Flamenco thrives on the page as well as the stage.
Here are a few things that can deepen your enjoyment or understanding, or further your quest:
◘ Flamenco Connection is a U.S. company that offers many books, CD’s, and DVD’s, including the popular Solo Compas series. www.flamencon.com
◘ Flamenco shoes can be easily ordered from www.flamencoshoes.com, a U.S. company based on Catalina Island. Elena also has shawls, combs, earrings and castanets. She is super easy to work with, and allows exchanges.
◘ Flamenco West, www.flamencowest.com in LA (Playa del Rey) has the best selection of the nicest stuff on the West Coast, and John, the owner, is a sweetheart! He has modern flamenco skirts, plus the fabulous Senovilla shoes, made to order in Spain. You can drive up there and try shoes on, then they order your correct size if it's not there.
◘ Capezio Dance Stores: Some Capezio stores offer a flamenco shoe, and they always have character shoes which are a good, affordable place to start if you are a beginner. Call the store first if you are looking for a flamenco shoe. Carmen's Dance Shoes (El Cajon Blvd) also carries both character and an entry level flamenco shoe: call ahead 800-854-4318 or 619-287-5787.
◘ Many of our costumes are made by Flamenco Closet Creations. Alicia is super nice to work with, and it's made in Spain, so it's done right!
Below is quick outline of how Kristina teaches the steps to the ever popular "Sevillanas"
1 sevillana step
4 more sevillana steps
1 final turn
4 grapevine ronde de jamb
7 kicks around the partner
1 final turn
1 pivot left
step in (to partner), step in
1 pivot right
step in, swing foot back
4 grapevine redobles
1 immediate pasada
step out (away from partner), step out, kick (reverse pasada)
step back (prepare once)
reverse step back (prepare twice)
1 final turn
1 pivot left
kick skirt (partner side), kick skirt
1 pivot right
kick skirt, step step
5 carrello steps (H-step)
4 carrello turns
1 final turn
◘ Are you having a flamenco party, or do you want to bring some flamenco style to a potluck or celebration? Here are two classic recipes that no Spanish gathering is complete without:
-Cut 2 lemons, 2 limes, and 2 oranges in small chunks.
-Mix with 1 cup rum and ¾ cup white sugar. Chill for about two hours.
-Add one bottle red wine, and 1 cup orange juice. Mix together and serve, with or without ice. Adjust the above ingredients to your own taste, i.e. more or less sugar, more or less rum!
Tortilla (Potato Omelet)
(this is everyone’s favorite dish! It always disappears first!)
-Slice about 1 to 1 ½ lbs potatoes and one onion (brown or Spanish) thinly. (The waxy potatoes are best, like white rose, or something with a smooth, thin skin)
-Sautee the potatoes and onion in about 3 tbsp of olive oil, in a large frying pan, over low heat. Cook them slowly, until potatoes are just done.
-Beat 4 eggs together with salt and pepper. Fold in the potatoes and onion. (Add another egg if you're using more of the potatoes.)
-Heat another 2 tbsp of oil in the frying pan. Slowly add the potato mixture, tamping down to make a nice level, even layer. Cook very slowly, until eggs on top are almost firm.
-Here’s the tricky part: Place a large plate over the frying pan, then flip the frying pan over, so the tortilla goes onto the plate (you may need some help to do this, if you’re not a Spanish woman!). Then, return the frying pan to the stove, and gently slide the tortilla back into the frying pan, from the plate. Shake the pan a little to get it to settle again. Cook slowly for a few minutes more, until the underside is golden brown. (More oil is always helpful, and makes everything taste better!) Cut into wedges or squares, and serve warm or room temperature. Adding a salad and crusty bread makes a nice meal!
◘ Below, read Kristina’s own flamenco essay: Madre de Baile (originally published in Mamaphonic: Balancing Motherhood and Other Creative Acts (2004).
Madre de Baile
by Kristina Jordan Cobarrubia
In flamenco, the Spanish gypsy art of music, dance and song, there is something called “duende”. It’s a magical, elusive moment, when everything, the dancer, the guitarist, and the singer are all moved by each other, and moving as one. It’s fleeting, but when it happens, everyone can feel it, including the audience.
