I’ve never met a dance film I didn’t like. Ask me how many times I’ve watched ‘Step It Up’ or ‘Save the Last Dance’ and it’s almost embarrassing. I’m guilty of staging my own choreographed routines just so I can live out my fly girl dreams ala Jennifer Lopez. So when the opportunity came to catch renowned Flamenco sensation, Farruquito, at the Flamenco Festival held at the Adrienne Arsht Center, I gave an enthused, Pues Claro! How hard could it be?!
Well, actually really hard. To be quite honest, I know nothing about flamenco, except that I’m a flamenco enthusiast. I’ve been to countless shows from Sevilla to New York and I enjoy them immensely. That’s as far as it goes. And maybe after too many vino tintos, I fancy myself a flamenco dancer, hand gestures and all. The dance and the storytelling that is achieved through the combined forces of the ‘canto,’ ‘baile,’ and ‘toque,’ is a passionate language of love and emotion. It is a marriage of the singer and the song and the melody. There is so much technique that goes into the dance, and the most important factor is following the rhythm and counts of the singer’s cante. Every region has its own rhythm and cante, and when you dance flamenco, what changes is el ‘marcaje' (where you step and accentuate), which is dependent on the region. The singer and the dancer engage in an almost seamless conversation through movement that appears effortless.
However, effortless it is not as I came to learn! I also learned that I have two left feet and almost tripped a few times and was not in synch with the counts or was I following along as I expected, with Farruquito’s ‘palmado.’ There was a lot of ‘uno, DOS, tres, cuatro, cinco, SEIS, siete, ocho, NUEVE…’ and Farruquito making it look so easy. There were also lots of technical terms like compas and compas de alegria and buleria. The goal is to really listen to what kind of ‘compas’ it is, so you can dance to that particular rhythm. Flamenco is not about learning a choreography- anyone can do that- its about listening to the person singing and what they’re playing and accentuating, because thats when you clap and you ‘marcar (marcaje)’ with your feet (the really fun part where you stomp but have to restrain from stomping too hard because then you definitely won’t look like a pro).
I failed terribly at ‘marcando’ and replicating any of Farruquito’s cantos and palmas. I looked like a fumbling hot mess trying to marcar with my feet while simultaneously trying to find the right count when I did my palmas. My coordination was off, bumping into the person next to me, all while trying to muster some form of dignity and comprehension so my teacher wouldn’t think I was complete flamenco rookie! Thankfully, the workshop was for all ages and all levels. I did scan the room and concluded I was still the least coordinated person there. But you know what? I had fun and I walked away with a new respect for this dance.
When I got home later that evening, I was trying to demonstrate to my husband all the moves (or lack thereof) that I picked up at the workshop. I did my palmas and all those hand movements flamenco is popular for, and I danced all over my living room. I realized that for that hour and a half, I dared to try something that I never thought I would try and whether I was good at it or not, it didn’t matter. I got a taste of what it meant to be a flamenco dancer- the discipline it entails and all the hard work that comes with it- and I can say that I tried. The art of flamenco is beautiful; but, difficult to master. I’ll leave it to the professionals and watch admiringly from the comfort of my seat!