Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z is For Zambra

The last posting for the April A-Z Blogging Challenge. The letter is Z. My theme is Flamenco.

Z is For Zambra

Zambra has two meanings. It means a party with dancing entertainment held in the caves in Sacromonte, Spain and it is also used for the name of a dance. The caves used to be divided into homes for the Gypsies but no longer serve as dwellings. Now, they are modernized and turned into restaurants and theaters for entertainment. Because the terrain is steep, a taxi lets the tourists off and they take a little walk up to the theaters.

There exists a common root between belly dancing and Flamenco, with belly dancing being lighter and more seductive. The one dance link between the two is the Zambra. The original was a Moorish dance, dating back to the 15 century. With the lights flickering on the walls of the caves, the Zambra can be an impressive festive dance.

The photo above is taken inside one of the theater caves. Performances provide an income for the Flamencos as tourists are entertained and can return home with photos. Dancing is light and colorful and the atmosphere is an exhilerating menory.

A video of the Zambra, a fusion dance between Flamenco and Belly Dance. It
always looks more Belly than Flamenco to me but you judge. Adios Amigos

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y is For Yearn

Posting daily in April for A-Z Blogging Challenge. Today is Y. My theme is Flamenco.

Y is For Yearning

A Yearning permeates pure Flamenco song and dance. Hondo song is filled with deep, raw emotion for a return to a home the Gypsies never knew. They have no roots, no common language or legal documents to even prove that they were born.

My first contact with Gypsies was during the three year Korean War. Franco was then in power and trying to expell all Gypsies from Spain. I had a very dear Gypsy friend whose family taught me Flamenco while they were living on the beach outside of Algiceras. They were ordered to leave and we never saw each other again. I often have my own yearnings for her and her family and wonder if she ever found a home and a stable life. So many times I've wanted to tell her how much our time together affected the rest of my life.

Below is a video of Rosio Ponce, Flamenco dancer who teaches in California.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X is For Xavier

Posting daily in April for A-Z Blogging Challenge. Today is X. My theme is Flamenco.

X is For Xavier (Cugat)

If Flamenco music sounds too foreign, you may want to listen to transitional music. Xavier Cugat's Latin band from the 40's and 50's might be just the sound to ease your listening ear into a Flamenco Rumba. Traditionally, rumba is not considered pure Flamenco but a Latin-type Rumba is often danced at Flamenco performances. The rumba is one dance that is lively with lots of hip movement. You can have fun with it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is For Warm-up

Posting daily for the April A-Z Blogging Challenge. Today is W. My theme is Flamenco.

W is For Warm-up

Every dancer needs to warm-up the muscles before starting to dance. Flamenco dancers use arms, hands and shoulders throughout a dance so we strengthen and lengthen the muscles. In the video below, I am the one in the long pants leading a student. The music is an original modern Flamenco piece by Paul Renslow, guitarist.

Warm-ups are repetitive and rather boring. You are welcome to click on the video for a few seconds or not at all if you're in a hurry to get to blogs.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for Verdiales

Posting daily in the April A-Z Blogging Challenge. Today is V. My theme is Flamenco.

V is For Verdiales

A member of our troupe

Verdiales are ancient, lively, folk dances, perhaps the oldest of the Fandangos. The song was thought to be named after a tiny village, Los Verdiales. Each province in Spain still adheres to their original folk songs and dances. Folk dances are lighter, bouncier dances and you will see smiles from the dancers. The general public, who is unaccustomed to Flamenco, is usually more comfortable with the Folk dances. Many of the classical Spanish dances are choreographed around the folk dances and often danced in ballet slippers. I say it's for the young with it's leaps and spins and fast turns. I'll pass on leaps these days, thank you.

I had to dig for this short vid of the folk dance, Verdiales.

Monday, April 25, 2011

U is For Ugly

Daily April post for the A-Z Blogging Challenge. Today is the letter U. My theme is Flamenco.

U is For Ugly

There are moments during a Flamenco dance when intense emotion can make even the most beautiful face, Ugly. Ugly is not a kind word but it is the opposite of pretty and a Flamenco dance expression is rarely pretty. The raw emotion that has been stored inside a dancer now comes to life in her facial expression, hands and head movement. A good Flamenco dancer is long remembered after her performance.

