Who wants to dance flamenco?


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by _Imaji_

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.

Have you ever experienced flamenco dancing?
If so, how did it make you feel?

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57 thoughts on “Who wants to dance flamenco?

  1. Ah Bella, I love this post. So beautifully written I can actually visual all of it. I’ve never had the pleasure of watching flamenco dancers “in real life” but I’m hoping to remedy that. What a wonderful piece of your heritage!

    1. Heidi, your words warm my heart! Thank you for that! I’m so glad you liked the post! I do hope you’ll be able to see flamenco. It’s powerful stuff and I think you’d really enjoy it! :)

  2. Wow, such powerful memories. I have never danced flamenco, but the best version of it I saw was in the movie, True Lies, when Jamie Lee Curtis dances with a certain former California governor at the film’s end. Ultra sexy. Now, if you ask me about tap dancing, that’s another matter. I fell in love early on with the dance steps of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly and I so wanted to learn how to tap. I could’ve had a career in tap. i could have been a contender. But my Venezuelan parents never thought about enrolling me in anything. Not until my sister came along, 8 years later and she got to take ballet, tap and even joined the Girl Scouts (another activity that I so wanted to do). As an adult, I signed up for tap, but there are few adults taking tap these days, and I was in a class surrounded by 8 and 9 year olds. Well, me and the kids took tap for about 4 years. But the kids kept graduating to the next level, and since it’s hard to teach an old dog (aka, me) new tricks, the kids in my class kept getting younger and younger. So these days, I tap on my own, in the privacy of my own home, or when I’m on line at the bank, etc. All this to say, I love tap dancing, but have never done the flamenco. Perhaps you can teach me?

    1. Monica, I’m afraid my flamenco steps resemble trying to stomp cockroaches to death. However, perhaps we can take lessons together? Flamenco would be good, or tango. I’ve always wanted to dance tango. Another passionate dance which reminds me of well, passion. :) Thanks for providing a giggle with your tap dancing story. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at that dance studio! hee hee!

  3. I love to watch flamenco and tango dancers. You’re right that it’s “a language where words were unnecessary”.

    Hey! It’s never too late to become a flamenco dancer. Keep looking for a dress. ;-)

  4. Bella, it’s not too late! I took up flamenco at 34 and I’m completely in love with it — so much so, my entire blog is devoted to my adventures in learning the dance! You clearly understand what the art is all about…I bet if you gave it a try you’d be great at it. Sure, it’s a heck of a hard dance learn but it is so satisfying and cathartic in so many ways. So go for it and let me know how it goes!

    Marissa

    1. Marissa, you make my heart soar! So wonderful to hear about your experience! I have pep in my step as I dance around the living room just now, and I have you to thank for it! :)

  5. Bella, I’ve only had the chance to enjoy watching live flamenco dancing once, but I do remember it. I was young and I remember feeling like I should turn my eyes away because of the sheer passion. What a beautiful sight! Sorry that the yellow dress did not fit, and the one today in the market. Your day to wear a flamenco dress will come and I’m sure that when you put that dress on there will be sparks coming from it! Roxy Lee will have to double as a guard dog!

    1. bwhahaha, Annie! Thank you for my morning chuckle! I can see tiny Roxy acting as a body guard detail! Your words inspire me, friend. I think all marriages or relationships which have lost their spark should watch either a tango of flamenco spectacle! What a great way to jumpstart a dying passion! :)

  6. Oh how I remember our youngest sibling in that yellow dress…I almost spontaneously combusted out of envy!!!! hahahahaha…I have not given up the hope of putting on one of those breathtaking dresses….and when I do I am wearing it to the supermarket, the pharmacy, the post office, the outdoor market, as a matter of fact I’m going to wear it to bed! xoxoxoxo

    1. Bwhahaha! I can so see you wearing that tiered ruffled dress to bed, with all the plastic necklaces and earrings! Remember the littlest one in the bright yellow dress! The image of her in it is still so vivid! And how about watching Lola Flores? Good times, hermana, good times! :)

  7. I’ve never had a Flamenco experience like yours, but I have always wanted to learn Salsa. I imagine it’s very different and, yet similar, in it’s sensuality.

    1. Elise, I have danced salsa and while I agree it’s sensual, I don’t think it’s passionate. That said, anything can be turned into passion if we so desire. Don’t you think? ;)

  8. I have only seen flamenco dancing in the movies but would absolutely love to see it live. I love all kinds of dance and took classes in it when I was younger. I dreamed of being a ballet dancer but at 5′ 9″ it was not in the cards. I also love ballroom ala Fred & Ginger, but that didn’t happen either. Maybe there will be a shining dance floor with the music playing waiting for us in heaven. Great story, great characters!

    1. Carol, like you, I want to believe that heaven will indeed have a grand stage where we can perform our hearts out to any type of music. Tango? Absolutely! Flamenco? By all means! It will be one grand dance party where everyone will be invited and will dance like Fred Astaire! :)

    1. Oh Shary, how wonderful! I hope you can take the class, especially with your dance background! Only you have to promise to do a blog post about your learning experience, please! :)

    1. Ariana, you’re too kind. I’m glad you liked the story! Street performers are wonderful! I love their spontaneity and their unabashed sense of adventure where they break out in song or dance at the drop of a hat. It’s a wonderful thing to see most of the time!

