A hidden escape in Sevilla

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I was in awe on many occasions of the rich history and tranquility of Sevilla. My visit to the ancient baths was no exception. I had this on my list of “things to do” while visiting the city last year with my flamenco group, but the trip was nearly over by the time a few of us scrambled to make an online reservation.

First, a little history to put the ambiance in perspective. Aire de Sevilla is housed in a 16th century casa palacio, restored 15 years ago by a wealthy viceroy to the Indies. The mansion is built on the foundation of a Roman ruin from the first century AD. Public baths were a customary Arabic tradition inherited from the Byzantine and Romans and were used for hygiene and socializing. With the Christian reconquista, most baths were destroyed, however, the custom remained in Andalucia.

MY EXPERIENCE:                                                                                                                       Down a narrow alley in Sevilla’s Barrio Santa Cruz, behind the walls of an unassuming sign, lies a place that transports you back in time.  Walking in the door to the scent of 20170330_175120orange blossom and spice, being served aromatic Arab tea and escorted into a candlelit grotto of connecting rooms, I knew the next 1 1/2 hours was going to be the perfect relaxation I needed at the end of a busy and physically demanding week.

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The setting was breathtaking. The various thermal baths and salt pool were surrounded by ancient Roman vaults, mudejar carved ceilings and dark walls lined with small candles and lanterns.

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Once we donned our swimsuits, we set about on our route through the thermal springs. We stepped first into a warm water bath and I soon wondered why I needed to move at all. The dimly lit room with the prominent silencio sign was all I needed to close my eyes and relax. But there was more. The hot and cold baths were surprisingly invigorating. A few minutes in the hot water followed by a dip in the ice cold pool made my skin tingle and feel alive. Our next stop was the Thousand Jet Stream room, a hydrotherapy pool filled with pockets of carved-out concrete perfectly sized for sitting in while the jets pulsated against your neck, back and legs. I dare say we lingered here the longest. The jets just felt so good massaging our sore bodies. When we finally decided to continue on, we made our way to the steam bath or Hammam.

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It was super relaxing and I was beginning to feel the contrast of all the treatments thus far. The final stop on the thermal bath tour was the underground salt pool. It was encased by an ancient style brick wall and you really felt you were below the earths surface with the temperature of the room and faint lighting. Floating through the salted water brought me to a state of mental and physical bliss.

 

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To round out the spa-like adventure, we indulged in a 15 minute massage of our back, legs, arms, feet and head. Ok, now THIS was heaven! I am not a massage connoisseur but this ranks up there as the best I’ve ever had. For only 15 minutes, it was thorough and not at all rushed as we lay in a separate massage room that held the same ancient tranquility as the other rooms.

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The icing on the cake? This 90 minute session was only 54 euros! (There are numerous packages available for different price ranges).  I am so glad we did not miss this opportunity. The therapeutic and respiratory health benefits are reason enough to visit this hidden escape in Sevilla. The staff was courteous, the experience was calming and luxurious and they thought of everything with the amenities – after your session, you’ll find a fully stocked bathroom with all the items needed to shower and dress for your next unique adventure in Sevilla.  Next time, I will enjoy the rooftop infinity pool and wine bath!

(photos courtesy of Aire de Sevilla http://www.airedesevilla.com/en/)

 

 

 

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Welcome to Fleur de Flamenco

I am a blossoming flamenca. I am learning and growing and unfolding; opening my soul to flamenco. And Louisville, Kentucky is where I found and am nurturing this art. I am a student/dancer/performer with the best flamenco studio in town- Flamenco Louisville!

I invite you to walk with me through my flamenco experience. This blog is dedicated to chronicling my journey from a total newbie three years ago through my continued progress forward.

So, here I am, on a new adventure of writing about my flamenco life. I hope you enjoy the ride with me! Olé! Vamos!

 

My flamenco pilgrimage

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It has taken me a little over five months of being home from Spain for it all to settle in…and there has been much to absorb. There was a magic about being in Spain all its own, but learning flamenco there was just perfect.

Going to Sevilla changed me as a flamenco dancer. I feel renewed, energized and awake. Seeing all the professionals and their immense natural talent gave me such inspiration and appreciation for the art form. The large decorative theaters and elaborate stage productions on top of the mind-blowing dancing left me in awe. It was very educational to see flamenco translated in this way.

Witnessing up close and personal the tablao shows was amazing and the aire they flung off the stage was contagious. Being able to get a birds-eye view of the attitude and passion was an invaluable experience. I mean, you can’t walk away from a performance where the sweat from the male dancers hair slings you in the face without some level of exhilaration!

My trip to Spain also changed me, and probably more deeply, on a personal level. Taking classes from a renowned artist enabled me to be surrounded by students who came from around the world on their quest for more flamenco skill and knowledge. I researched and chose my teacher carefully, based on who I felt I could get the most from. And she did not disappoint; Mercedes Ruiz was not just a technique-rich dancer, but a dancer with concaved, pinched, and bent body while still holding beautiful lines. More puro form, in my opinion, and that’s what I was looking for.

