Always Be Dancing Expressive Arts

Yoga and Flamenco for Every(body)


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¡Olé Namaste!

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Pictured above from top left: Two students strike a pose, Hurley School, Boston; Eve Costarelli (AKA Eva Lorca); Students learning palmas at St. Stephens after-school program, Boston, MA; Visual representations of flamenco; Antonio Tiriti and Eve performing at the Natick Farmer’s Market; Students performing the story of Ferdinand The Bull; Eve teaching how braseo to students of St. Stephen’s after-school program, Boston, MA; Eve and some students. (Thank you to Celebrity Series and Robert Torres for the pictures of Eve and St. Stephen’s)

I am a flamenco dancer. Through this dance, I communicate my kinship to the gypsies, a group of wanderers/nomads/pilgrims who migrated from Northern India during the 8th and 9th centuries. One route that they took was through Saudi Arabia and Northern Africa, before arriving in Spain through the Straits of Gibraltar. These gypsies were comprised of expert metal workers, animal tenders and entertainers. They arrived in Spain when the country was controlled by the Moors (made up of Arabs, Syrians and Berbers). In Spain, the gypsies mixed freely amongst the veritable melting pot of cultures. In Andalucía, a region in Southern Spain known as the birth place of flamenco, the gypsies found a land that suited them and found a sense of connection with the people who lived there: the Jews, the Moors and the Spaniards. The gypsies absorbed the diverse cultures around them: the music of the Moors, the songs of the Sephardic Jews and the dances of the Spaniards and then coupled with their heritage from India, they transformed the music, song and dance into the art of flamenco.

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My journey to become a flamenco dancer has been a deeply personal artistic pursuit. I have found that the greatest joy of flamenco is discovering my interpretation and style within the art form. As a flamenco dancer, I possess the capacity for self-controlled passion and emotional expression which becomes the underlying energy which motivates me to dance. This is my life force, my soul, my chi, my prana. Duende, the passion and inspiration within, is the heart of the flamenco artist. It is the transfer of emotions across space. It is the energetic imprint of the raw emotion released as a result of a performer’s intense emotional involvement with the music, song and dance. It is in the sum the energy the dancer takes from the earth, drawing it up through the soles of their feet. It travels through the body electrifying the the base, the core, the heart and shines forth through the crown of her head.

It is in this sensation filled space that I find the connection between flamenco and yoga. I speculate that the gypsies created the movements in flamenco directly in correlation to the yoga body. The energy centers, the chakras, directly speaking to the emotional output of the artist. I believe that the gypsies brought with them an underlying understanding of yoga and that this physical, emotional and spiritual connection to the body was then naturally incorporated into flamenco’s expression. It is fascinating to teach flamenco under the label of mindfulness. I incorporate it (plus a smattering of other rhythmic and contemplative movement forms) into all of my youth yoga classes. I find that flamenco is a perfect addition as its many benefits go hand-in-hand with the benefits of yoga.

Flamenco and Yoga both:

  • Stimulate memory, thinking and retention
  • Increase the ability to focus, listen, observe and absorb
  • Reduce Stress
  • Strengthen the heart muscle, both physically and emotionally
  • Increase positive energy
  • Develop balance, flexibility and coordination
  • Strengthen confidence, patience and risk taking skills
  • Build community
  • Deepen sense of self
  • Expand world view
  • Heighten happiness
  • Help you get in touch with your emotions and give you a safe outlet for their release
  • Cultivate accessibility, adaptability and inclusivity

When you want to plant a flower, you first need to till the soil, nourish it, plant the seeds, water it, and then sit back and wait to see the blossom….now in relation to the flamenco body. If you imagine that the soil line is at the hips, so your legs and your feet are the roots below the surface. The roots grow down and ground the dance to the earth. From the waist up is the blossom, growing from the soil line (which is your hips). This is the blossom. With good, strong roots, you then use the upper body to create the shapes and lines true to flamenco, building out of the hips and allowing the legs and feet to move separately.”

