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Flamenco in Schools

Today was my last day working with the grade 12 dancers at the Etobicoke school for the arts.

I had six classes about an hour each to develop a choreography that also offered them training in the flamenco form.

The dancers learned about musical and rhythmic phrasing, and how that informs them as they dance. Flamenco requires/demands precision when it comes to keeping in time to the music but also precision in listening and identifying patterns and working within and outside of those patterns.

These dancers will be performing this piece at the end of November and I look forward to sharing it with you.

You’ll notice that they’re not wearing Flamenco shoes and that’s not really important as flamenco didn’t start off with shoes or castanets or a shawl, fan etc. It started off with song. In Flamenco, we interpret the song through rhythm, melody, emotion and all this informs the dancer who is part of the three main elements being song, dance, and music. It’s more complex than that but it’s a good start to understanding what is involved in Flamenco.

As I was choreographing, I also sang for the students and showed them how the movement interprets the song. I talked about how Flamenco is about life and death and nothing in between really. I used the title of the song which is luz meaning Light. I wanted these dancers to immerse themselves in an environment, emotionally, cognitively, and physically that looked for light and to stay in the light despite the darkness. I talked about how they needed to become one entity and to work together.

I also talked about how in dance there are “No dummies”. This is really important as I believe dancers get a bad rap for this. To be a dancer your spatial awareness is incredibly keen. Dancers have an amazing memory for sequences. They learn quickly. The prefrontal cortex is on fire, and their muscle memory allows them to retrieve information and build on it quickly. Dance develop parts of the brain that positively affect language, problem-solving, abstract and concrete reasoning abilities not to mention emotional intelligence.

The music that we were working with is a Buleriás, however, it fluctuates between a Bulerías al Golpe in the 3/4 time and then 6/8 time. In flamenco we consider dances either in an 8 beat cycle or 12 that’s the easiest way to look at it, but as you can tell from the above, it’s very complex.

My task is to find away for the dancers to be able to identify the musical subdivisions without even knowing that they’re doing it. Being able to feel it without having to think it. Understanding how tension is created through those rhythmical subdivisions in the melodic phrasing. This is the task that lays before me well before even coming up with a choreography.

At this stage of my career while I continue to develop work and produce shows, I’m also thinking about legacy building. What am I leaving behind, how does Flamenco contribute to the current and future landscape of dance and music in Canada? I have a lot to say about this and overtime I’ll share my ideas. For now enjoy the amazing work that these dancers have put into learning a little bit about Flamenco.

1 Comment

You really managed to instil in them the passion and attitude of flamenco in such a short time! Hopefully some of those students will go on to study flamenco in more depth. Amazing outreach program, Carmen!

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