Most importantly, I gained confidence. I firmly believe it is a confidence I could not have acquired anywhere else. I was initially a bit worried how I would manage taking classes every single day on top of a busy schedule outside of class. I was very happy with myself that I hung in there, tested my stamina by showing up every day and picking up most of the fast-paced instruction. Looking back, I am still surprised at my level of activity; walking for hours, shopping, sightseeing, going to shows, staying up late into the night and still having enough steam in me to go to a very rigorous class the next morning.

That confidence followed me back home, too. I felt different walking into the studio after that. I stood a little taller. I held my chin up a little higher. I knew my body a little better. I just felt like I finally believed I was good enough.

Beyond that, I am more appreciative of the culture and traditions. I have become more aware of a people who are so happy to share the art of flamenco with those of us who cannot possibly truly feel the manifestation of it’s origins.

The new meaning of flamenco for me now is so much more real and deep. I have been to the epicenter of flamenco and I have witnessed the masters. I have walked the streets, eaten the food, enjoyed my flamenco community, learned from one of the best and surpassed the personal goals I set for myself. I feel empowered.

Flamenco has taken a sure space in my soul now, more than ever before. I feel it in my bones. And I want my dancing to display the soulful expression of my journey.

New flamenco goals.

(photo found on http://www.paladarytomar.com)

 

 

The pleasure and pain of flamenco dance props

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Anyone who has danced flamenco for more than a couple of years has probably encountered dancing with a prop; castanets (castañuelas), fan (pericón), cane (bastón) or silk shawl (manton).  As a dancer progresses on her flamenco journey, these props are creatively added to the mix. If keeping the rhythmic timing of body, arms, and feet isn’t hard enough, we learn how to integrate with our movements these beautiful but tricky accessories of the dance.

These accoutrements most assuredly add an extra sense of technique, elegance, musicality, visual appeal and overall oomph to a performance but if you have tendencies like mine, it can also provide moments of unplanned panic, hilarity and a few boo-boo’s. It’s like a new chef learning how to use his first professional knife set; the cuts and scrapes and mishaps are part of the journey of mastering your tools of the trade.

The castanets are still not part of my performance vocabulary. My rolls come and go like the wind, even with my daily 5-minute practicing. I think I’m progressing and then I lose it. It always comes back again, like they decided to take a little siesta or something, so at least there’s that. One of these days, the elusive roll will decide to live with me forever and then I can perform with them.  Hopefully, while I still have fingers left.

The fan, well, let’s just say grenade launcher might be a more suitable term. It has, on more than one occasion, not-so-elegantly flown out of my hands amidst a turn,  propelling its way toward an innocent victim. Or the numerous times I have skimmed my face or arms with the paper-fine edges, or the unfortunate moments it has simply fallen out of my grasp and ended up two feet in front of me on the floor, broken to boot.

Heading down to the lower extremities, we have the toe-crushing bastón. I love the bastón but I’m not sure how much it loves me. Thumping it on the floor with a purposeful aggression, in time, or in contra, with footwork has caused a few near misses-and a few spot-on hits. I do believe my knees, shins and poor little toes have felt the bastónes wrath more than once.

Last, but not least, there is the exotically designed manton, along with its formidable counterpart; the fringe. What a spectacular instrument of flamenco this is, being whirled around one’s body like a bird in flight. At least that’s what happens in the YouTube videos I watch. My reality has been a little less picturesque. I do alright most of the time but just when I’m getting all comfy, the manton decides to teach me a lesson. It is during these heart-stopping moments I find the most humor. Later. Afterwards. Not then. It is pure panic mode when the manton leaves my hands to fall (not so gracefully) to the floor, or when it stubbornly weaves itself around my hair flowers or earrings, or when it suddenly and awkwardly cascades over my head mid-whip like a curtain dropping at the end of a theater show. Try flamenco’ing your way out of that one!

I know the intent of the flamenco prop; to display the versatility and technique of the dance as well as of the dancer. I love utilizing them to bring a different feel to my dancing. I know these props will become more fluid for me, in time and with more practice. I mean, geez, it has only been a couple of years of prop indoctrination. Flamenco infancy.

No one told me the joy of learning flamenco would include having stock in aspirin, cold compresses, bandages, bactin and the like. I must really love it. So, for now, when this metaphorical cutlery set of flamenco dancing takes on a life of its own, my first-aid kit and humility are close by. 🙂

 

 

Making new flamenco friends

Making new flamenco friends from Dublin, Ireland!

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I am happy to write about my experiences in flamenco, it is a wonderful chronicle of my journey and a great exercise for my love of writing. However, along the way, I am also making new flamenco friends from all over the world!

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Dublin Andalusia

http://www.dublinandalusia.com

I’ve made a new global flamenco friend! Flamenco has reached Ireland with Dublin Andalusia, a dance school specializing in flamenco who is sharing the Spanish culture with the people of the Emerald Isle. Transport yourself to Southern Spain while you learn ways to stay in shape through dance and discover the delight of flamenco! Another great reason to visit Ireland!!