My favorite part about teaching is sharing my love of movement and making both the arts of flamenco and yoga accessible. Yoga is not one tangible thing. It is not movement; it is not breath; it is not meditation. What it is, is all of these things. Each of these elements leaves an energetic imprint, a vibrational frequency on the person, and that is the yoga. I love both yoga and flamenco in my life and I live to share them. With each personal exploration of my own energy’s movement, I teach. Yoga and flamenco are deeply connected to my soul, and I am constantly evolving. I choreograph the dance between effort and surrender. I find such joy in these sensations. All I want to do is to share them with my students.


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Book Review by Eve Costarelli: Thelma’s Tap Notes. A Step-by-Step Guide To Teaching Tap: Children’s Edition

Book Review by Eve Costarelli: Thelma’s Tap Notes. A Step-by-Step Guide To Teaching Tap: Children’s Edition by Thelma Goldberg 2013
Theme: Non-Fiction. Instructional Manual for teaching tap dance to children ages 6-12.
Guiding Principles: Release, Relax, Rhythmic Progressions and Full Bodied Rhythm-Making (TM)

My dear friend, Thelma Goldberg, sent me a copy of her newly self-published book Thelma’s Tap Notes. A Step-by-Step Guide to Teaching Tap: Children’s Edition. This is a beautifully laid out manual and I love the catchy and useful sticky note style highlights throughout the book (I also received an accompanying sticky “Tap Notes” pad-which made it very easy for me to jot down my own notes as I went along the book.) Right from the very beginning, Thelma lays out exactly what her approach is to teaching tap to children ages 6-12 and she methodically breaks down her methods level-by-level.
I appreciate how Thelma refers to herself as a student as well as a teacher. I have had the pleasure of taking classes with Thelma, so I know first hand what a dedicated and enthusiastic student she is. I also have seen a number of her studios productions over the years and can equally say she is a committed, passionate teacher, choreographer and leader. Because of this, I can say that Thelma is deeply rooted and she never stops growing!
Thelma’s Tap Notes is guided by four principles: Release, Relax, Rhythmic Progressions and Full Bodied Rhythm-Making (TM). In the first part of the book, Levels, each age group: 6 & 7, 7 & 8, 8 & 9, 9-11, 10-12 is broken down into goals, review, musical rhythms, class outline, next step, combos, choreography ideas and improvisation activities. The second part of the book, Series, brings in more tap series needed for the growing dancer: Rudiment Series (courtesy of the Condos Brothers)-basically the ABC’s of tap dance; Double Heel Series-to execute clear and specific single sound movements; Shuffle Series-to get loose and increase crispness of sound; Slap and Flap Series-do I hear a challenge??; Paddle and Roll Series-a very advanced series needed for really good technique; Spank Series-to embody the principle of release; and Time Step Series-a series that spans classical steps through present day creations. Thelma gets into the nitty-gritty needed to develop dancers feet, musicality and expression. The closing of the manual brings in various tap dancers biographies, tying the deep seated tradition of jazz tap to its modernity. Thelma has created not only a clear, accessible teacher’s guide but a great reference manual for avid students and seasoned teachers. To note, I too am a children’s dance teacher (flamenco, tap and yoga), and I found that this guide will be a great addition to my practices of teaching-especially in helping me to lay down my own step-by-step approach. Bravo Thelma! Encore!
Thelma adds: I invite you and others to send me questions and comments so that I can continue to clarify my method in a way that helps other teachers understand my suggestions. Video support will be coming slowly to the website Thelma’s Tap Notes to demonstrate the ‘series’ exercises that are at the core of my approach.

Buy The Book Here


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Dance In The Schools 2016: Baldwin School Wrap-Up

Cue in Dance In The Schools 2016!

I had the ultimate pleasure of working again with the Maria Baldwin School in Cambridge for this year’s Dance In The Schools Month. I began forging a relationship with the second grade teacher’s 6 years ago and it only keeps getting better each year I go back. This year I had the extra enjoyment of bringing not only my yoga program but I also brought flamenco to the music classes. Together these two classes make up the basis for Always Be Dancing Mindful Movement. This opened up a whole new angle to me for bringing mindfulness into this school. Pairing me up with the music teacher only enriched my musical knowledge, so it was truly a win-win situation for all! The second graders received a veritable cornucopia of mindfulness through dancing, Yoga posing, breathing, and meditating.The positive responses I gathered from the students and the teachers were full of positive remarks and full of enjoyment.

