Dancing between life and death

I have been on this tightrope walk between life and death, love and loss, for some time now.  As I manuever through the path of my flamenco journey, so, too, do I navigate life. All the emotions of both are intertwined. Some days, I am happy and content with my blessings. Other days, I openly grieve for the death of love, dreams, and expectations.

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Being a dancer means dancing through all the emotions, especially in flamenco. And so it goes, with my journey, that I find myself dancing between living life and facing death.

Flamenco is a unique form of dancing that allows everything, the good, the bad, the ugly, to surface in your expression of the dance.  But what no one tells you is how hard that sometimes is. I try to use everything I have inside me when I dance. But, it can hurt. It can hurt when the feelings  you are trying so hard to suppress blast out like an erupting volcano. It can hurt when you are reminded, through your dance, how sad you feel. It can hurt, when amid your solitary practicing at home, the well opens and the tears flow. It can hurt to realize that the very thing energizing your dancing is also ripping out your heart.

Therein lies the beauty of flamenco. It is ok to feel the hurt and let the dance help you heal. It is ok to show that vulnerable, sad, disappointed or overwhelmed side.  In fact, you must! That is what creates YOUR art, YOUR story, that no one else can tell.

While I process through challenging times, I know flamenco will embrace me and accompany me towards a happier horizon.  I am grateful for the outlet dancing provides and for the few that love and support me. And so, I keep dancing. I keep letting it keep me.

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What I Learned About Why I Dance When I COULDN’T Dance

I thought my flamenco journey and the reasons I am on this path were crystal clear. I thought I knew WHY I danced. I did not…not completely, anyway. It wasn’t until I was physically unable to dance that I fully understood.

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“To dance is to be out of yourself,” Agnes de Mille said. I am grateful my knee injury, surgery, and recovery were confined to only a handful of months. I tried to “be out of” myself and practice what I could from a seated position. I was diligent and it helped a lot, but my soul still cried.

During this non-dancing time, my life was also going through a lot of personal upheaval. Needless to say, one emotional strain did not help the other at all. I felt abandoned and alone even though I had plenty of support and love surrounding me. But once you are down that rabbit hole, it’s tough to crawl out.  And now, my ability to “dance it out” had also deserted me. I was crushed.

I even tried to put flamenco completely out of my mind. I thought, if it made me sad not to dance, maybe I should step away from it for a while. I decided I would not look at videos, I would not listen to music, I would not read, I would not practice. I would not do anything flamenco related.  Believe me, I never thought I’d be saying that. So, I tried. For about three days. But I couldn’t do it!! I literally could not stay away! Something kept me from walking away (no pun intended).

Ok, so this made me realize I cannot keep flamenco out of my life. It has me by the proverbial balls. Since I had plenty of time to think, my next question was, “What do you expect to get out of it? What makes you dance it even when you can’t?”

Everyone who knows me or who reads my blog knows how much I love sharing a cultural art form with my community. My hula dancing began that fondness. But there had to be more to it. Flamenco draws me in like very few things ever have. Herein lies my realization and acceptance.

I don’t have perfect technique and I can’t rattle out 15 minutes solid of amazing footwork. I do alright, don’t get me wrong, but I will certainly never grace the stages of Sevilla and I very well may never be a professional-level  bailaora anywhere. AND THAT IS OK! That is not my goal.

What I DO want is to do the art form justice. I want to dance with all MY feelings and for MYself. I want to be able to convey the deepest sense of flamenco when I dance. I want my emotions to pour from my limbs. I want people to FEEL me. If I stand in silence, doing nothing, I want that space to be full of my soul. That, I truly believe, is the flamenco magic. That is flamenco at it’s core.  That is all I want and that is enough. I know that now. The crazy part is it finally sunk in, after over five years of flamenco studies, that this art form performed and loved by innumerable amounts of people worldwide is mine. MY DANCE IS MINE! That is why I couldn’t stay away, flamenco is inside me, not with any one or any place else.  What a simple and yet profound epiphany. It took a chair to teach me that.

And, can I just tell you how liberating that is..to know that flamenco is important enough to me, almost on a spiritual level, that I want to embody it no matter where life takes me.

I have and always will give my teachers, my studio, and my fellow flamencas 110% of my dedication. But, now, I also have a deeper appreciation of what it means to just ME, unconnected to anything else. And that matters.

When I could not dance is when I understood why I must dance.

Into the Blogosphere

Presentation2My second year of blogging brought with it some new and exciting opportunities. I was super pumped when I was asked to write a couple of guest posts for other websites and was interviewed by a few sites that help promote other bloggers. I couldn’t be happier that my blog is reaching a cross-culture interest in the blogosphere and I was simply giddy that these well-established websites wanted THEIR people to read MY words. 🙂 I hope to do more of it in 2018! If you didn’t have a chance to catch them the first time around, here they are again. Happy reading!

GUEST POSTS/ARTICLES WRITTEN

Benefits of Introducing Children to Dance

http://www.messymombun.com/why-your-child-needs-dance-in-their-life-benefits-of-introducing-children-to-dance/

The Spain Scoop- Flamenco in Seville: A Dancer finds Rhythm in the South of Spain.

http://www.thespainscoop.com/dancing-flamenco-in-seville/

INTERVIEWS

Women in Business Spotlight

http://www.waldorfsaladcottagefries.com/women-business-spotlight-lori-kullberg-fleur-de-flamenco/

Travel Blogger

http://www.techeera.com/interview-travel-blogger-lori-kullberg-fleur-de-flamenco/

Coffee Heart Mind- Meet the Blogger Behind the Blog- Meet Lori 

http://coffeeheartmind.com/meet-lori/

 

 

 

Why did I shift from hula to flamenco?