Ambiente Flamenco

Based out of the UK, Ambiente Flamenco has tons of very useful information and online resources for all things flamenco. As a student still finding my way in the flamenco world in many ways, this site has a lot of great…

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Blogger Recognition Award

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I am excited and honored to have been nominated for The Blogger Recognition Award! Fleur de Flamenco is a labor of love so it is very gratifying to be recognized. Thank you so much for nominating me, One Flawsome Momma. Please check out her blog and enjoy reading about her reflections on single-parenting and embracing confidence, flaws and all! https://oneflawsomemomma.wordpress.com

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Here are the rules:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  • Write a post to show your award.
  • Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  • Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  • Select 15 other bloggers you want to give this award to.
  • Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide the link to the post you created.

 

Story of how I started:

I am blossoming and learning and growing and unfolding; opening my soul to flamenco. And Louisville, Kentucky is where I found and am nurturing this art. As I progressed on my flamenco journey, I wanted to do more to express how profoundly it touched my life, so I started my blog. Combining my love of writing and dance allows me to share my flamenco experiences with others, to walk with me as I laugh, cry, celebrate, struggle and fall deeper in love with this passionate cultural art form.

Advice to new bloggers:
1. Write what you are passionate about and focus on quality content. Then, your blog will be great, no matter what it’s about. Let your heart pour out.
2. Use photos or images. I did not do that in the beginning but now, when I do, it always draws more attention to the posts and gives a more realistic sense to the topic.
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I have been blessed to come in contact with, network and read so many great blogs. Here are a few of my favorites.
I nominate:

The family I chose

My flamenco family… I was not born into this family, in fact, none of us were, but it is a family I chose. There are healthy doses of beautiful hearts, sincere moments, and loving gestures mixed affectionately with quirky personalities, a little bit of crazy, and a dash of dysfunction. Sounds like a family to me! And it only makes us love each other more.

Who else will stay out till 3 am with you when you spontaneously find yourselves at a ‘quaint’ local nightclub with amazing shows and dance music? Who else runs through the streets of Sevilla with you, trying to get to the flamenco store on time, but realizing you are caught smack dab in the middle of crowded streets for a coronation ceremony processional? Who else will laugh and giggle over inappropriate things with you in the middle of the night? Who else laughs so hard they cry when you accidentally hit the waiter in the face with your backpack which happens to be carrying all your ceramics from Spain? Who else laughs with you, not at you, when your mantón ends up on the floor instead of still in your hands at the end of a number? Who else pulls together the best flash mob ever for your birthday? And who else makes you the most outrageously awesome birthday cake ever? This family, that’s who!

This family also comes to your aid when you are sick, consoles you when grief strikes, stands in the rain crying with you, listens to your troubles over one (or five) glasses of wine, and sends you messages of hope and encouragement just when you need it. Most importantly, the arms of this family are always open for a wordless hug, just because, sometimes, that’s all a person needs.

My flamenco family goes beyond flamenco. Yes, that is what brought us together and that is the common thread running through each of us, but I share just as much with them outside the studio.

Take my trip to Spain last year, for example. There were 12 of us staying in a house together for 10 days, coming and going at all different times, with different agendas, and yet we found the time to come together at least once a day to share our stories. Stories of hilarity, stories of excitement, stories of discovery, and stories of awe filled the late nights as we sat together on the rooftop terrace, breathing in the Sevilla air. Not one grumpy word was uttered…ok, well, maybe one or two, bourne out of pure exhaustion, but at the end of the day, there was nothing but camaraderie and genuine interest in each others adventures. What’s more, we had NO bathroom sharing issues!! Tell me how often that happens in a family this big!?

Another moment that I hold near and dear is my recent birthday party. I turned 50 and was determined to throw a crazy-fun party, and I did. But it was the involvement, the energy, and the surprises of my flamenco family who made it so much more than I expected. They made sure it was a party I would never forget and that meant the world to me. Two other people had a very large part in this event, as well; my daughters.

I know I said earlier this is a family I chose but I would be remiss if I didn’t include them in this wonderfully talented and committed bunch. Although they are my blood family, they are also part of my flamenco family. We have danced together for over four years now and they have been such a big part of my flamenco journey. Seeing them flourish in the art of flamenco has brought me so much pride. With them by my side, as fellow dancers, as encouragers, and as participants in so much fun, it brings this family full circle. I love sharing this experience with them, even when they make a rule about “no flamenco talk” on the way home from class when mom can’t shut up about her mess-ups. It’s all good, I just lace up my castanets for a hearty round of practice, and watch them hastily flee the house. 🙂

This tribe of misfit toys (a term I use with the utmost affection and respect and as a nod to a recent funny conversation) has made me feel at home on their island. They opened their lair to me (and my daughters) and welcomed us in. I can honestly say, in all of my 50 years on this earth, I have never felt more like I belong somewhere than I do with these people.

Added note 2/16/17- recently found out who the artist is of the beautiful and meaningful painting below; Judith Shaw. Check her out!  http://judithshawart.com/

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