  9. dear Bella, I’m a rithm’n blues girl from the first time I heard a blues, and I became a rock’n roll girl from the first time I heard a guitar riff, so I can understand the feeling when a music make your heart beat faster and cut your breath. But I’m not a flamenco fan anyway! (most spanish people isn’t it!!). I can enjoy a good spectacle and appreciate its quality, but it’s not my cup of tea!
    Love your passion and love to read your stories, and I would like that you find the perfect dress that fits you like a dream (they make them in every size!!, yes!, so it’s a possibility!)
    besos & music

    1. Mrs. Allnut, they make the dresses for curvy girls with big butts? What fantastic news! I too am an R&B lady! Now that’s music with soul! Thank you so much for the ever present warmth in your comments!

  10. I have seen flamenco. I was seventeen and we were tourists in Spain. I forget which city. It was in a tiny little space with a tiny little stage. There were so many of us that we filled up the room crowding around the stage. In retrospect, it must have been a private show; nobody else could have fit in that hall. There was one moment when a dancer came to the edge of the stage where one of my classmates (it was a school trip) was leaning forward and froze there with such an intense look that it caused him to draw back from the stage. I was on the other side of the stage from him and I could still feel her intensity.

    1. Hello and welcome! I love the anecdote! I can only imagine what that experience was like! Thank you for sharing! :)

  11. I have never watched live flamenco dancing, I have just seen it on T.V. A definate art form of historical significance, it’s wonderful to preserve your heritage. So when are your daughters going to start stamping their feet? (In the flamenco that is!) LOL

    1. Elizabeth, would you believe the Daughter had classical ballet training for nine years? Then she hung up her ballet shoes and never danced again. It’s a loss cause. I think I have more chance of being a flamenco dancer than the Daughter. What’s a mother to do, right? :)

  12. Great story! I’m afraid I’ve never seen flamenco live, the only “heritage dance” (so to say) I’ve seen was sirtaki, when my grandmother’s brother danced at his younger daughter’s wedding.

    Since I’ve got two left feet, I don’t dance. it’s too embarrassing. :)

  13. The only time I experienced the excitement of flamenco was 12 years ago in Madrid. What a revelation! The whole room was alive with motion, sound, music and…me getting drunk on sangria. Oh those fun days of being footloose and fancy-free!

    1. Drake what a fitting answer! Given your larger than life personality, I can so imagine you in an extraordinary, flamboyant wrestling leotard! :)

    1. Kim, I’m grinning from ear to ear to read you are pleased! Thank you! I think you and your inner chick would look stupendous in the pink! :)

  14. My dear Bella, this is an absolutely beautiful story to share. I love the description of the back and forth between your mom and your aunt. I could see it — that push/pull between the families.
    Anyway, I woke up yesterday to a brilliant sunny morning and made plans to have a total immersion into all things Spanish. I’d go to the see the Spanish Paradise: Gardens of the Alhambra exh at the NY Botanical Gardens, see one of the flamenco performances then go to see a play, Sangre, a reinterpretation of Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding in the park in the evening.
    I called a friend who I thought would enjoy it but she arrived too late and we missed the flamenco and Sangre.
    I was really looking forward to seeing a live performance. I’ve only ever seen it in the movies. I’m not going to give up — I’ll get another chance, I know it!
    Lovely post, as usual.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Marcia

    1. Marcia, I so enjoyed reading your comment! I’m so sad you missed the perfomance! I’m crossing my fingers that you get another opportunity so you can write a blog post about it! That would be sensational! Thank you for your kind words, sister. :)

  15. I saw Flamenco once in Santa Fe ( another favorite place on earth) and was moved out of my chair. It passion is exhilarating. Beads of sweat multiple on my lip and i was only sitting there watching. I felt this same rush reading your words, which pulled me into the moment. I know without cause you have the fire of the dancer in you even if you think you are cockroach stomper and not a true dancer. I am clicking my castanets for you…

    1. Oh Brenda, what a joy to read your words! Thank you for clicking your castanets for me! You are truly a partner in crime! Gracias! :)

  16. Bella, this is beautiful. I can’t dance. Yes, I’ve learned to admit it without shame. I have no rhythm, and though I’ve tried to call upon my animal spirit/s to help me, I think I am pretty much hopeless in that department. That said, I do, however, appreciate dance a lot. I used to do ballet (when I was young and disillusioned ;) ) and I love watching people feel and move to the music.

    1. Laura, you’d make a beautiful ballerina! I can imagine how cute you’d look in a tutu skirt! Someday you and I are going to sign up for tango lessons. We’ll post a list and jot down anyone who wants to learn. Then we’ll form a dance troupe and tour the world. We can do it! We’re women and we’re invincible! :)

  17. Oh, Bella. I loooooove Flamenco dancing. It’s amazing! I didn’t see it live until I my mid 20s, but what an impression. Your childhood memory reminds me of the first time I saw a little boy on roller skates. I felt my whole world shifting. I then suffered from figure skating brain for the next 12 years. =)

    1. Lori, I love that things have such an impact on you! That must mean you’re open to new things and have a spirit for adventure! :) I’ve always loved to see figure skating on tv, especially during the Olympic games. I imagine it’s me who’s gracefully skating and performing triple jumps! How I love my alternate reality! :)

  18. i.ve seen flamenco shows in seville spain san francisco new york the seriousness for the art and the humor to kill roaches ha ha

    1. not only do i love the dancing of any part i also own 6 black leather cuban high heel boots and if anybody had problems with roaches i would be your flamenco dancing exterminator

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