By Sarah Parra 08/08/2020
Change the world, change yourself – with Flamenco Dance
Flamenco – one of the greatest gift to mankind.
Humility, Empathy, Community, Connection, Rawness, Soul, Awareness, An Open Heart, Diversity and Inclusion
In an upside-down world we are all searching for answers. Facing an existential crisis we are faced with the question of how to survive? Will we survive? How to change, can we change? Maybe, maybe not. Change is not easy for us humans. We like to be comfortable and cozy. We like to stay in our happy content little spaces. We don’t like change. But we can’t do that anymore.It’s killing us in so many ways. It’s time to change.
How to change?
More specifically dance Flamenco. Flamenco dance can change you and it can change the world one person at a time. And that is exactly what we need right now.
How? What? Impossible it is just a dance! Maybe, maybe not. Let me take you down a Flamenco journey for a bit.
In a world gone mad, we are all absorbed in our own life and reality. We are convinced that our view is the right view. We are staring at our own belly buttons wondering why life is treating us so badly? We scroll endlessly through our social media feeds looking for views that agree with our own. We reinforce the walls and slowly get absorbed into our own version of reality. We are so self-absorbed that we can’t see that we might be part of the problem. We are isolated, contained and selfish. How can we break out of that?
We can change by doing something that requires humility, empathy and listening. And might I also add something that brings you joy. Otherwise this would just be too painful of a process. So please don’t worry. While Flamenco may demand that you change and will make you uncomfortable, it will also give you great joy and bliss.
Let’s get started.
How can Flamenco dance teach humility? For one, it is not easy. Even if you are a Prima Ballerina you will find Flamenco challenging. Many an experienced dancer has waltzed into my studio, not literally thank God, demanding that they be put into an intermediate Flamenco class. Because why would they need to learn the basics? Insert laughter here. Sometimes I have let them. And within 5 min, their tail is between their legs begging to take a beginning level class.
Being humble requires that our ego deflate a bit, or a lot. Humility teaches us that we don’t know it all, that we have a lot to learn and that learning never stops. Humility teaches that we can learn from each other. A humble spirit is also open to learning from other sources – nature, animals, sounds, etc. A humble spirit is an open heart and soul that will hear and understand more. We need more humble people. We need people that can learn and listen. Change will not happen if we can not humble ourselves.
Yes, this is a word we hear a lot of lately. And there is a very important reason as to why. We have simply stopped listening to each other. Flamenco can fix that.
One of the first skills a dancer must learn or acquire is the skill to listen to the beat, the music and the singing. One has to be WILLING to be guided by the music and not by their own WILL. Flamenco dance is guided by the beat (compass) and the cante (singing). It is not the other way around. One listens and then moves.
When I get a new student,one of the first things they notice is that the approach is opposite of what they have been taught in other dance forms. The beat, the music, the song guides the dance and also decides what the dancer will be doing. The dancer can not simply do whatever they want, they actually have to take into consideration what the musicians are doing in the moment and allow that moment to make them move. We are asked to improvise and stay in the moment. Change- to yield- to be inspired by the moment and not by what our intellect thinks we should do.
The dancer is also not alone. The experience of Flamenco is not only the dancer. It is the group. What happens because of all the people and elements involved- the singer, the guitarist, the palamistas and the viewers all create an energy that is flamenco.It is never about one person- it is the group.
It is not something you can do alone. You certainly can practice alone, but the real Flamenco experience happens with other people. This connects people on a very deep emotional and spiritual level. We work together, we listen and feel with our hearts, body and soul.
From the very beginning Flamenco teaches us to be humble, open, and to listen to each other. And be a part of a larger group. Dancers must learn to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They need to get OUTSIDE of themselves and listen to each other. Empathize, feel and listen. It requires empathy and listening with our hearts and would .
The world could use a bit more of that right now.
This goes hand in hand with empathy, but also deserves it’s own section.
Many people simply have stopped listening. They can only hear the noise in their own head. To dance Flamenco one has to stop and listen. Many of us have simply stopped listening to each other, to nature and more importantly to our selves. We are so busy with “life” that we ignore our own soul, our own desires, our body, our health. We are ignoring all the important signs that our bodies and nature to the extent that our current “world” is ending.
