28 September 2012
A Lesson in Flamenco
I am the only student here - gracias a Dios - for a two-hour lesson in the dance school in Alhendín, a village near Granada.
In the vestibule, black skirts with large red spots, swirling hemlines and frills down their sideseams hang on pegs. I choose the only one that fits - an offering made of unexciting brown stretchy material that greatly enhances the line of the figure. Or, put another way, the one with the same fabric used for Spanx control underwear. Very quickly, my skirt is required to do sterling work.
I must also choose a pair of Flamenco shoes, but like the skirts, the footwear has been accustomed to more dainty dancers. The largest pair, size 39, are just the wrong side of comfortable, and my feet soon begin to feel emprisoned.
My teacher, Paquita, is a very beautiful young woman who moves with great ease and sensuous grace. When she tells me she is actually 48 years old, I decide to pay very close attention. We stand in front of a mirror, with arms straight, shoulders back, stomach and bottom pulled in. Her fingers reach up to the skies, inviting energy to run down her entire body. She brings her arms behind the line of her ears, then stretches them out behind her arched back, to show the proud, arrogant position needed in this dance.
We begin by clapping in time to the music, introduce arm movements with wrists moving sinously. Then we work on the feet, using the heel (tacon) the middle of the foot (media) and the full sole (golpe) to create not just different movements but the tapping sound which acts as accentuation to the music.
"Más chulo, Katie," says Paquita, which means, I assume from her gestures, more attitude. She is being charitable, for as I gallump alongside her it is not just chulo that is wanting. I am severely anatomically-challenged, with shoulders that have stiffened and an extra foot that has arrived out of nowhere.
She, meanwhile, whirls and flows and lunges and struts. She lifts her skirts above her knees, her legs shapely and brown, and taps her shoes ever more furiously in a living example of confidence, sensuality and femininity.
During one of our necessary breaks, she tells me that there are numerous different palos, or Flamenco styles, depending on where the dances have originated and what rhythm or mood is being created. Classical dance requires the arms to be straight and long, the back to be arched, and the movements to be precise. Many dancers perfect their techniques over years of training. She herself actually only began five years ago. I find this revelation inordinately encouraging, as much as the information that very young dancers will not often have sufficent duende (soul) to convey the depth of emotion required.
"And it is also possible to use your own ideas and movements in Flamenco," she tells me.
Good. These, then, are the ones I shall be developing within the dark yet safe confines of my own living room.