I am not referring to the dances that have roots in folk dances but this is meant for pure Flamenco.

Beginning dancers strive for that Flamenco look. If they don't feel the music, the look on their face betrays them. My advice to beginners, "It takes a long, long time. Only took me 20 years. Be patient, it will come." :)

The Farruquito family has always been a favorite of mine. Pure Flamenco.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is For Tangos

Daily post during April from the A-Z Blogging Challenge. Today is T. My theme is Flamenco.

T is For Tangos

Tangos, one of the oldest basic songs, is of unknown origin. Some of the music is frivolous but the words of the songs are melancoly so speculation is, the Tangos may have had a serious past. Mostly it is danced with flirtatous hips and lighter movements.

A Flamenco Tangos is not to be confused with the Argentine Tango or the English Ballroom Tango. The dances may share a common root but each is a distinctive dance that has it's own characteristics. Tangos is a sensuous dance and easy on the eyes.

Below is an example of Flamenco Tangos

Friday, April 22, 2011

S is For Shoes

Posting for the April A-Z Blogging Challenge. Today is S. My theme is Flamenco

S is For Shoes

If a Flamenco dancer wants to do footwork, she needs proper shoes. Not always the sexiest or most attractive shoes, they are definitely the sturdiest. Flamenco shoes are made in Spain. If you look at the above photo, you see the bottom of a shoe displaying a thin piece of rubber on the sole so you can stop quickly and avoid sliding. Little nails are driven into the toe tip and the whole heel, making it solid little nail heads. This produces a slight noise but it isn't sharp like a tap.

Until a beginning student is positive that Flamenco dancing is for her, my advice is to wear cowboy boots (all Montana people have them) and not rush into buying Flamenco shoes. Cowboy boots give the needed support and if you notice, men dancers wear a snug fitting dress boot. When a student purchases Flamenco shoes, I know she's hooked. Ole

Carmen Amaya. Notice her use of Pitos (finger snapping) and her lightening footwork.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is For Rhythm

Daily April post of A-Z Blogging Challenge is for the letter R. Theme is Flamenco.

R is For Rhythm

Rhythm is the core of Flamenco. We dance, we sing, but we need some kind of a beat or rhythm that we first put inside of us. Once that rhythm is safely settled in the body, we can release it in the form of dancing. Guitars, violins, tambourines, knuckle rapping, finger snapping, cane striking the floor, are all the sounds that can produce a Rhythm.

Notice the position of the fingers in the photo above. He's using Pitos, or finger snapping. Just because we don't have a guitarist or a CD player, it doesn't mean we can't dance. Years ago, after Flamenco class, we'd stand waiting for a bus and practice our hand clapping in various rhythms. We'd dance and clap and feel sad when the bus arrived because that ended our little "Flamenco jam session."

The video below shows a group of street dancers participating in a rhythm.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q is For Quest

Today's post from A-Z Blogging Challenge is Q. My theme, Flamenco

Q is For Quest

A Quest is seeking, as in a journey to find something. I've been on a Quest all of my adult life to seek knowledge and dance ability of Flamenco. This gives me purpose and direction without ever wavering. People are often pitifully filled with the "poor me syndrome." If these people would zero in on a subject, a hobby, anything of their interest and pursue it with gusto, there would be no time for "poor me."Your quest would magically transport you to wider vistas where you have never ventured, where happiness reigns supreme.

You'll not find me in the Who's Who of Flamenco. My Quest wasn't for fame but it was to extend my abilities to the limit and receive the ultimate fulfillment. My Flamenco journey isn't finished. I'm still seeking, just as I'm still amazed at all the benefits this adds to my daily life.

Below is a video of a five year old girl dancing Flamenco. You know what her quest is.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P is For Pitos

A-Z Blogging Challenge. Today's letter is P. My theme, Flamenco.

