Yes, I meant ‘attempting’ rather than ‘dancing.’ I admit I was lured into joining the flamenco class of teacher Trish Borromeo primarily by convenience. After fun-filled art activities with teacher Jane Beate in the morning, leafing through wellness books at the well-stocked library, and sharing hearty lunches with my Carewell friends, dancing the rest of the afternoon away seemed like a nice prospect. Enjoying things for the mind, body, and soul—Saturdays couldn’t get better than this at the Carewell Community.
Unlike my group members, however, I didn’t get to raise my moves to performance level. Crazy work requirements kept me away, not only from my flamenco and art sessions, but also from my Tuesday dance and qi gong exercises. I copped out just when I was starting to learn the proper way to flip my skirt and to do palmas or percussive hand clapping. My fellow bailaoras and our sole bailaor in the group had their fitting recital at the Carewell Christmas party, no less.
American writer William Arthur Ward said this about teachers: “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” At the outset, teacher Trish made us believe we could learn what seemed to be a very complicated dance to us then. Ever so patiently, she made us want to dance not only with our bodies, but also with our hearts.
I read somewhere that flamenco was influenced by the expulsion of the Moors, gypsies, and Jews from Spain in the 15th century. The resulting flamenco culture thus became an expression of struggle, pride, and hope among the persecuted and the displaced. Pride and hope? Check.
Through her insights, teacher Trish made me realize that there’s more to flamenco than meets the eye.
Let your body weight lift you.
A cardinal rule in flamenco is to keep your back straight. This gives that feeling of your weight becoming lighter, which allows you to make more graceful body and hand movements. The elongated spine contributes to a healthy posture and is worth maintaining, as we all know. Whenever teacher Trish says, “let your weight lift you rather than drag you down,” what I actually hear is, “let your challenges lift you; don’t let them weigh you down.”
Lead with your chin.
You may miss a step, skip a beat, but as long as you keep your chin up, things won’t look so bad. This is why flamenco dancers have that proud, confident look about them. Teacher Trish would always nudge us to show our long and ‘graceful’ necks and ‘lead with our chins’ which, to me, is a gentle reminder to not be afraid of taking risks. In life, as in flamenco, great strides become possible when we dare to step out of our comfort zones.
Listen and dance to the music.
That’s easier said than done when flamenco is of the choreographed kind. There are steps to remember, beats to count, and stances to keep. Teacher Trish has this seemingly simple tip: let the music lead you. This, of course, requires good memory and constant practice—things my Carewell pals have, but I don’t. I have a long way to go, but the lesson is not lost. Going forward, I will remember to find my rhythm, unleash the inner gypsy in my soul, and dance to the healing music of this wonderful life.
Bring out the castanets!
[ Click on the link below to watch the Carewell Saturday group in action]
“Flamenco, flamenco, the stars show
Fortune smiles when love takes the high road.”
– Henry Sullivan and Earle Crooker