Please comment on what worked regarding the content of this program, e.g., use of theme, connection of movement/dance to curriculum, etc. Did you or the Classroom Teacher notice any changes in any of the students’ behavior, focus, ability to do whatever you were teaching? Please describe if possible.

The kids were all so connected to learning-it is a great environment. The staff and kids are very engaged and even the few children who are on the spectrum or emotionally developing interact with the group and learn alongside their peers. I often work with special needs and other high risk populations and I have developed a compassionate and effective way of bringing what I am teaching to these groups. I appreciated that every student tried what I offered to them. The music students learned about the history of flamenco and the gypsies, styles of flamenco, the emotional content of flamenco, the art of clapping, singing, dancing rhythmically and also rhythmic footwork.  In yoga, we used the basics of yoga, breath-work, poses and meditation, to reinforce emotional control. In the end, they students created a book for me which reinforced their engagement with both my yoga and flamenco classes.

Did you share any materials, resources, music, ideas, props with the Classroom Teacher so they could continue after your last session? If so, what?

MUSIC: I sent a musical link and we made a video of our dance. I also created a special document that gave the history of flamenco and wrote out a simplified version of the choreography for reference.

Here is the document I created for music: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1gpZnnLeYRu33aZqIooSvV5tm7mTxjAdOMu_qOCr_HEo/edit?usp=sharing

YOGA: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1IKRDDtAAfwcO4vL3EmU381SCi8YEGRAY0g2X2FOlk0o/edit?usp=sharing

Describe the nature of your collaboration with your Classroom Teacher – before your sessions (interaction with teacher, co–planning of materials, other), during your sessions (co-teaching, assessing the process, altering plans), after you finished (examples of follow-up lessons created by you and/or the Classroom Teacher, other)

MUSIC: After reaching out to the music teacher, he sent me some ideas for how we could collaborate his music and my dance class, which really helped me to mold my program.

We came up with:

*Phrase *Form *Different rhythmic values *Dynamics (volume) *Improvisation/Composition

 We worked with each throughout the classes, him adding in his teaching methodology (using the Takadimi system) which opened my eyes to new ways of being able to teach ideas and my own creative style of teaching which only enhanced his system. 

YOGA: I was in contact with the two second grade teachers prior to my visit. They asked me to work with their students on  Socio-Emotional learning and the executive functions, to enable a string and fruitful learning environment for all. I mapped out 4 programs that I would use as the basis of the 4 sessions.

Eve’s Awesome Yoga Day one was about using yoga to calm the body, mind and energy and playing with the differences between silence and non-silence, which can mean vocally, mentally and physically. Here I also taught about the brain and the concept of neuro-plasticity; Day two,  healthy eating; Day three, Rhythm and movement; Day four, Cooperation. 

Do you feel/think you were effective? Why/why not? What did you learn? What challenges did you face? (This is a food for thought question, not judging or criticizing you.

MUSIC: This was extremely effective. Every time I came into the room, the kids all brightened up and beamed, totally ready to dance/do yoga. I could see in their faces their joy! I loved learning about Takadimi as it brings in a Kathak element to my Flamenco teaching, as Kathak is seen as one of the roots of Flamenco.

YOGA: The kids learn in a very short amount of time about how they can control their brains, that brains change, how to be strong, focused and self-effective. How to work by themselves and cooperate in a group. How to be still and to move; to be quiet and loud; to be fast and slow. They learn about emotional control and how they can learn in a different environment than they are usually presented with.


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Always Be Dancing Mindful Movement Retreat

I was invited to teach Always Be Dancing Mindful Movement at a day long retreat at the UCC Edwards Retreat Center for several target teen groups within Framingham High School who have been learning mindfulness skills based on the Benson Henry Institute’s Resilient Youth Curriculum. This retreat was the culminating activity to reinforce their skills and to expose them to other possible tools. There were about 50 English and Spanish speaking students.737157_10152024377000913_5585488161038564618_o

When I first arrived, the students were engaged in a singing/music session with one English speaking teacher and a Spanish interpreter. I was thoroughly amazed at the total engagement of the students in this activity. No one was “sitting out”, no one had pulled away. They were all singing and their body language showed that they were fully relaxed and enjoying themselves. I did not know these kids but I knew this was a special moment and felt my heart reacting.

