soooo worth it.

Flamenco is a lifelong journey of learning. Practice and study so that you can gain confidence. Never stop trying, never give up, but have fun along the way and enjoy the process. And don’t forget to always be true to the elements of YOURSELF that you bring to the flamenco table.

What have you experienced that has helped you find the feeling in your flamenco dancing? I’d love to hear from you!

My Flamenco Beginning

It’s funny to think about now. The first time I ever saw flamenco was a live performance at the Clifton Center here in Louisville, Kentucky. Of all places…Kentucky! But the really funny part comes in when I think about my reaction during the show. I was agast that people were shouting out during the dancing and clapping their hands along with the musicians on stage! What was this?? I remember thinking how rude it was. You should be quiet and attentive during performing arts, right? Little did I know…

After Domingo, my fiance at the time, laughed at me for a few minutes, he explained the “flamenco protocol.” All this engaging and boisterous interaction was not only ok, it was encouraged and a sign of approval from the audience. You see, his mother is from Sevilla, Spain, and in her youth, was a flamenco dancer herself. He had already exposed me to delicious foods and fun traditions of the culture. And now, to the dancing. This was almost 10 years ago. And I was mesmerized.

Not too long after that, I saw more dancing and live music shows at a few local area restaurants. It was, and still is, surprising to me the Spanish influence I have found in the cradle of horse racing and Bourbon. One particular night, my daughters and I were pulled up on stage with the dancers for a quick, show-ending “mini-lesson.” I remember thinking, “I could do this, with my hula background, I could do this.” Again, little did I know…

I didn’t pursue it yet. It wasn’t until I was planning our wedding and thought how cool it would be for us to learn one of the dances and honor “abuela.” Sevillanas would be perfect! I called and talked with Diana, an instructor and co-founder of Flamenco Louisville, and a plan was afoot for us to take private lessons.

Unfortunately, my flamenco tribute to Domingo’s mom did not pan out. I don’t even recall the reason, but the private lessons never took place. I put flamenco out of my mind. Once again, little did I know…

Fast forward two years. I was in need of a hobby to occupy myself. The kids were getting older and needing me less, busy with their friends, school activities, and jobs, Domingo was traveling a lot for work and would soon be embarking on, what turned out to be, nine months of working in another state, and studies for my bachelors degree were reaching an end. I craved something to fill the void of my newly acquired free time. Flamenco instantly came to mind.

So, on a crisp fall morning in 2012, I walked into the Flamenco Louisville Studio, ready to try it out. I was 45 years old and unsure how this would play out. Only one way to find out. I’ll never forget the moment I knew I was in it for the long haul; my teachers were in Spain, as they do every year, and Diana contacted me asking if I wanted her to pick me up a “proper”pair of flamenco shoes, because, “I was taking so well to the footwork in class.” I had been wearing character shoes up to that point so excitedly said, “YES!” The footwork got harder after that but, at least now, I had the correct instrument.

Fast forward another six years. A lot has changed in my life since then but I remain a flamenca! I am still dancing, attending classes twice a week, performing in local shows, sharing the art form, traveling to Spain and California to expand my flamenco community and knowledge, designing clothes, and, some would say, completely obsessed. Flamenco has become an undeniable part of my life, my own thing, something I am proud to be a part of. My recent surgery/recovery setbacks don’t change that.

And it all started by witnessing the spectacle of people yelling at a stage full of performers! 😉 Olé!

Depression and Dance

No one understands. I can’t even dance through the pain this time. The pain is physical and chronic. I fight depression every day. The pendulum swings between being fighting mad one day to being empty and static the next. The ups and downs are exhausting.

I have been vigilant about one thing, though; not admitting to myself I am suffering. I don’t want to say it and give it life. I don’t want others to know. I don’t want to let it win.

But it’s always there, creeping along the edges of my psyche. Even on my strongest days. I have tried the whole self- pep-talk, self-boost, self-realization stuff. It works sometimes. I know logically I have to pick myself up, dust myself off and move forward.

But why must admitting you are depressed come with a label of being weak, or in a pity-pool, unwilling to power up? That’s not true at all. I wish more than anything I didn’t feel so alone, sad, and empty all the time. I don’t enjoy being here.

I should be able to be honest and say that the past couple of years have dealt me some crushing blows and that a person can only take so many hits, and that it has affected me.

