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 six 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.  There were extra added bonuses for the girls, too – understanding team work and commitment, building confidence as the body molds 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 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. She will be graduating soon and off starting a new life as an adult. 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 six 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.

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My flamenco voice is louder than ever

Maybe the difference is in my mobility. Maybe the difference is in my mindset and approach. Maybe the fact that I was in such excruciating pain for months beforehand makes any pain now seem like a drop in the bucket. Maybe it is a combination of all of it. Whatever the reason, I am finding that recovering from my recent back surgery is so much different than my knee surgery recovery of last year.

Because sleep is still an issue, I lay awake many nights at 3 am. It is here, in this dark and quiet space, I think most about my dancing. During my knee surgery recovery, I had a very, very difficult time imagining dancing again. As hard as I tried, it took several months to get past that feeling. I even almost gave it up completely. This time, I started right away with a more positive enforcement of goals and ideas. One of these goals is working on a choreography that emulates my story of perseverance and sadness, struggle and heartbreak, anger and emptiness, pride and determination, love and loss.

Lofty goal, I know. I’m not a professional with years of choreography experience but I think I’ve learned enough to be able to move how my heart feels. I have a story to tell and it’s still MY story. It’s not for a show or a performance, it really it just to let it out of me and give it a form of release.

I do also think part of the difference in this round of physical recovery is that I have so much “bottled up” flamenco dying to get out. I had only returned to classes for a few months before the onset of this back thing. I was still trying to recover strength. I didn’t have time to completely settle back in and really let loose. One would think this would, in fact, make me more frustrated and anxious. Nope. It just makes me more determined.

Lastly, in regards to my mindset and approach, I think a big difference has come about in knowing the place flamenco holds for me.. As several of my past blog posts have talked about, there was a change in what flamenco meant to me that took place. I went from feeling confused and helpless to convicted and strengthened. Any art form that uses personal emotions to propel itself is most assuredly going to unfold for each of us differently. I realized and embraced my flamenco dancing is for me only and when I let go of all my insecurities and hang-ups, I felt so free and empowered and it changed how I danced when I returned to the floor.

So, here I am. On the road to recovery once more. Don’t get me wrong, I have definitely had my moments of being pissed at fate and frustrated with having to do this all over again. But those moments are not nearly as often or as paralyzing as before. I set out this time with a different perspective and, so far, it has helped greatly. My flamenco means so much to me and for me. It has evolved in the most surprising and unexpected ways. I venture a guess it will continue to do so.

Here is what I really want to say to anyone reading this – whatever your passion, whatever road blocks place themselves in your way, whatever little voice in your head tries to give you backtalk – push forward and don’t let anything or anyone stop you. If something is making your heart happy, let it. If something makes you smile, let it. If something feeds your soul, let it. Never give up. Allow the roadblocks to make you want it more! Keep your passion alive.

All of my experiences, good and bad, make my flamenco voice louder and stronger with more to say! I’m excited to see how my story will continue to unfold.

 

The Recovery List

I am in familiar territory. I have been down this recovery road before and not all that long ago.  As the Gods of irony would have it, almost one year exactly has passed that I had knee surgery. I won’t mince words…it truly sucks to have just barely earned my dancing feet back and then have this back issue take me down for another surgery and long recovery.

But, I’m trying to find the silver lining. I’m trying not to go down the rabbit hole that is taunting me. With as positive a mindset as I can muster, I think, at least I know in advance how I will feel. It is a small concession to realize I will feel isolated, sad, helpless, depressed, and confined, but, a concession, nonetheless. It lets me better prepare now for the “after” part. This time I will try to get ahead of all those emotions and use the energy for productive things.  After the Percocet wears off, anyway. 🙂

To that end, I’m making a list of goals to accomplish while I am rehabilitating my back. I am a big list person, always have been, always will be. There is just something strangely satisfying about crossing my words off on a piece of paper, or better yet, completing the list and throwing the paper away. There is some unexplainable quality that makes me feel like I achieved something, no matter how small or big. Yep, I am that person who thinks post-it-notes are the best thing ever invented! And then they came out with the ones with LINES ON THEM! Heaven, I say.

fe296cd586f22aa07cc7f8219699b210Couple my fondness for list-making with the fact that I am also the kind of person who feels invigorated when a special project is afoot. It gives me something to look forward to, something to focus on and hold my attention. And, again, this makes me feel like I have accomplished something and am productive.

