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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Kick That Ruffle

That is what our teacher tells us.

When you kick the ruffle of your skirt with your knee, it flies up in a swirl of flounce and polka dots, looking like a more modest version of a can-can skirt. And then you stamp your feet hard on the wooden floor--bang!--and the dozens of little nails that are hammered into the toes and heels of your shoes make a sharp crack.

Your torso is lifted, your head held high, and you are fierce.

Flamenco is h-o-t. (Not that tango isn't, of course.) It's a different kind of hot. Like if tango is a panther quietly prowling towards its prey though a lush bed of jungle, flamenco is a falcon that will swoop down on you and take your heart and fly off into the sky again.

Tango is voluptuous, stealthy, perfection in shadows. Flamenco is in your face, like the flash of a magnesium flare, audacious and wilful.

Like I said, it's fierce. I like it.


Last night in my class, I had a glimmer of hope in that I will not always look like a special-needs person dressed up as a flamenco dancer.

I had little flashes of what it will feel like when I can actually do this dance without screwing up.

I have band-aids on both heels this morning from flamenco class last night. I don't remember scraping my skin off yesterday, but I guess I did somewhere in that hour.


In class, we have live music. A guitarist named Jorge plays and sings for us. We rode up together in the old clanky elevator at the dance center yesterday, and I said my little Hola, que tal? (because that is all I know, I really must try to learn Spanish) and he quietly reciprocated.

I told Jorge what an honor and a pleasure it is to have him play for us in every class. I told him that I am not used to having a musician play in my dance classes (although in ballet we have a piano accompanist, but that feels more like background music than music you dance to). Flamenco guitar is very passionate but his gypsy singing is what makes it soulful.


After class, my muscles ache. I feel stretched and loose and sore and sweaty. My neck feels longer and so do my arms. Even though it's cold outside, I am not wearing my jacket. I think of that John Mellencamp song, Hurts So Good.

So what I am learning from all of this?

I think that flamenco is going to help my tango. I am finally using and working that infamous core that my tango teachers talk about. I realize now that I am getting the training and warmup exercises I have needed for tango all along, but I am guessing it is needed for any kind of dance. I have not had a tango class that has focused on exercise to develop the intrinsic form and internal strength of the dancer, aside from the walk, even though that form is talked about a lot in class.

I think flamenco is going to help my tango a lot because I'll finally be developing that dancer's stance. We'll see. I'm going to Cellspace tonight so I'll be evaluating myself to see if I notice anything new in the way I carry myself.

I'll just have to be careful not to stamp my feet.


Anonymous April 2, 2008 at 11:51 AM  

Ah, what a beautiful post!
I hesitated between tango and flamenco, and finally decided for tango, which I adore. Now that I've read your post, though, I KNOW I will have to take flamenco as well. Soon.

tangobaby April 2, 2008 at 12:37 PM  

Bonjour tassili,

Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving such a lovely comment. Welcome.

I think that you must be a person of different passions and temperaments. Like choosing your clothing and shoes to suit your mood, so dancing can be that type of experience.

When you are feeling quiet and sultry and introspective, you can tango. When you want to be imperious, alluring and strong all by yourself, you can do flamenco.

See, it is simple. One does not obscure the other. Please tell me when you try it so we can compare experiences.

A vos amours.

PS. the photo you have on your blog right now of Connecticut made me laugh out loud. I am going to have to share that with others, and give you credit, of course!


AlexTangoFuego April 2, 2008 at 12:52 PM  

I don't have my book, "Tango - The Art History of Love", because it is packed away in Aspen or Austin or somewhere, so I can't look this up to be sure.

But, if my failing memory serves me, I think tango and flamenco are related. There is a Moorish (north african) influence in both, from when the Moors invaded and governed Spain - flamenco pretty much stayed in Spain, but tango was influenced by the immigrants in Buenos Aires who came from Spain - and by the Cubans (Habanera) - and by the slaves from Africa, and by the native Argentine folks (gauchos) - all mixed in a big melting pot of cultures and rhythms and dances.

I think.

tangobaby April 2, 2008 at 1:00 PM  

Hi Alex,

I am sure you are right that there is a connection, which probably explains my attraction to both.

However, in my limited actual experience, I feel that flamenco and bellydance are much more similar. The independence, the attitude (psychology?) and some of the movements in the hips and arms. Both flamenco and bellydance have a very gypsy-like sensation to the dancer even though there is a lot of control and purpose in movement with both.

studio wellspring April 2, 2008 at 3:22 PM  

yes tangobaby, you're exactly right ~ flamenco is a direct result of people from the lower classes of india migrating to spain back around 800-900ad and adapting their music & dance while in exiled ghetto areas of spain. i'll send you some links. ;o)

tangobaby April 2, 2008 at 3:33 PM  

My beautiful Ms. Wellspring,

I can't decide if you are the smartest little girl I know, or the sweetest.

There, I've figured it out. It's a tie!


Anonymous April 2, 2008 at 3:40 PM  

You know.. as a matter of matter, dancing/walking tango has made me feel , as you say "imperious, alluring and strong". I can't wait to see how I will feel with flamenco! I might have to wait a little to overcome the beginner's stage, though (only 3 months in tango), what do you think?

Anonymous April 2, 2008 at 3:43 PM  

Oups.. I meant, of course, "as a matter of fact", of course, and not "as a matter of matter"! ;-0))
But you already figured it out, of course.
As for the Connecticut picture, please, feel free! :-)))

tangobaby April 2, 2008 at 3:59 PM  

Hi Tassili,

It's amazing how tango can enrich one's life so dramatically, even in a short amount of time. It is like letting the genie out of the bottle.

As far as whether to try flamenco or wait, I am of the belief that you should never delay your dreams, if possible. Life is short, so why wait to try something that might make you happy?

Tango and flamenco are apples and oranges. Both are delicious and both are very different. You may like flamenco, or you may not. But at least you will have tried, and if you like it, then you have another beautiful way to express yourself. (I will not even begin to tell you about the shoe and skirt options!)

Please let me know...I'll be sending you encouragement and good wishes.

NYC Tango Pilgrim April 2, 2008 at 5:33 PM  

"I'll just have to be careful not to stamp my feet."

TB, you might be developing your own style of adornment here. :-)

I am serious!

Relyn Lawson April 2, 2008 at 8:17 PM  

While I was visiting today I noticed that you linked to me (thanks, by the way) in the catagory Daydreamers and Nightdreamers. How do you know me so well already?

I love how you described flamenco, "strong all by yourself." Isn't it wonderful that we can be both? Strong and introspective. And, not only in dance. In life, too. Today, I feel strong and maybe even a little alluring. I may just have to stamp my foot a time or two.

paris parfait April 3, 2008 at 4:13 AM  

Such a fabulous post! You've described perfectly the powerful statement of flamenco. I think that ultimately you must travel to Sevilla for the Bi-annual flamenco festival. Talk about fierce and powerful and magnificent! Six weeks of classes, with two weeks of performances by the masters. I saw Joaquin Cortes perform live in Sevilla and still haven't got over it. Sigh. xoxox

tangobaby April 3, 2008 at 11:34 AM  

Hi TP!

You make me smile.

If I stamped my feet that hard (the way you are supposed to do in flamenco), the heels of my NeoTangos would snap right off.

And I think I would scare my leaders.

Hi Paris Parfait,

You are a mind-reader, aren't you? I'll go if you go.

tangobaby April 3, 2008 at 11:38 AM  

I'm sorry, Relyn, I missed your comment.

It's nice to feel like that, isn't it? The trick is in not forgetting you are like that all of the time.

I will send you some music to inspire you.