I had my annual student showcase last weekend and I’m blown away at the progress that many of my dancers have made. Also, I’m so impressed with the dancers that performed flamenco for the first time. It’s just so thrilling as a teacher to watch my dancers step up to the challenge of the performance process.
I have many blog posts about my take-aways from the performance aspect of my past student shows. They’re about communicating with musicians; going strong and simple rather than long, complicated and mushy; the importance of building muscle memory; enjoying the process and other tidbits.
But this time, instead of giving my own show review, I wanted to talk about a revelation that one audience member told me she had while watching the show:
Flamenco celebrates all ages and body types and is an empowering outlet for personal expression.
Well, yeah! We all KNOW that! That’s why we dance it! It’s like Self Help and Self Care and Confidence Training all rolled into one. But it’s so wonderful when a non flamenco person understands that.
So, what is it that makes flamenco so powerful for our own personal development?
BEING IN THE MOMENT. Flamenco is an extreme case of mindfulness! If your mind wanders even for one second thinking about errands you have to do or what you might want for dinner, then you’re lost in the choreography. It’s a constant practice to stay focused in class, focused and engaged during a show.
GIVING YOU A VOICE. Flamenco allows you to express yourself in ways that may not be possible in other parts of your life. You have to dig in deep when dancing a Solea. You have to find the joy when dancing an Alegrias. It becomes a physical outlet to sort through your own issues and basically release them while dancing.
For me, being a very petite woman, I was never taken seriously and was shy about expressing my own opinions. Dancing flamenco gave me an outlet to express myself and build my confidence at the same time.
COURAGE TO BE SEEN. More importantly, you have to have courage to dance this art form. Of course there’s technique, rhythm, rules and the head trips we give ourselves learning it all. But so much of dancing flamenco relies on letting go, letting your emotions explode. You have to allow yourself be seen in a vulnerable spot because we’re also so emotionally attached to how we look and feel while dancing. Which brings me to…..
CELEBRATING GETTING UGLY. This one is funny because it’s so true! The anguished faces, the dripping sweat. But it’s really more of allowing yourself to get INTO the movement and living IN the moment. And in that moment of dancing with abandon we feel such a catharsis and it’s a beautiful moment for all.
GETTING OLDER WITH FLAMENCO. I’ve written about this subject before. I’ve been dancing flamenco for over 20 years and I feel the strongest I have been. It’s not necessarily that my footwork has gotten faster or that I can do all kinds of crazier turns. It’s the years of dedication that have given me an appreciation of being simple and strong in the compás. The more muscle memory I build, the more I can enjoy the movement.
STRENGTH OVER SIZE. Flamenco is definitely open to all body types. What’s most important is the aire of the dancer and the ability to well, dance! Keeping the body strong for flamenco is super important as well since it can be hard on the body. You can see exercises for flamenco dancers here.
COMMUNITY. Flamenco is all about community. All this is possible not only because you dig in deep to express yourself, but also because you have all of your compañeros behind you backing you up, giving you jaleos. They give you the encourage you to dance your fullest. Whether you’re performing or not, you darn well should be getting that encouragement in class from your teachers and other dancers.
Even with all the flamenco head trips that we give ourselves, flamenco is an amazing vehicle of personal development. What do you think?
*Photo credit: dancer, Matilde Coral.