Flamenco is a Spanish dance. I have no intention of describing the origin of flamenco or it’s whole history. Mostly because there is already a truck load of info already available. The world certainly doesn’t need yet another flamenco-history rambler.
What I intend though is to share why I like Flamenco. Given that I’ve always liked dance & never missed a single dance event in school, I love Flamenco for its variety. There aren’t many rules to follow except to just dance. After being exposed to Bharatanatyam (becasue of descent) and ballet (because of experimenting out of curiosity) I was enthralled with the beauty of Flamenco & the way it worked: simple, elegant and unassuming. Well, that sounds a little like I’m describing myself 🙂
What Flamenco teaches us about life
If you’ve ever watched an amazing Flamenco performance, you’d realize what passion means. Whether it’s the dance of the gypsies or the dancers in the streets of Seville, whether it’s bulerias or Sevillanas, whether it’s kids or grannies, there’s passion in Flamenco. It’s not just the happy rhythms that bring out the Flamenco dancer’s passion. Even the sorrows are experienced and expressed passionately. Passion comes with honesty, curiosity and individuality. Honest about accepting our possibilities and limitations. Curious about how things work and a quest for making it better. Individuality that shines through words and actions.
Passion is the extra something that is needed to push ourselves from ordinary to extraordinary. Like flamenco, life could be filled with rhythm & energy if we have passion. The skill lies in identifying what our passion is. Some of us figure out what our passion is early on in life. Some of us could go through life not knowing that at all. But the most important part is working towards it and constantly experimenting on what makes our eyes light up. I’m working on figuring out my passion and I know now more than ever that it’s ok to keep looking as long as we don’t give up.
Flamenco has influences from all around the world. There is no shortage of variety in Flamenco. It’s not just the variety that amazes me but how accommodating it is. Any one can dance Flamenco – old or young, male or female, solo or group. If you like arm movements, Flamenco has a place for you. If you like using your feet, Flamenco lets you wear a shoe & click your way through. If you like elegance, you get to wear a gorgeous skirt (or a tux for men) and glide away. There is the upbeat gypsie rumba, fun-filled Sevillanas, exuberant tangos and much more that adds to the variety. What’s more awesome is that you like any other dance form, you can work on it and make it Flamenco like if you understand the rhythm & movement of this wonderful dance. If you are not into dance, you can still do palmas (hand clapping) or cante (singing). Or even be a cajon drummer or guitarist.
Variety is what makes us and life interesting. We could make life more enjoyable by adding variety in everything we do. We could add variety for others in our lives by adding variety in our own lifestyle. If you are behind the desk all day, try going out for a whole week end. If you are a movie buff, try reading a book instead. If you are a cook, try your hand at writing for a change. I’m an introvert and I’m trying to meet new people through an activity that challenges me-trekking. I love to be outdoors and I’m trying to be a good stay-at-home mom. A slight change in routine adds variety and by variety we form long lasting memories.
If there’s anything lacking in Flamenco, it’s definitely not rhythm. Flamenco & rhythm go together like a dancer & her feet. Rhythm is as essential to life as it is to music. When everything is in place, we have our rhythm and all is happy and well. But sometimes, we have to work hard on mending that shoe or that guitar string that is throwing our rhythm off balance.
My flamenco teacher used to say that the guitarist follows the dancer & not the other way around. In fact, the guitarist & dancer have to be in harmony. But sometimes it would so happen that the rhythm would be slightly off and the dance & music would be out of sync for just a few seconds. But quickly the guitarist would recover and get the rhythm back in sync. We need to learn to adapt in life & change the way the music and feet move rapidly. Otherwise we would be swept away to a life of mediocrity and misery. It’s ok for us to be searching for our rhythm as long as we keep our feet moving in an attempt to catch up.
Flamenco dancers’ attitude comes from pride, integrity and respect for what they do and who they are. It’s my belief that this originates from the gypsies who are constantly on the move and hold on to nothing but their skill. The gypsies could have had very little material possessions but they had respect for life and living and most importantly, dance & music. Their dance reflected these beliefs. Unlike many dances, flamenco doesn’t require you to perform for an audience or bow to them. If you’re happy you dance happy and if you’re sad you dance sad. There is no requirement that you dance happy for a happy song when you’re actually sad. (However, dancing sad would be a little impossible what with the beats & movements & so much romance in the air). The point is that there are no rules except to just express yourself.
Our attitude towards life should be the same way. The happiest person is one who is true to himself and believes in being his own self no matter what the circumstance. An attitude of truth & honesty like the gypsy dancers’ along with modesty & generosity is what we all need to lead a fulfilled life.
Any art form thrives on creativity. There is no shortage of creativity in Flamenco either. The various influences across the world is enough proof of that – India, Egypt, Persia, West Africa. Flamenco derives a little something from everything. The gypsies picked up styles at their every stop – learning, creating new things and having fun everywhere they go. Ever noticed that people who travel, see the world and have a lot of exposure & knowledge of other cultures are much more forward, open and experimental. That comes from the understanding of human nature and the myriads of quirks that comes with it.
Everyday we have to live life as if we’ve just travelled the world and learnt a new thing or two from everyone & everything around. In fact, we could learn something from people around us just where we live. We could slowly keep expanding it to our neighborhood and the things around to find what inspires us and sparks our creativity. When we do run out of things to learn from people around us, we know it’s time to travel, find inspiration elsewhere to recharge & get back to the routine where we can re-spark our creativity.
“Sometimes you want to go
where everybody knows your name
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
– Gary Portnoy & Judy Hart Angelo
The truth is people might not know our name everywhere we go, but troubles are the same if we choose to look closely. Flamenco teaches that to everyone about life with all its diversity & simplicity.