P is for Pitos

Pitos are sharp, cracking finger snaps. Guitars have been used for Flamenco accompaniment only during the last 150 years. Before that, the rhythm was kept by Pitos, hand clapping or pounding the end of a cane on the floor. The Gypsies are excellent at Pitos, as you can see the early start they get in the above photo.

Pitos are easier for some dancers than others. I have a student who is excellent and the sharp crack can be heard above a room full of footwork. I admire sharp Pitos as mine have always been rather weak and wimpy.

I include vids of some of my favorite dancers. A blogfest doesn't leave much time for viewing videos but they are there for your choosing.

Monday, April 18, 2011

O is For Outcasts

A-Z Blogging Challenge. Today is O. Theme is Flamenco.
O is for Outcasts

No one country has ever opened the door to the gypsies and said, "you are welcome here." Romania and Spain have the largest Gypsy population but they've been run out of every country they touched since they were expelled from India in the 14th century. They are sprinkled throughout the world. Even my dear Grandfather joined in expelling the Gypsies.

Here's the story they told me when I was growing up in South Dakota. It was during the Great Depression when I was still a baby that some wandering Gypsies were camped in my Grandfather's field. They came to the farm house, seeking help as one of their wagons was broken. My Grandfather said he could repair it and Grandma would give them food, if they promised to leave. Grandpa repaired the wagon in his blacksmith shop while Grandma packed food for them. True to their word, they left with gratitude. I had a passion for the Gypsy way of life even then, as I asked my Grandparents to repeat the story over and over. I begged for every teeny detail.

Throughout the years, they've been forced into chain gangs and condemed to Hitler's gas chambers in staggering numbers but the Gypsy spirit always remained unbroken through Flamenco as it developed into magnificent heights.

Carmen Amaya remains the "Best" in my book. Ever. Below a clip from "Los Tarantos."She shows the true Gypsy style.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

N is For Nanas

A-Z Blogging Challenge. My theme is Flamenco. Today is the letter N.

N is for Nanas

Rock A Bye Baby. Nanas are cradle songs sung to children at bedtime. Cradle songs, sung in a tender Flamenco style are irresistible. Slumber songs of the Nanas are sung in the rhythm of a rocking cradle. Nanas are not sung for fiestas or have guitar accompaniment. They date back to the first Mother and her Child.

Here is the English translation of a few verses of the Nanas

The little baby
wishes to sleep,
but the mischievous sandman
just won't come .....

I hold you in my arms
and am suddenly afraid"
what will become of you, little one,
if I fail you?

Little pink carnation,
buding rose,
sleep, my life,
while I sing you a lullaby.

Slumber song.....ay.....slumber song,
sleep, little star of the

Below is a video of an interpretation of a Nana by Manuel De Falla, A Spanish composer.

Friday, April 15, 2011

M is For Martinetes

A-Z Blogging Challenge. My theme is Flamenco and today is M for Martinetes

M is for Martinetes

Martinetes are the songs of the Smithy. Since Gypsies were always on the run from being booted out of country after country, blacksmithing was one of the occupations they could unload their tools and be ready for business. As they hammered on their anvils, they would pound out a rhythm and sing or chant to it. The Martinetes is that type of song.

Traditionally, the Martinetes was not danced but today, theatrical productions dance all of Flamenco . Just be aware that when you see Flamenco on a stage, you are not seeing the pure, although it will be entertaining. The beat of the Martinetes is hauntingly beautiful.

I always think when you're singing and dancing, your misfortune appears a little lighter.

Below is example of Martinetes, danced to the beat of drumming and a cane.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K is For Knees

A-Z Blogging Challenge. Today is K. Flamenco is my theme.

K is for Knees

Knees can be "Oh so important to a Flamenco Dancer." They have a powerful job. They bring the foot up toward your bum so it can drop with control and produce a sharp bang. The foot is never forced down because that would jar the knee. Always protect your knees. They get you where you want to go.

I'm amazed at the number of youngish people who have had knee replacement surgery. I'm curious..... "Why? What happens to the knees? How do they get bad? I've done Flamenco footwork for 60 years and my knees are still working . So are my "more mature" friend's knees. So what's the deal????

