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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Dance In The Schools- Day One: What is yoga?

Dance In The Schools- Day One: What is yoga?

Dance In The Schools- Day One: What is yoga?

(Included at the end is a classroom/home assignment: How to make a Happiness Collector)

Funded by both Dance In the Schools and Friends of Baldwin, I am thrilled to be back for my sixth year at the Maria Baldwin Elementary School, Cambridge, MA, teaching my own Always Be Dancing Adaptive Movement program with their amazing second grade classrooms. This year, they have three second-grade classrooms and I am able to see each group 5 times. Having this opportunity to grow each year with the students and staff is priceless. Also, I love seeing the past participants who are now in third, fourth or fifth grade. Whenever they see me, they jump into tree pose or even strike a flamenco pose (as I also integrate my program with flamenco). This school has great community spirit and I love the diversity and how it is celebrated.

Good Behavior In Yoga:

Good Behavior In Yoga Class:

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I deliver the rules verbally, also pointing out that they can read along that there is a picture for each rule that shows what I am asking them to do. That way there are many ways to help them remember the rules.

  1. I stay on my mat. This is so each child has personal space. We take a moment to look at our mats, the size, the color… I asked them to think of a color that makes them feel happy. Holding an imaginary Hula Hoop, we then cover our whole mat, including ourselves, with a bubble of this color. Inside our bubble we feel happy, good and safe.

  2. I listen with my ears. That way they can hear the directions that are being given

  3. I watch what my yoga teacher is doing. I remind them that I will most likely being doing what I am asking them to do, so if they watch me, they will always know what is being asked of them.

  4. I try my best to do each yoga activity. Yoga is about trying, noticing, feeling. Just give things a try and if you need help…

  5. If I need help, I can ask my yoga teacher. If one child needs an adaptation of an activity, we all do it. Its just something else to try!

  6. If I need a break, I can take Child’s Pose or I can sit quietly on my mat. OK…a big one. I stop everything here and I go through and teach what I call the “three resting poses” First, I teach Child’s Pose, have everyone take a breath or two to feel this pose in their bodies. Then we roll forward onto our bellies, for Crocodile Pose, everyone needs belly-time! Once again a few breaths to feel the pose. Then we flip over onto our backs, and I teach Gingerbread Man Cookie Pose. This is the traditional savasana pose. Take our breaths. When we all sit back up, I ask them to think about which pose was the most restful for them because I will ask them later during class to do that pose.

  7. I use a quiet voice. Enough said!

  8. I keep my hands to myself. (OK this one should really be up by “staying on your mat” That will be on the updated poster!) Here I bring back the color bubble. Keep your hands to yourself. Do not pop anyone’s bubble….img_6145

After the rules (I only do this one time but I bring the board each week as a reminder, classes started with belly breathing. A great way to begin! I am a strong believer of breathing in and out through the nose, as an exhale with the mouth actually feels like a balloon that is losing air too fast (insert “balloon deflating too rapidly” sound here….FFFRRRAAPFT). I encourage breathing in through the nose, as if you are smelling a lovely flower and then letting the air gently leave through the nose on the exhale. It is more calming this way. Of course, there are two exceptions. If you have a cold/allergy or if you feel nervous and it makes you uncomfortable to breath that way.

One reason I bring yoga into classrooms is to help students and teachers that yoga is an accessible safe choice towards embodying self-control. Yoga is all about the self. Yoga is all about what it feels like inside your body. Only the individual knows what is feel like because no one else is inside another person’s being. The individual knows what is safe, what makes them feel good and how to calm themselves down. With increased self control, classrooms can flow more smoothly and teachers do not have to be noise/distraction monitors. For sure, yoga is not a cure-all, but it is one very accessible, adaptable and enjoyable tool for a person’s emotional intelligence tool kit.

Class begins with the ringing of the chime. Sometimes the best way to start class is form a relaxed and calm position to pave the way for better focused minds, bodies and energy. We inhale on the ring and allow the slow breath to release as we listen to the echo of the sound. Each child gets a turn. And with each chime, we focus our attention on the sound and on our breathing.