I know that is just what I will need over the next few months; a list of projects!!! Some items pertain to my flamenco dancing and some do not. Some things are for my brain, some things are for my body, and some things are for my soul. They are all, however, for my sanity. 🙂

Lori’s Spine Surgery Recovery To-Do List

  1. As I did before, I will continue practicing my upper body marcaje, palmas and castañuelas. I think there was marked improvement when I went back to class last time, so aim to make them even better!
  2. Pick up where I left off with my Rosetta Stone Spanish lessons.  I can understand Spanish all day long when I read it or am being spoken to, but Lord knows I can’t say a full sentence back to someone yet. Weird, huh?
  3. Another thing I’d like to pick back up on is my genealogy research and add some more branches to my family tree.
  4. Add to the chair solea piece I started to work on last year when I was home-bound. I never finished it and think I have a lot more to say now I can infuse into it. Someone said to me recently, “You are a flamenca, on or off your feet.” Here’s to putting that to action.
  5. Complete a photo book for Cassidy that chronicles her life from birth till high school graduation.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           I think it’s a pretty good start and will keep me busy. A healthy perspective and outlook, I know, will be crucial to my getting better. Here’s hoping the next time I get my dancing feet back, I can stay on them for a long while!

Es una juerga!

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Every time there is an approaching juerga at my home studio, Flamenco Louisville, I get soooooo excited! Overly so, many would probably say. But I think I have good reason.

A juerga, or flamenco party, brings together the community of flamenco dancers, musicians, singers, and afficienados from near and far to spend a casual and social night of sharing the art form. Often, other art forms are represented, as well, like Middle Eastern and Latin. It’s just an overall night for music lovers and appreciators of art to mix and mingle. There is good food, good drink, lively conversation and plenty of dancing-always a fabulous group of people and each party is different, you never know quite how the night will go. 🙂 Who doesn’t love that kind of get-together?

What you won’t find at a juerga are scripted scenarios, fancy flamenco costumes, stage make-up, precise hair do’s adorned with flowers….only flamenco shoes! Can’t dance without those. Rest assured, it is always fun and dynamic!

Beyond that, a juerga offers a non-performance setting to let loose and be creative. Many dancers will try out something for the first time they’ve been working on. It’s a time to let go of choreography and improvise. Being at a juerga is being in a judgement-free zone. For a few hours, you can forget about life’s troubles and produce spontaneous art, surrounded by friends and flamenco family.

Even deeper still, and the main reason I love juergas, is the connection it has to puro flamenco; these parties  best convey the essence of flamenco. At its roots, flamenco is an intimate kind of art form so it makes sense that the most authentic kind of flamenco can be found at a juerga. Think about it. A juerga traditionally starts with food, drink, talking and socializing. Someone starts to tell a “story” which turns into singing, someone else picks up a guitar, eventually a dancer steps up and begins telling his/her “story.” It is all very reminiscent of flamenco in the streets of Andalusia, gitano homes, cafes and bars. These improvised jam sessions follow flamenco feelings from communion to party and adapt to the mood and energy of the crowd. It is a close-knit setting and a shared experience. There is no separation of audience and performer. There  is no staged theatrical element and the jaleos are genuine. It is organic and spontaneous flamenco! Eso!

I, myself, usually do moves I’ve never done before, trying things out, finding my foothold and what I feel in that precise moment. I usually can’t even recall later what I did, which is perfect!! That means I was in a place of just letting it flow out of me! Some of my most creative and heartfelt dancing has taken place at a juerga. Who cares if it looks technically perfect? Who cares if I fall out of compas (as long as I fall right back in)? Who cares if my arm went left but I wanted it to go right?  Who cares if I don’t get up and dance AT ALL (not likely) and just want to sit there soaking up the ambiance? Not I! And no one should.

Juergas are a vehicle for moments of true flamenco emotion, away from a formal and organized performance setting. They are about fun and sharing and telling flamenco “stories” together, as a community, as a family. That’s what I love and that’s what makes me look forward to them each and every time. Olé y olé!

 

 

I Survived

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I am going to want to remember this time. I am going to want to remember I survived. I don’t know how much stronger I am, maybe a little hardened and emotional – maybe, just maybe, a little stronger. Whatever I am, I am still here, fighting.

Often I think, the last year seems like someone else’s story, a Lifetime movie (and a bad one). In the spirit of catharsis, I am giving it life here, now, for all to see, but mainly for myself. If I harbor the pain I cannot move forward. Scars have been left and healing will take time, but I must start somewhere.

I know everyone has stuff happen to them that weighs them down. I do not have a monopoly on misfortune and pain. My things are no more, and no less, important than any one else’s. And I have certainly had good things happen in this year, as well, that I am very grateful for and blessed by. But we all know…the bad stuff sticks and is a lot harder to scrape off.

I have been heartbroken by the loss of love. I have said goodbye to a longtime pet. I have worried over my children and my health. Those things, and more, made me feel helpless and sad. But nothing compares to the feeling of being devalued, the loneliness of being scared to leave your house and the inner torment of feeling worthless…all because a stranger decided one night to violate you in the dead of night. Yes, that happened this year, too. I was raped. There. With shallow breath and trembling hands, I said it.