You do have to practice Flamenco foot movement. A beginner seems to think it's a marching movement but it isn't. If done properly, you can make noise for a lifetime and still end up with flexible knees. Do you think, perhaps Flamenco is the answer and it really strengthens the knees?

Below is a dance by Sara Baras. Notice how important knees are to Flamenco dance.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I is For Itch

A-Z Blogging Challenge. My theme is Flamenco Letter today is I

I is For Itch

You've all heard the expression, "Scratch where it itches." So often we don't scratch and the itching turns into frustration. If you have a yearning, burning desire to stroke a passion, DO IT. It's never too late.

Learning things on your own is easy now. YouTube has videos on just about anything. It's like having your own tutor. Flamenco dancing has always been my itch. I did need a good wood floor for footwork so I turned my garage into a studio with a maple floating floor. Any time I get the "itch" I can step into my studio and dance while my car sits outside in it's driveway home. I didn't say you could have everything but it stops the itching. doesn't it?

The video below is my daughter, Lisa, dancing Modern Flamenco while scratching her itch.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

H is for Hondo

A-Z Blogging Challenge for April. I'll post every day except Sunday. Today is the letter H. My theme is Flamenco.

H is for Hondo

Hondo is the deep song, the pure original expression of Flamenco. In it's oldest form, it comes from religious chants. It is this melancholy chanting that people, unfamiliar with Flamenco, sometimes find contrary to their idea of music. Singing in Hondo requires great effort because it calls for deep emotion and full power of the lungs and throat. There are very few Hondo singers in the US and I would consider myself fortunate to live near one.

There's also a lighter singing style, known as Cante Chico. This version deals with love and a more optimistic outlook. It is also often referred to as Modern Flamenco.

All are brilliant but there's nothing to compare to a well sung Hondo song. May it live on forever.

P.S. Readers are asking for an example. Here's one on YouTube (also spelled Jondo)

Friday, April 8, 2011

G is For Gaffes Galore

A-Z Blogging Challenge. Today is G for Gaffes Galore

Although my theme is Flamenco, I'm giving Bloggie readers a little break today . I'm going to tell you about a few of my social blunders of Ballroom Dance. Along with Flamenco, I also competed in Ballroom for 25 years.

My partner and I were sitting on folding chairs waiting to go on. When our names were called I got up and proceeded toward the dance floor. I thought my skirt felt weird but as we stepped onto the floor someone rushed up and grabbed the chair I was dragging behind me. It got caught in my skirt and I was about to begin a Viennese Waltz with a chair attached. What a way to begin a dance. It took a while for me to live that down.

Before couples are called to the floor, nervousness reigns supreme. A young couple, competing for the first time, looked up to my partner and me as role models because we were seasoned dancers. When they finished their dance, they rushed up to us for comments, asking, "How'd we do? How'd we do?" Being nervous myself, I answered, "At least you didn't fall down." I can't recall saying that but what a let-down for the young couple who were expecting positive feedback. My partner still reminds me about that remark.

Judges are positioned around the edge of the dance floor with their clipboards. During a quickstep my partner went into some strange patterns that I was having trouble following. Behind a big smile like a ventriloquists dummy, without moving my lips, I said, "What the H--- are you doing?" But just at that moment he turned me and I said it directly to one of the judges on the sideline. My lesson from that was, "Shut up and follow."

We had Gaffes Galore.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

F is for Flamenco

Posting daily in April for the A-Z Blogging Challenge. Today is F. My theme is Flamenco

F is for Flamenco

"A Way of Life", is a book about Flamenco, written by Don Pohren in 1962.

Don and his wife, Luisa, lived in Spain but made frequent trips as guest artists, to the studio I attended in Minneapolis. Don taught Flamenco guitar and Luisa gave dance workshops. This was like bringing the source to US non-Spanish-speaking Flamenco students. They were Americans who understood the true life of the Flamencos. Don's book, "A Way of Life," is still considered to be the most complete authority ever written about Flamenco people.

For me, those were the days of performances and practice, practice, practice. It was also the days of sore muscles, stretched hamstrings and often very little sleep. Americans have to work hard at learning what comes naturally to the Gypsies. We are the interlopers, trying to learn their way of life.