I will continue to use the bell as a way to bring back focus to the class. I want them to understand the difference between silent and noisy and stillness and movement. We all get a bit noisy, making silly sounds, talking, wiggling and then suddenly I ring the bell. The room quiets down. Of course, I made need to ring it again, but usually one ring is enough. Sometimes I play with the level intensity at which I ring the chime (loud vs soft), so they really have to be alert for its sound.

What is yoga?

Group 1

  • stretching

  • feeling relaxed

  • relaxing moves

  • movement

  • flexible

Group 2

  • calm down

  • stretching

  • getting flexible*

Group 3

  • relaxed & feeling good

  • stretch to become flexible

  • breathing to calm

  • de-stress

  • peaceful

  • floating

Each class came up with similar responses, but the one I really liked was “getting flexible”. I love how it implies an opportunity for growth, for change. Just what yoga is about!

Jumping right into a short sequence:

Cow/Cat (adding moos and meows)

Downward Facing Dog (with barks)

Cobra (with hisses)

Child’s Pose (giving hand options to help the children figure out what feels best for them: under the forehead, fist-on-fist or hands by feet, palms up)

Now asking the students if doing  that little bit of yoga make them feel calm/good/happy or like they were getting more flexible? I refer back to the word list they created and use them. I often throw in the question, “Is being able to touch your toes or do a backbend the only way to show that you are flexible? You might need to direct them away from more physical action descriptions for flexibility then someone can come up with alternative ways to be flexible (i.e. mind, energy)

One of my favorite yoga books and the one I have been using the longest is My Daddy Is a Pretzel by Baron Baptiste. It is a great kicking off point for basic yoga poses.

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The kids think the title is hysterical and I immediately tell them to create their own version of a pretzel yoga pose: tie yourself up, twist and curl any which way.

What I have found is that the real focus of the book is in the varied types of jobs the children in the story say that their parents do each day. There is a gardener (tree), vet (downward facing dog), architect, (triangle), pilot (airplane), builder (bridge), farmer (plow), marine biologist (fish), works in Africa (lion), baker (pretzel). These jobs open up our ability to talk about what these job’s actually mean you do and kids either know or can piece together these answers by looking at the accompanying pictures. To make my teaching fully inclusive and to make sure I can make any adaptation necessary, I teach going into and out of poses my own way, so I do not use the accompanying pose descriptions. That way I can adapt and grow each pose organically with the group, rather than follow a set path. At the end, of course, we get to try another “make-your-own” pretzel pose. Lots of laughs and then I offer up the resting pose choice. We take a short resting moment.

One of my favorite moving meditations is “Yogini Went To Sea” by Shakta Kaur Khalsa (for only $9.99 you can buy the album Happy through iTunes). Shakta is the first children’s yoga teacher I studied with and she taught me the invaluable lesson of allowing your self to grow with each experience and also, she recorded the only recorded yoga songs that I use in my classes! 

Classroom/Home Assignment: Create a Happiness Collector.

A Happiness Collector is a jar, bucket, basket or any other receptacle you choose where you put in small piece of paper that have on them written or drawn things that make you happy. These things can be anything that make you happy. They can be something that you did, that you saw or that you had done to you.

  1. Choose your Happiness Collector

  2. Every day take a moment to remember something that made you happy.

  3. Write it down or draw it on a small piece of paper. Fold the paper.

  4. Put it into your Happiness Collector.

  5. Messages can be read whenever a bit of sunshine is needed, at the end of a week etc…

Children can be prompted with a phrase such as “I feel happy when I _________.

Thank you!

Ole! Namaste!


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Yogini Flamencini! ¡Olé Namaste!

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Today’s yoga class explored the wonderful art of flamenco!  I am a flamenco dancer. I teach children and adults (of all abilities) to dance flamenco. I created a flamenco performance/workshop for schools (PreK-High school), colleges, senior living facilities and many other community events such as Farmer’s Markets and festivals. This performance is called ¡Olé Flamenco! and it explores the gypsies, the art of flamenco, and diversity. Dance is a form of communication that can be shared by everyone, whether you know the exact steps or not. Dance helps people come together, share the joy of movement, build confidence and coordinaton and feel happy! If you would like to experience the art of flamenco, you can hire my guitar player and I to come to your party or event  and we entertain you all! 09ba3c7e2440eda34c2f330329622c9a_400x400

Class began by my playing my castañuelas or castanets. I create beautiful, rhythmic music with my hands. Then I danced and played my castanets to a Sevillana, which is a folk dance from Spain that the gypsies flamencoized. I had everyone clapping their hands and shouting ¡Olé! while I danced!