What does all of this have to do with my flamenco dancing? Nothing and everything. Many days, it kept me from dancing. Other days, it empowered it. I carried it in silence, I tried to embed it into my dance, I tried to push it out of my body and into a flamenca persona, I tried to release it through my fingertips and stomp on it with my feet. This was, most assuredly, not a bump I expected to encounter on my flamenco path. It has changed what flamenco means TO me and FOR me. I have had to dig deep, from within the depths of myself, to get back. And sometimes flamenco has had to wait.

Flamenco is one of my strongest passions. Even though I have been kept from it a lot lately, it still remains in my heart, beating strong. I have a deeper understanding now, more than ever, of how much your pain becomes your dance. I think, now, though, the need to dance for myself is what I feel strongest about.  I need to go to class and dance until I am a sweaty, achy ball of nothing. I need the soft moments to grieve and I need the “f” you moments to say, well…”f” you!

I have to let go of some things; comparing myself to others, feeling low over a bad night,  how fast I progress, or don’t, feeling pressure or stress to “get” it, proving myself because of my age, having unrealistic expectations, etc. These things are not flamenco. They are distractions.

What matters to me, what is at the core of flamenco, is allowing my pain to embody me – letting it carry itself into my dance; wearing my heart on my sleeve and feeling good about what I am portraying – feeling confident when I step on the dance floor knowing I have earned every moment and letting people feel that from me-that is flamenco and that is what I will work hard for.

It is hard. Everyday. It is hard. Every night I pray for strength. Every morning I wake up crying. Some days, I  don’t think I can make it through, but I do. I somehow manage to rise and hope today will be better. All I can do is keep living, one day at a time.

I do not want sympathy. I am sharing this in such a public way simply to share my truth. It is a means to my purging, my recovery and a step towards regaining some inner happiness. I am unwilling to be defeated. I am taking my power back.

             “I survived because the fire inside me burned brighter than the fire                                                                around me.” -Joshua Graham

Yes, I want to remember all this.  I want to remember I survived a lot of things that could have broken me. And I want to remember my flamenco waited for me.

Lorita “la Farola” is born!

 

IMG_8060 (2)My flamenco experiences continue to inspire me! My very first tablao and solo performance happened recently when, much to my surprise and delight, I was invited to Los Angeles to dance with Los Colores de Flamenco and their guest artist, Inesita. I love making flamenco friends from all over, through this blog and social media, and everyone I met in L.A. was so welcoming and hospitable.

The weekend trip my daughter and I took to Los Angeles was filled with beautiful moments and happy surprises. One of the dancers, Rudy, kept us busy with sightseeing, breakfasts, a lovely paella dinner at his home and lots of good conversation about everything from flamenco to our children. One of the other dancers, Jacqueline, was also gracious enough to host us for dinner on the night of our arrival, which was a nice surprise after a long plane ride. I couldn’t have asked for better hosts!

The day of the show, I was filled with nervous energy! I have danced here in Louisville with Flamenco Louisville for many public shows; senior centers, the state fair, elementary schools and colleges for cultural events, student recitals, etc, but THIS would be the first time dancing in front of a paying audience in attendance specifically to see a flamenco show and my first time doing a solo! Yikes!! My new friends had quite the following at their quaint little tablao/Cuban restaurant and bar and I didn’t want to disappoint. Plus…I’d only been back to dancing since January after many months off the floor recovering from knee surgery, so was nervous about that, too. The best thing about my new friends? They sincerely just wanted me to enjoy and have fun! No pressure, no stress, no expectations of brilliance, just the desire to share our love of flamenco! 🙂 I was even bestowed a stage name in honor of the occasion; Lorita “la Farola.”  I was truly touched and overcome by the love and support I was receiving from people I had never met. Yet another new seedling on my flamenco path was blossoming.

 

29512484_1829152567115479_9100750974161896833_n (3)The venue was so intimate and authentic, especially after “Rodolfo” added his flamenco decor touch! It was a small stage, just like in Spain. This would be interesting. As I waited my turn to  run through my number with the talented guitarist,”Miguelito,”  I had the opportunity to watch the amazing Inesita do a little practicing. Wow, is all I can say. This petite woman of mature years stomped out the most unexpectedly complex and precise zapateado and moved with such confidence and fluidity. All of the dancers were impressive and skilled but Inesita just took my breath away!

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Inesita is a returning guest artist with the group at Havana Club and has had a most inspiring journey through her flamenco dancing years. She was born in New York  and started studying Flamenco dancing at age 14. She has been a force to be reckoned with ever since. Inesita has traveled all over the world appearing in solo concerts in a variety of venues. For the past six years, Inesita has produced her own flamenco company featuring other artists and talents.