There is an interwoven connection between Classical Spanish and pure Flamenco. We were fortunate to have a classical Spanish teacher who was married to an American and living in Minneapolis. She taught strict Spanish ethics with hours of ballet, in addition to strenuous footwork. Our lives were gradually reshaped into Flamencos.

Now, sixty years later, I still have my most joyful moments when I go in my studio all by myself, put on some Flamenco music, my shoes and dance until my heart is full. I will repeat this over and over, "When Flamenco enters your soul, it never leaves.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for Essence

A-Z Blogging Challenge for the month of April. Posting every day except Sunday. Today the letter is E. My theme is Flamenco.

E is for Essence

Every dance has it's own essence. Flamenco, especially, has an essence entirely unique that sets it apart from other dances. Notice the singer in the photo. Does she appear tormented?

Gypsy songs tell of their difficult life, of being expelled from India and booted out of every country they enter. Flamenco music speaks of yearnings for a home they never had.

This longing, anguish and torment, is buried deep within and when they dance, they release this essence with spellbinding emotion. When a Flamenco performance ends, the dramatic moments remain with you for a long, long time.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D is for Dance

A-Z Blogging Challenge for the month of April. I'll be posting every day, except Sunday. Today is D. My theme is Flamenco

D is for Dance

What is dance? Most would answer, "It's moving the feet."

But it's sooooo much more.

Dance is the outward expression of a beat (or rhythm) you've put inside of you. The rhythm can be from music or clapping or from the beat you feel in your head. Your whole body moves in response. In Flamenco, fragmented parts of the body move as one unit.

Dance ........... in a Nutshell

Dance begins inside the body
Parts of the body move as a whole
Dance is the result of following a rhythm
Songs emit different emotions, making different dances

Monday, April 4, 2011

C is for Castanets

A-Z Blogging Challenge for the month of April. I'll be posting every day except Sunday, using a letter of the alphabet as subject. My theme is Flamenco

C is for Castanets

The mysterious little noise makers that dangle from Flamenco dancer's thumbs

Castanets are often thought of as being an ingredient of Flamenco dance, when in truth, they are more a part of Classical Spanish Dance. Pictured above, you'll see my very first pair of castanets of 60 years ago. They're made of fiber and have a deep mellow sound.

I've owned many castanets since these but when I choose a pair to play, they beg, "Play me, play me." Out of sentiment, honor for age and playing ability, they usually end up on my thumbs.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for Bata de Cola

A-Z Challenge for the month of April. I'll post every day except Sunday, using a letter of the alphabet each day. Today is B. My theme is Flamenco.

B is for Bata de Cola, a Spanish dress with a long train

Maneurering a bata de cola requires strong legs and excellent balance. We used to practice dragging a sheet behind us, saving the delicate ruffles for the real performance.

I was introduced to Flamenco by the Gypsies on the beach in Algeciras, Spain. After studying Flamenco for three years in Morocco and Spain, I returned to the US to learn Classical Spanish dance with a Spanish teacher. I've continued to make Flamenco a life-time study as a passionate hobby. Although I've always belonged to a local performing arts troupe, you won't find me in Flamenco's "Who's Who" as I've also spent my time as wife, mother and now grandmother. Once Flamenco enters your soul, it never leaves.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A is for Ancestor

I have entered the A-Z Challenge for the month of April. I'll be posting every day except Sunday, using a subject starting with the letter of the alphabet for each day, beginning with A. My theme is Flamenco

A is for Ancestor. The picture below is my ancestor, Grandmother Amelia.

Amelia studied dance in Germany and was given a trip to the US for her 16th birthday. Here she met Charles, also from Germany. They fell in love, married and homesteaded lake shore land in South Dakota. Amelia yearned to put on ballet slippers again but her new role was being wife and Mother.

Amelia and Charles had 18 children, my Father being the youngest. Many of their kids inherited her passion for music and dancing. Our huge family gatherings were as robust as any musical theatrical production. I thank Amelia for my life-long love affair with dance, especially Flamenco.