To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful . . . . This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking.
– Agnes De Mille, American dancer and choreographer
My daughter has been taking flamenco classes for the last five years – since she was in kindergarten – through our school’s after-school enrichment program, thanks to our good friend Tana Hakanson, who brought her flamenco teacher to the program. I have always admired this dance form because of its energy, rhythm, complexity, and – to paraphrase Tana’s reason for her love of flamenco – its ability to convey such strength and confidence, which is really important for girls to gain at a young age. She and her fellow classmates, and the rest of her instructor’s troupe, performed at the International House on Cal Day at UC Berkeley this past Saturday. Many other groups danced, but flamenco brought the house down. In fact, every time I’ve attended their performances as part of a multi-cultural dance program in other venues, flamenco gets the audiences clapping and smiling. It is, after all, a dance that invites and thrives on the audience’s participation. And you can’t help but admire the difficulty of the footwork and foot speed, and the guitar, which can also be frenetic, and the soulful, passionate singing – cante flamenco – which is, in fact, the heart and soul of genre.
David and I spent our honeymoon in Spain, a destination decided upon when one of our colleagues from our Madrid office – many years and jobs ago for me – offered his congratulations and his second home on the Costa del Sol for our honeymoon upon learning of our engagement. We met up with our gracious host and his wife in Madrid and got our fill of the wonderful museums, including, of course, the Prado. We drove to the Costa del Sol, enjoyed the sun in the afternoons. We relaxed in Granada, admiring the Palacio de Generalife and the Alhambra. In Barcelona, we marveled at Gaudi‘s architectural wonders, particularly the Sagrada Familia.
And yet, my favorite city in Spain was and still is Sevilla. There is something other-worldly about its lush palm trees, river life, thick heat, and Moorish history and architecture. We stayed in a quaint hotel with the rooms overlooking the tiled courtyard. We got tickets to see a flamenco show and were treated to a marathon performance so intense, we could see the sweat flying off of the male dancer’s long hair. I remembered being so overwhelmed by their energy and their ability to move their feet so quickly and expertly while their faces were serene and yet passionate and in command.
On the fashion front, I love the full, swishy skirts, the bold and colorful flowers in the slicked-back and swept-up hairstyles, the long-fringed and equally colorful, floral shawls – worn with the corners pinned in front or wrapped around so that the designs are shown in front – the seductive fans, the dangling statement earrings, the castanets, and, of course, the simple but strong-silhouetted flamenco shoes. I love how the dresses and skirts can be so unique and yet together the outfits complement one another. You don’t have to be a flamenco dancer to try components of this style (just not all at once or else it comes off costumey)!
I greatly admire Tana’s commitment to flamenco, and I enjoy watching her dance and helping the girls with their form. The girls are very lucky to have such a unique dance class available to them at their age. And while I would love to take it up in the copious spare time I don’t have, I strongly recommend flamenco to women who want to be strong for themselves and for moms who wish to instill those traits in their daughters. Ole!