The fact that we were a stones throw away from Hollywood was not lost on me when I found out Inesita has also danced her way into several motion pictures; “Tropical Masquerade” (1948),”Footlight Varieties” (1951), and “Here Come the Girls” (1953, starring Bob Hope). In 2016, a a short documentary was done about her by Tina Love, entitled, “Flamenco: The Enduring Art of Inesita.” 1940 18 anos Espanolita_Inesita_16

IMG_8171Needless to say, knowing I would be dancing alongside such an icon was a little daunting. But Inesita was so lovely and gracious and a joy to behold. I take my flamenco learning lessons from such experiences and I’m so happy I was able to be a part of the night!29542410_1829167660447303_8971755692075618007_n

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My solo, a fandangos, in addition to my solo sevillanas copla and the group fin de fiesta por bulerias went well and I was happy with my performance. I felt confident, comfortable, and relaxed, ready to show my aire! I had so much fun! My teachers in Louisville prepared me well. 🙂

The cante and toque accompaniment were excellent and a big ‘thank you’ to them for being so willing to “work it out” with the “new kid.” An added surprise for everyone was my daughter, who also dances flamenco, being pulled up during the fin de fiesta, to show off her stuff, barefoot and in shorts to boot! She was full of sass and the crowd loved her!FB_IMG_1524024499159

I am continually grateful to meet and perform with such skilled artists through this exhilarating flamenco journey. They all definitely eased my nerves and made the whole experience so memorable and fun. It taught me a lot about the  spirt of the flamenco community. Thank you for opening your flamenco home to me. Ole mi nuevo amigos de Los Angeles y muchas gracias!

Where is the Duende?

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“The duende…Where is the duende? Through the empty archway a wind of the spirit enters, blowing insistently over the heads of the dead, in search of new landscapes and unknown accents: a wind with the odor of a child’s saliva, crushed grass, and medusa’s veil, announcing the endless baptism of freshly created things.” Federico García Lorca’s Theory and Play of the Duende is filled with articulate and robust descriptions of the mysterious word intrinsic to the art form of flamenco.

Duende – a word shrouded in as much mystery as the Spanish folklore and ancient superstitions behind it’s origin. As students of flamenco, we hear that it is a special feeling, a deep moment, when your expression takes over. But how and when does it happen? Is it possible to project the moment you will lose yourself in the dance?

Lorca says, in seeking the duende, “there is neither map nor discipline,”  “it’s a power, not a work, a struggle, not a thought,” and “is not a question of skill, but of a style that’s truly alive.”

Dictionaries and websites say duende is “having soul and authenticity connected with flamenco derived from a term referring to an elf or goblin-like magic creature in Spanish mythology or “the power to attract through personal magnetism and charm (in which case, every bar in every town would be wall-to-wall with men and women possessing ‘duende’) or “a spiritual calling connecting the soul to the essence of life, an inner yearning to become one with nature.”

I sought the wisdom of seasoned dancers, to explain what duende is for them. They spoke of it in a much deeper sense, saying things like it is, “a possessed state of being,” “like taking the mask off,” “trance-like,” and “beautiful and mysterious.”

The common spiritual threads are clear but it still seems such a vastly open-ended concept.

With the rise of modern theatrical flamenco performances, taking it from gitanos in the streets and caves to main stages in big cities, many critics say the pure form of flamenco, the aire, the duende, have been lost. True flamenco is not choreographed, it is impulsive and improvised. I get that and I agree, but as a performer myself, I understand the need for “the stage” in spreading awareness of the culture and art form, sharing the feeling of flamenco, with people who would not experience it otherwise.

Duende, I was warned, manifests from experience and from the suffering soul.  It is transformative. It cannot be “put on” in a moments notice nor with a manufactured scowl.  As a dancer who wishes to exemplify puro flamenco, I cannot forget that.

Will I find my answer? No. Duende, I realize, is untranslatable and unpredictable  – there is not a simple explanation, definition, or translation. How can you ever really define an emotion climbing up inside of you from the darkness or how it will outwardly take form? It is different in everyone.  It never repeats itself, as Lorca says, “any more than the waves of the sea do in a storm.”

In preparing to write this post, I tried to understand what duende means for the artist I am, but it defies me. It demands to remain unfettered by academic and intelligent reasoning. Maybe that is the point. It must happen in all it’s raw and unexpected glory. But a few things are without contradiction:

  • it is sincere and spontaneous and can apply to ALL art
  • it comes from your core and when it comes, nothing can stop it
  • it is powerful and agonizingly intimate
  • it is emotionally cathartic and sublimely transcendent
  • it cannot be taught
  • it is not created to please or impress, it beckons and emerges in the struggle to inhabit ones self

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I have had moments of ‘feeling it’ but never a true duende moment in my flamenco dancing.  And that is totally ok. I haven’t earned it yet. I haven’t lived it enough yet. I’ll know it when/if it happens. When the goblin of mystical inspiration comes for me, I will let it dance.

 

 

http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Spanish/LorcaDuende.php