I have always been a dancer, dabbling through the years in country and western line dancing and two-step, west coast swing, waltz, salsa, disco/hustle and anything else I could learn so I didn’t have to sit down when out with friends. And now, flamenco. Simply put, I LOVE TO DANCE.
The one dance style that has been with me my whole life is the Hawaiian hula. My memories go back to the tender age of five and of my mom teaching my twin sister and I the graceful technique…in unison. So, how did I shift from hula to flamenco? This question from a fellow flamenco made me dig deep for an answer.
What first attracted me to flamenco was thinking it was a lot like hula and would be fun and easy for me to adapt. Well, the fun part was correct. Not so much the easy part, made even less easy by my obvious distance from spring-chicken status.
The short answer is that it called to me. The spiritual and emotional connection stunned me at first, but I did not hesitate. Even now, when I feel frustrated and want to quit, I cannot. I mean, really, I cannot. It won’t let me. It has a hold on me and won’t let me go.
I could talk at length about the similarities and difference between hula and flamenco and how the hula gave me some good and not-so-good habits I had to tweak for flamenco, but those are not really a part of why I have spent the last five years armpit-deep in my flamenco study.
It is because flamenco satisfies a part of me that was screaming to get out. It reached inside my soul and grabbed a handful of emptiness and became unexpected friends with it. The friendship blossomed into such a kinship that expressions I never knew I had came pouring out like hot lava. My sleeping volcano was being awakened.
Hula, at least the style I am more trained in, sings to my soft, graceful, sentimental, folklore storytelling side. I love it deeply and always will. Flamenco, on the other hand, bellows to my pained, passionate, exuberant, aggressive, tormented, playful, pissed-off, sad, and uniquely individual side. All those different emotions in one dance style! With hula, you do not really have the latitude to create your own way, your own words. With flamenco, that is all you have.
Writing this, I realize that some of the other dance styles I have enjoyed, echo a feeling happening at that time in my life. The country & western, disco/hustle, for example, came during my 20’s when life was fun and frivolous and I didn’t have any worries. The salsa and waltz came a little later, when I was becoming more adult-like and felt the need for more focus and concentration on the moves. The hula has always signified my culture, upbringing, and family. It stands for the sum of my childhood and I will always have a special place in my heart for it, still actively practicing, performing, and giving workshops when given the opportunity.
But now, I have this new and different excitement coursing through my veins. This thing called flamenco. I think it is here at this time and place for me because in the natural course of getting older, I seek…no, I need, a more in-your-face way of expressing myself. One that tells MY story created by my own words.
I read an article recently, where an aged gitana was relaying to a stranger, the allure of flamenco, and I quite agree; (to paraphrase) flamenco is every lesson you will have in life and you have to improvise it, just like life.