I was seven years old the first time I heard flamenco music.
My aunt convinced my mother that it was important to expose my sisters and I to flamenco, since it was part of Spanish culture.
My mother was doubtful.
She argued that we were too young to witness the passion this type of music portrayed.
My aunt complained that we were too Americanized for being the daughters of a Spaniard.
Back and forth they arbitrated until my mother relented.
As a result, we witnessed a dance ritual which made such an impression on me, that I remember it to this day.
Nevertheless, witnessing such a performance was more than seeing people dance.
It was also an introduction to a language where words were unnecessary.
The rhythmic “click clack” of castanets, the fiery stomping of feet, and the hand gestures all served to communicate anger, desire, passion, and lust.
Of course, at the time I only saw two people who seemed synchronized in their movements, dancing with such wild abandon, it left me breathless.
How were they able to stomp their feet and twirl with such speed and precision?
How did the dancers circle one another and come so close, without actually touching?
How were they able to clap their hands and still execute synchronized footwork?
At the tender age of seven, these were the questions I wanted answered.
I remember glancing around the room and seeing the audience clapping their hands, urging the couple to dance as they shouted “Ole!”
The room was charged with energy; the audience held captive by the sultry movements and colorful costumes.
As the night came to an end, I felt my heart sprout wings at the discovery that the answer to a question I had been asked many times before had finally been revealed to me.
When I grew up, I wanted to be a flamenco dancer.
My mother responded to my announcement by making the sign of the cross and pulling her rosary out of her pocket.
My aunt, on the other hand, smiled in approval.
She arrived the next day with a small box containing a set of castanets.
“Here you go, Bella, and they’re made of wood, not that cheap plastic that breaks in a day,” she said.
And in this manner, I was introduced to the fine art of playing castanets.
However, my fingers ached after only ten minutes.
I quickly realized this was not going to be an easy task to master.
The following day, my sisters and I were taken to a cousin’s house so we could try on her daughter’s flamenco dress.
Sadly, it only fit my youngest sister.
I stared enviously as she spun around in the bright yellow ruffled dress with large polka dots.
Dancing shoes and a freshly cut flower, placed in hair pulled tightly in a low bun, completed the outfit.
My middle sister and I stuck out our tongues and told our little sister she looked ridiculous.
Yet we both knew it wasn’t true.
Standing at only four feet tall at the time, she looked like a fiery, little gypsy ready to take the flamenco world by storm.
We spent the rest of the summer listening to flamenco music, stomping our feet, and snapping our fingers; our castanets nestled in their box until our hand muscles were better developed.
As I strolled through the market this morning, I chanced upon a stand that sold flamenco costumes for young girls.
As my gaze fell upon them, I was instantly transported to the summer when I was seven.
I smiled as I lovingly caressed the fabric and imagined what I would look like dressed in a flamenco dress.
But alas, once again the dress was too small.
I wondered if this was the universe’s way of telling me that a career as a flamenco dancer was not in the cards; at least not in this lifetime.
Yet this didn’t deter me from thinking of the time when I first saw flamenco; when I first witnessed passion.