However, even though I’d studied flamenco for ten years, duende eluded me. I was good at dancing flamenco, I’d learned the techniques well, but that special, magical feeling was something I’d only observed in other dancers. Just a brief moment here or there in the major concerts I’d see, a performance would suddenly crystallize, bringing the audience spontaneously to respond “Olé!” I would watch in appreciative wonder as the dancers would become one with the guitarist and singer, and me in the audience too, swept along in their creative fire.
But I, myself, was just going through the motions. In classes, the teachers would yell at us students to give them more - more energy, more feeling! So we’d pound our feet harder into the floor, but really, what did they want? So I was following the steps and trying to improvise when the music or singing didn’t go where I expected. Like jazz, flamenco is highly improvisational, but with a clearly defined structure that can nevertheless end up in any number of different combinations. For a non-gypsy beginner, this can feel out of control, and be terribly frustrating. For an A-type personality like me, it was maddening!
But eventually, a few years later, something began to click. I’d finally had enough training that the trips and turns of the music didn’t throw me. I knew a lot of options in case the singing stopped here, or continued on to there. I’d had a couple workshops where teachers noticed that I had something coming out from inside, and I’d felt it too. Something was there, underneath the surface, thrumming in my heart. It was inspired by the music, mainly, the plaintive lament of the singing. Finally, now, I knew these songs. Not the meaning of the words, my Spanish was still regrettably minimal, but the meaning of the music was there, beneath my skin.
And then I had my first child, a little girl, the only girl grandchild in the family. At first, it felt like my pregnancy would be a career killer. All my form and technique blasted by morning sickness and a humongous belly! Would I ever regain my shape and skill? But after my daughter was born, I slowly picked up the pieces of my dancing, recreating my solos from video tapes, and discovering the benefits of weight training. And before long, a new teacher came into town. He’d visited once before and had liked my style. Now, he was back to do a series of shows and wanted me to be a part of them, including a matinee especially for children. I was thrilled. I’d be dancing a duet with another young woman to siguiriyas, one of the deepest and most serious songs in flamenco.
Siguiriyas is about loss, loneliness, and sorrow. It has a strong, compelling beat, especially when driven by a hammer on an anvil, as the gypsies used to mark it when they worked in the mines. I prepared backstage as usual for the matinee. My husband would be bringing my two-year old daughter to the performance for the first time.
I made my entrance from stage right. I crept from the wings, dressed all in black with a poison green shawl, in sync with my partner entering from the left. The beat was slow, heavy, and I filled my body with tension. This was not a dirge, but a dam getting ready to break. We did the first call (a sharp footwork break in the rhythm), stopped, and then the singing began. I moved with the song, and then I saw my little daughter, just the outline of her, dimly lit from the stage lights, her little body standing in the aisle to watch her mommy perform for the very first time.
And suddenly it flooded me. My love for her overwhelmed everything else. In that moment I was not worried about the steps, or my form, or the show. My arms took on new life, new force. Though dancing slowly, each fiber of my being was awake with energy and passion filled my heart. I heard cries of “Olé!” from the other artists, and I realized, this was it! For me, this was duende! The catapult of feeling that projects you solely into the now, the very moment, all your concentration into the essence of pure presence. The singer’s song filled my body with a fire of spirit and I felt so much I thought my heart might burst. This is what they’d all been talking about! And it had happened to me, because of her! Because of my tiny little daughter, watching her mommy dance for the very first time.
Of course nobody mentioned this to me before, but afterwards I heard that a flamenco dancer’s dancing often deepens after they have a child. Somehow, motherhood grounds you. It can bring you closer to the earth, closer to blood, and pain, and emotional truth. Flamenco is a deep and earthy art form, connecting you to the stage or the dirt beneath your feet. And at the same time, parenthood brings your feelings closer to the surface; the constant joy of your child’s existence, the constant fear for their well-being. It’s this that motherhood does to you. It brings your emotions from deep beneath your skin, and you end up wearing them on your sleeve. Sometimes, this can be embarrassing, like when you cry during a Hallmark commercial. But in flamenco, it’s freeing.
Motherhood opened the door of my heart. My artistic expression soared. Duende is now a part of me, waiting inside the lilting twists of the singer’s melody. My ability to feel, and to express those feelings is a current running in my veins. I have only to think of my daughter to tap into it, and be swept up in the river of feeling, of life, of joy and pain so intricately mixed as to be almost inseparable from each other.
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