It’s time to learn how to listen.
Real listening requires that you empty your mind, be still and listen. In the dancer’s case, be dancing, be still inside and listen.
This kind of listening is a deep listening.You aren’t listening with your mind. Nor with your intellect. You have to listen from the depths of your being.
Many people have not developed the skill of listening. Many people feel they are correct – that their rhythm is on, that it is right, but it’s not. They can not hear what the teacher is saying, they can not hear the subtleties in the music. They have stopped listening.
Only by working with a group will they find that really they are off- out of compass and not in sync. Once the students start to hear, their whole attitude changes. It is as if their world has changed and it did. This kind of deep listening connects one’s self to the depths of one’s being. Flamenco has the ability to take down the walls that we have built up around ourselves and inside or ourselves. The walls that have caused us to stop listening and feeling.
THE ABILITY TO FEEL AGAIN
Numb, the world has made us numb. Too much information. Too much of too much, we have shut down. We don’t want to feel anymore. It’s a survival technique. I understand. We numb ourselves with news, work, drugs, alcohol, anything. Anything to not feel what is really going on inside.
We need to feel again, we have stopped feeling. Our hearts are freezing because we don’t want to feel. It’s time to feel- feel the pain, feel the anger, the joy, the sadness, and let it inspire you to change. It hurts, it’s uncomfortable. Many just won’t do it. They would rather die or even kill to avoid feeling the pain. But that is why we find ourselves in this situation today. To borrow an expression from Cher – SNAP OUT OF IT! It’s time to start feeling.
Flamenco dance will demand that you go to the depths of your being to feel and to be moved by your feelings. It will also ask that you release them. Moving through your feelings will allow pain and anxiety to leave you and give you some freedom from the discomfort. At this moment you will have clarity and know what to do.
Flamenco dance is one of the most complicated and challenging art forms that exist. Anyone that has tried to learn it will tell you this.
There has neve been a more important time then now for this skill.
Fear, insecurity and doubt cannot exist in the same room as Flamenco. Flamenco requires that we do not hesitate- you will be off the beat. Everything happens in the now and in the moment – hesitate and the moment is gone.
It requires that you give all of your soul to the dance otherwise you appear fake and insincere. You can not lie when you dance. We see it all.
Flamenco will teach you to not be afraid of your emotions. In fact it will demand that you dive into them – all of them and feel them and let them guide you to a better place. At that place you will know what you need to do and what needs to be done.
Really? How can this be possible? It’s called dance therapy. It is what our ancestors did by the fire in the middle of the night accompanied by clapping, drumming and singing. To many people this is a savage and wild image – NO! It’s natural , it’s what is needed. And no you don’t need to be by the fire in the dirt with wild hair. You can do it in a dance class as you listen and dance to a Solea, Siguidilla or Tarantos- it’s’ all there. And even better you can do it wearing a gorgeous pair of shoes made in Spain!
Bravery and Courage
See above – just the other side of the coin and worth repeating myself.
Be BRAVE!! Don’t HIDE! Flamenco will ask – NO DEMAND that you be brave. That you literally put your foot down with bravery and confidence. Any moment of hesitation and you are done – out of compass we call it- messing up the game- no good to work with- not eligible to work on the team. Be brave, be confident- speak up- trust your selflet your rhythm be spot on. This only comes by listening and being brave. Likewise don’t be afraid of failing. Failing is the only way to learn. Be brave.
We embrace diversity. Flamenco was created by “outsiders.” At its core is the acceptance of outsiders and people that are different from the status quo. It also honors the older community.
It is not just for young beautiful body types. In fact just the opposite. All body types are accepted. And while the skinny dancer is the norm in other art forms- the round heaviness of an older female dancer brings a grace, rhythm and emotional capacity that young dancers will not find until they reach their mid life. Flamenco requires you to have life experience . It requires that you bring something to the table or to the dance floor- bring more than a pretty face, bring us your life and share it with us.
We all find ourselves at a turning point for mankind. It is a scary time for many people. But these times also provide us with a window of opportunity to change. Flamenco dance can help us to change. I hope you will give it a try.