At the beginning of the 2013-2014 season, Laurie suggested I check out classes at Zorongo Flamenco. Jim and I were doing a free dance for AN 2014 inspired by paso doble and flamenco music, and I wanted to understand more about what this meant in terms of rhythm, movement, music, and culture.
I was fortunate to take an introductory class with Zorongo founder Susana di Palma for much of the year before I had to stop. Today I went back for the first time since last spring.
I could go on at length about what makes flamenco so compelling and how amazing Susana di Palma is, but instead I will just share this video.
Today’s class reminded me how fortunate I am to have a chance to work with her and to be inspired by this incredibly expressive form. It’s clear that I am more than rusty, that I have to concentrate really really hard, that I feel lost when I add head and arm movements in, and that my foot and hip are a little tender afterwards. But my left side balance has improved a lot, and flamenco shoes are thankfully much more stable and comfortable than ballroom dance heels.
Susana was really kind about my long absence and told me that the hip mobility involved in the choreography she teaches will hopefully make my left side less stiff and more limber. I could really use some of that right now; I keep doing the “hips-underneath me” panicked clenching that just leads to continued problems. Fingers crossed that this helps my ease of movement more generally. And maybe I’ll develop a better sense of rhythm and timing as well! One can always hope.
There are some flamenco-inspired skating programs that I have really enjoyed. One of course is Scott and Tessa’s 2010 original dance.
And Adrià Díaz and Sara Hurtado (last week I wrote a post on their free dance) also have a very compelling short dance that uses flamenco in addition to paso doble. I’m not a real fan of the short dance-compulsory dance mashup-thing, but they blend these very creatively.
So I was reminded today of what I enjoy most about these classes. We don’t only work on rhythmic movement (and the footwork and clapping are great fun and the upper body and arm movements are amazing) but Susana also gives us a lesson on the emotional content and “attitude” involved in flamenco. Being a relative novice, I have to quote from a much more experienced aficianado, Toni Messina, a long-time amateur flamenco dancer. Toni is a public defender in Manhattan and a “50-year-old suburban mom” who wrote a short NPR piece on “duende” in flamenco: “a magical moment of abandon that’s part of Gypsy lore. It makes men rip off their shirts or listeners bang their heads against walls.” She talks about taking a private class with a Gypsy woman, Manuela Carpio.
She was the real thing, people said. She had an air, a way about her, that made flamenco fun but still deep. She was small and chubby and her round face broke into a smile when I asked her about duende.
“It’s like being touched by the hand of God,” she told me. “A moment of pure pleasure, like when you’re making love.”
Since such welcome frankness about bodily pleasure is so often misinterpreted, maligned, and misused, I’ll just give this a thumbs-up and let you enjoy this video of Manuela Carpio that was linked to Toni’s essay.