Next it was my turn to introduce these kids to mindfulness through the arts of flamenco and yoga, a program that I call, Always Be Dancing Mindful Movement. I knew many of the kids understood Spanish better than English so I really pushed myself to speak in Spanish, something I am not very comfortable with. One thing I remember though, from my stay in Grenoble in college, was how helpful and respectful native speakers are if you really give it a try. They can make out most of what you are saying even if its the wrong tense or you do not know the exact word, so I pushed my fears aside and began shakily…”Sólo hablo un poco de español y sé que mi acento es terrible..haha!” That broke the ice and I was off and running.

I so enjoyed being a part of this special day. I want the students to know how much I appreciated them and their willingness to learn. I had the unique opportunity to spend time with about seven of them afterwards and was able to really get into the meat of what makes flamenco flamenco and why I found this art form as a way to express myself artistically and why that was important. It was a great dharma talk on finding something you are passionate about and how to strive for something you love to do. One girl said to me, “Please just teach us what you know. We want to learn.” Now, how beautiful is that?!?!

These kids made me feel very brave. I received a really nice thank you from the organizers, “We want to thank you for an amazing day!  Your energy and talent engaged the kids right from the start. It was the perfect workshop for this group and we loved your blending of culture, dance, meditation, and yoga. Many students  reflected on how the retreat enabled them to let go of their own emotional issues, anxiety for the day.  We appreciate your contributions to creating such a safe retreat for our students.”

Many thanks to Open Spirit Center of Framingham and the Nourishing Teachers, Strengthening Classroom project that keeps opening more and more doors for me to share myself with the students and staff in the Framingham Public Schools.

 

 


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Book Review: Stomp The Ground Build A Home by Susan Daniel Fayad

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Book Review: Stomp The ground Build A Home by Susan Daniel Fayad with Illustrations by Jayamini Attanayake

This book is a beautiful representation of the intangible cultural heritage inherent to Lebanon in the form of the dance, the dabke. Through bright, exciting illustrations and positive affirmations, this book teaches you to love yourself, to love your community and to be proud of your roots. I appreciate so much the showing of how an extended family takes care to raise the children and how the wisdom of elders can be made into the future. We can all learn something from the beautiful message of compassion and love.  “Al-Awneh,” (let’s go and help)- we can all learn to dance the dabke!

How To Dabke

Full Disclosure: The author provided me with a copy of Stomp The Ground Build A Home to review. All opinions expressed are my own.

 


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Book Review: Autism Movement Therapy Method by Joanne Lara with Keri Bowers

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I have been teaching youth of all ages and abilities to dance flamenco and practice yoga for 20 years and I so appreciate Joanne Lara and Keri Bowers’ Autism Movement Therapy Method. They have laid out a very practical approach to teaching dance technique and choreography to people on the autism spectrum that is fun, empowering and fully sensory integrated. AMTM helps to develop essential social and emotional skills along with memory retention, focus, relaxation and the physical skills such as coordination and rhythm. Through the dance classes, which create a community of inclusion, the students experience positive social interactions, leading to increased self-esteem, better emotional control and an overall sense of belonging and pride. The book is well laid out with easy to follow instructions and the key skills being taught are highlighted in boxes. 51ZwnfTzJhL._SX350_BO1,204,203,200_

I plan to integrate the lesson plans into my own teachings, especially the using the “dot” concept as a home base, so that each student will know their place in the class which will give them a very simple, clear and safe home base. AMTM is not afraid to raise the bar of expectations and presume competence. Ms’ Lara & Bowers believe that each person will be able to embody their learnings, cooperate, take on leadership roles and be able to take their knowledge out of the dance class and into the world. With is clearly definable goals and easy to follow strategies, Autism Movement Therapy Method, is a whole-brain cognitive thinking approach that can significantly improve emotional, physical and social skills for all students.

I highly recommend Autism Movement Therapy Method for all dance teachers, studios and anybody who works teaching movement, as dance should be available to everyone. AMTM is a kind and respectful method to bring the art of dance to people of all abilities.

Full Disclosure: The authors provided me with a copy of Autism Movement Therapy Method to review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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