What makes this so vivid to me now is that I am dealing with yet another physical limitation. Again.. Almost right when I get back on my feet from knee surgery, here comes spine trouble that has been debilitating and excruciating. I have been going through a myriad of doctors and tests and yet with each passing day, the pain gets worse. I have missed work, but worse, I am missing life. On my worst days, I can hardly stand for more than five minutes.

This is keeping me from the one true release I have, my dancing. And it is hitting me hard. I had planned to travel to Spain this summer- Granada. Now, I cannot. I don’t understand why the one thing that keeps me energized and focused is being methodically stripped from me.

Yes, I am seeking help. I know I can’t do this alone. I know it doesn’t mean I’m weak. It means I care enough about myself to want to feel better.

My dancing is always with me, even if my feet aren’t on the floor. I guess that has to be enough for now.

La sólo flamenca

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There were three, now there is one. It is a bittersweet statement. And it may even be premature. Either way, things on my flamenco journey are changing yet again.

When I started on this path seven years ago, it was meant to be a solo venture. Something just for me, a hobby I could do alone as Lori, not as mom or wife or friend or co-worker or family member. That lasted for two weeks, or so, before my daughters (16 and 13 years old at the time) decided mom was having so much fun and this dance looked so captivating. Soon, they were in-tow with me to class. At first, I was a little annoyed, I will admit. What happened to the, “this is for me”? thing? But, as any good mom would do, I swallowed my thoughts and words and together, the three of us started our flamenco journey.

It wasn’t long before I was very happy and grateful they were dancing alongside me. Not only did they both emerge as amazing dancers; one sassy and one graceful, but the nights of class, dinner afterward or lunch before, sharing about our day on the car rides to and fro, the performances, and special events at the studio each provided wonderful mother/daughter time and memories.  I didn’t expect this but would not trade it for the world. There were extra added bonuses for the girls, too – understanding team work and commitment, building confidence as the body transforms from teenager to young woman, maturity in understanding the palos and musicality, etc.  We even performed a piece together, a fandangos, for several years in the student recital (see pictures above and below). It was an amazing way to share, not only our specific family, but also how flamenco is cross-generational and for all ages. My mom heart overflowed with pride and contentment.

As they got older and had other commitments, time with me outside of flamenco became less and less but, at least, I still had this time.

Fast forward to now. My oldest daughter has been at college for the past four years but still came to class and performed when she was home for summer. While I greatly missed her presence, the change was a bit more subtle because the youngest and I were still regular attendees and performers. However, the youngest just graduated high school, is working a lot and looking to go to college next year. She has stopped going to class as she manages a 60 hour work week and being a young adult.

I think the ‘Three Musketeers Flamenco Time’ has come to an end. That makes me sad. And in this climate of so much change in my life, this is yet another aspect to absorb into my flamenco dancing. You see, it isn’t just that my daughters won’t be around much, if at all, for flamenco, it is that they won’t be around much in my life on a daily basis anymore. Soon, I will be an empty nester. A parent often thinks this day will never come and then in a blink of an eye, it is here. It happens to everyone, I know. My daughters and I are very close and have been through a hell of a lot together  and I will miss their daily presence in my life.

As I said, maybe this is premature. I may be getting ahead of myself. Maybe they will both find the time to keep flamenco in their lives, with me and for themselves, but it will not be the same. It’s sad for me but it’s ok. They need to go out into the world and follow their own passions and dreams.

My job now is to go back seven years and recall the “for me” mentality. I have to reinvent my dancing and focus solely on me. That is not a bad thing, I understand. And it is something I deserve, I get that. This is probably the perfect time for it, as I fight to recover from surgeries and get back on the dance floor.  Some may think I should have focused more on myself to begin with, and in many ways I did, but there was always the underlying part of the three of us being in this crazy flamenco world together. As a parent, that is unavoidable and I make no apologies for it.

One more stone has been laid on my continually evolving flamenco path, one more experience to pull from, one more emotion to emulate, one more sorrow to dance through. I will always treasure the memories we have made together, in and out of flamenco, and I know this is just the beginning of a new phase for us.  New memories, new experiences, more happiness. I am a very lucky mom they wanted to share this with me for so long.  I have enjoyed the ride. Ole mis hijas!

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Pictures below: a pre-show pic, one of the many years of our fandangos together, and our very first Flamenco Louisville Student Showcase back in 2013.