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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.

Flamenco Anniversary thoughts

Today is my 5-year flamenco anniversary. It has been a relationship with my soul. I have experienced happiness and sadness, triumph and failure, pride and frustration, love and loss.  Through it all, flamenco has been a constant, allowing me to have an outlet for the fire that burns within me and an escape for my feelings. Flamenco has spirited me away and grounded me all at the same time. As I spend this anniversary in a less- than-ideal manner, not able to dance what my soul is speaking, I am reminded of the moment I took this picture. Having just left my final dance class in Triana, I stopped to look across the river. I was overcome with emotion and it hit me in one fail swoop how much I loved this place and this art form. It is memories like this I will resurrect  during my new challenges. I will give my flamenco new purpose. I will learn new things and draw from this experience to come back an even more bad-ass dancer than before (assuming I was to begin with). I dance for ME and no one else. Flamenco lives in me and I am grateful for the special people in my life for their love and support. Bring on year six!!!

Invest in your Passion

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Here I sit, not for the first time, sidelined from dancing due to a body part that isn’t on board with my passion for flamenco. For a few days, I wallowed in my situation, but now I am done with that. I will use this healing time to strengthen my body and bond with flamenco in other ways.

One thing I learned early on and continue to practice is that you MUST INVEST yourself in this craft in order to give your passion DEPTH. What I am discovering now, however, is the ability to find new ways to do that when something changes your course. Even if only temporarily.

Maybe it comes from a place of spending most of my life in cultural dance forms; first Hawaiian hula, now flamenco, but I very, very strongly believe in taking the time to find out what the heritage you are portraying means. I feel you have to understand an art form for it to be believable and have meaning.

So, while I am laid up for a few weeks, unable to dance, I will revisit some great ways to really immerse myself in the STUDY OF FLAMENCO. Yes, that’s right, it is a study. Not just showing up to dance in my ruffles and cool-ass shoes. And it’s an eternal phase; the hard work never stops and is constantly evolving. That is flamenco.

Listening to flamenco music is always first on my list. For me, listening to various styles and singers really gives me a sense of the feeling behind it and when I close my eyes, I can see myself dancing to it. It is also a great way to recognize the different palos of flamenco. I become inspired and comfortable and it releases an element of my own personal voice, or interpretation. I feel like this is so essential for demonstrating the real vibe of flamenco when I am on the dance floor.

Next, I will watch videos of both men and women dancers. I do this a lot! But the videos are not just to capture the essence of the dancers, I also pay attention to the singers and musicians, how they are responding or collaborating with the dancers, how the palmas carry the undertone, and how the whole unit acts in amazing unison. I understand that you cannot have flamenco without all of it working together, so the videos act as a good model for study. I usually always pick out a move or two from the dancer that I love and try to hold onto it in my memory bank for future use.

I will also work on what I can from a sitting position; palmas, braceo, castañuelas, etc. No time like the present to focus on what I CAN use of my body. I practice castañuelas fairly regularly but the rest will be new methodology. Taking time to focus on this should definitely help my upper body strength and precision.

I will read some more too. I’ve been lazily reading a collection of theoretical perspective essays but now I can finish it! Part of my study of flamenco is to learn the history and tradition and where it comes from. The more I know, the more I can connect to it. My goal is for it to enhance the flamenco that comes out of me and that is an earned privilege.

An added bonus to all of this is when I am feeling at an impasse and unsure where my flamenco path is taking me, I go back to its teachings. Back to the reasons I love flamenco, back to the rich history and culture, back to how it speaks to me, and back to my personal relationship with the dance. I renew my respect for the real reason I dance and I inevitably realize that is all that matters.

I think it is important, as a torch bearer of an art form filled with so much history, to reach for more knowledge, not just when you are injured and cannot dance. I am reminded of that now. Immerse yourself as much as you can in your craft. Give your art form the value it deserves. INVEST IN YOUR PASSION.

 

15 funny things said in flamenco class

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With all the crazy things we are expected to do with our bodies in dance class, it is no wonder that so many hilarious phrases and lots of innuendos are uttered…so I started making a list. I couldn’t let these golden quotes pass me by. Don’t be offended; what makes them funny is when taken out of context. 🙂

  1. If you keep your butt tucked in, it will make it stronger.
  2. Keep your knees together and just lift your leg to the side.
  3. Me: 50 You: 17. Don’t talk to me about being tired.
  4. Don’t pound so hard.
  5. It looks better if you point your toes.
  6. You can vibrate, just no bouncing.
  7. I will bang with you!
  8. I haven’t even touched myself yet.
  9. No skimping on the buttocks.
  10. Give your ass a good slap.
  11. The first time is always the hardest.
  12. Bend over, it will make it easier.
  13. Do you want it fast or slow? Make up your mind.
  14. Keep your legs closed, it’s better for you.
  15. Where are you feeling it? Then you’re doing it right/wrong! (depending on your answer)

Anyone who has taken at least a few flamenco classes will understand these comments are usually made in relation to zapateado, posture, compás, marcaje, or speed of music/cante. But, hilarious, nonetheless. Enjoy!