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!!!
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.
In a reflective moment of considering how blessed I am to have such soul-enriching passions in my life, it occurs to me that two of those; writing and flamenco, have many attributes in common and feed into one another much more than I had ever contemplated before. I am beyond happy to have found a way to combine the two.
It goes without saying that creativity is at the core of both writing and flamenco dancing. In writing, you must find your voice through your writing style and in flamenco dancing, you must find your voice through the self-expression that embodies the art form. Both allow room for individuality. The sky is the limit! You can express yourself in endless ways in what you write about, how you write and for whom you write. Likewise, the unique emotion that belongs only to you can be conveyed in a myriad of ways on the dance floor.
Claim your power and be unapologetic in the ability to express yourself; embrace your passion. For me, writing has always been a vehicle for venting my feelings and emotions in a way I could not do in any other form. I vividly recall going to the park as a teenager, sitting in the stillness that surrounded me and writing for hours at a time. I gave myself permission to be open and those thoughts jumped onto the pages in front of me with a natural ease. I wrote poems, mostly, and as I got older, my passion evolved into short stories. I also kept a journal and still do to this day. Now that I have found flamenco, I am realizing another level of claiming my feelings, symbolic for this different time in my life. Flamenco dancing allows me the same avenue of venting and creating a tangible product of what is inside of me that writing does.
While both writing and flamenco dancing are means to express yourself, they both still hold the necessity for skill in order to successfully emit your expression. This is not to say you have to be an expert in either form for successful transmission. On the contrary, everyone holds different capabilities and as long as you are honestly open, there is no right or wrong way. What is important to both writing and flamenco dancing, however, is a fundamental skill-set in order to help you generate your self-expression. In writing, having a good command of the language, grammar and basic rules of writing is important in communicating your message. In flamenco dancing, knowing the fundamentals of the movements, footwork, compás and music are vital to being able to transmit yourself fully within the dance.
As any writer or flamenco dancer will testify, both art forms require a progressive stream of nurturing. I am always working on honing my skills in both genres. I read, I watch, I absorb, I practice, I draft and re-draft, I read a-loud, I edit, I rethink and I question. These are consistent elements for me in order to progress or, at the very least, feel more confidant in my craft. I make mistakes and always will but those are also opportunities for growth. Writing and flamenco dancing offer the constant tools to encourage doing greater things with them.
Whatever your passion, do it with creativity, embrace it wholeheartedly, gain the necessary skills to be content with your craft and nurture your passion to encourage greater satisfaction. Give your passion life! You won’t be sorry you did. 🙂