“Hola hermana!” A booming voice and beaming smile greeted me as I walked into the Flamenco Louisville studio in early December 2015. She was back! Mi hermana de España! The legendary Carmen Ledesma had returned to Louisville for a 2nd year of flamenco workshops and I was elated!
I have amazing teachers and friends at Flamenco Louisville and they push me everyday. We love one another and are family. However, in the beginning of my flamenco studies, I would often come home from class frustrated; I was not as graceful or as technique-rich as the other students. Many were younger, quicker to pick up intricate moves, and had smaller frames than I. It was a feeling that held me back from expression and from fully embracing all that is flamenco. Then, one of my flamenco teachers suggested I watch a video of Carmen Ledesma. I was mesmerized….Carmen is a flamenco icon in Spain with many years of experience, notoriety, and loads of duende! She is also an older, full-figured woman like myself, and yet exuded so much confidence and attitude in her dancing!!! And it was so pure and emotional! Yes! This was what I needed to see! I felt an immediate and natural affinity for Carmen. Soon, the impression Carmen was to have on me would go well beyond flamenco.
When Carmen was here in 2014, we formed a special connection that went beyond teacher/student; we became sisters. She told me I reminded her of her real sister back in Spain and hence forth, was called “mi hermana de América.” We had memorable times… in and out of the flamenco studio. One night, we took her to dinner at Brazeiros, a Brazilian steakhouse, and laughed for hours over her amazement at all the delicious meats swarming her plate, even posing for silly pictures with the gauchos. It was, indeed, like being with family.
Although I speak very, very little Spanish and have never been to Spain, we kept in regular communication (and still do) through the year until her return last month, exchanging family pictures as well as flamenco performance stories. During her most recent visit, we spent a lot of time together outside of flamenco, and she never let me forget that I was not only a student of flamenco, I was part of her family. The night we ended up at one of my Louisville teachers homes after a full day of workshops, eating, drinking wine, talking, playing music, singing and dancing was the best! I was surrounded by my family, my Flamenco Louisville mentors and friends along with Carmen and her son! It doesn’t get any better than that!
Somewhere along the way, I found my spirit, and my confidence soared. Carmen was a part of that. I admire and love my sister from Spain. Our connection goes beyond language and culture. We have an unspoken bond. So much so, that she contacted me recently when she learned of my fathers death, giving me heartfelt words of support and encouragement in this difficult time.
In addition to my inspirational teachers here in Louisville, Carmen is a large contributor to the passion I continue to have for the art of flamenco and is a great role model for both my flamenco journey and my soul.