 

 

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We read a wonderful folktale from Spain called The Beautiful Butterfly. Ask your little yogini about it! They all loved it! It is a wonderful story of compassion, friendship and has a good funny catch at the end. With each page, we did yoga poses that flowed along with the story. The kids loved listening and were all so attentive and focused and I let them decide what poses we would do, choosing from the lines of the story.

 

We then did one of our favorite partner dances “Happy Jio” which is actually a moving meditation but to them it is just fun, fun fun!

I gave each child a flamenco fan, turned on a fiery flamenco song, and we all waved our fans like butterfly wings, stomped our feet and danced! danced! danced!

¡Olé con olé!

 

 


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Halloween Yoga For Kids

Halloween Yoga Comes to Mini Miracles Childcare Center:human-skeleton-vector-illustration-body-anatomy-internal-organ-34569329

Class started, as it always does, with the ringing of the chime, breath in, breath out.

Me: Where does a skeleton live before it is dead and is buried in the ground?

Them: In the ground, in a scary house, icky and gooey….In your body!

Me: That’s It!

We had a talk about how some things are scary like skeletons, zombies, ghosts and witches, but they are not real, so even though you feel scared by them, they are not real and cannot hurt you. At Halloween, it is fun to dress up in scary costumes, but it is also fun to dress up in non-scary  ones, like Belle, Ariel, Superman and Elsa. Remember to respect other children’s’ feelings.Not everyone likes to be scared. Also remember, that even if you do feel scared, inside the costume is just a friend or a sibling or even a parent. Stay with your adult, do not run into the street and let your parent help choose the candy you can eat. Have a happy and safe Halloween!

Halloween Yoga Sequence for ages 15 Months+ All inclusive. Adapt as needed.

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Happy Pumpkin Pose To Color

  1. Happy Pumpkin: Easy pose with hands in Garuda Mudra at the heart center. Give yourself a heart hug as you breath in and out. mudra-garuda
  2. Twisting Ghost : While making a Woooooooooo sund like a ghost.

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3. Mixing the Candy : Slow to Faster one direction. Stop. Repeat opposite direction.

4. Candy Bowl: This can be done with hands in the back for support. Also, lift one hand, reach in and say “Trick or treat” as you pull out a piece of candy. Switch Sides. Then try both. Try mixing the candy while in bowl pose. Throw hands up and say “Happy Halloween.”img_3919

5. I Am Happy, I AM Good MeditationSitting, criss-cross yoga sauce. Pointer fingers stretched out and using thumb to hold other fingers curled.
I am happy; I am good. I am happy; I am good (Shake pointer fingers)
A-E-I-O (finger tips together at the belly button) ; A-E-I-O (finger tips together by the heart) ; A-E-I-O (finger tips together by the forehead); U (hands reaching up to sky).
Ha-ha-ha-ha (finger tips together by the forehead) ; He-he-he-he (finger tips together by the heart) ; Ho-ho-ho-ho(finger together at the belly button) ;Hooooooo (pronounced “who” hands reaching our by the knees). I have finger tips join as a brain gym activity.

6. Feel Your Heart Beat: Use Ride Your Bumpy Camel-up and down faster and faster, like a heart beat when you get scared. Then bring the tempo back down, to show resting heart rate.conferenceyoga-for-children-disordersppt-28-728

7. Howling Wolf: Hooooooowwwwwoooooooo & Back Cat: Meoooowwwwwwwyoga-poses-cat-cow-back-stretch-pose

8. Haunted House: Lift one leg up for a chimney, swirl the ankle for the smoke coming out of the chimney. Switch sides. img_3920

9. Kick Away The Ghosts: We did it 8x. donkey-kick

10. Welcome Mat: Taking a rest mid class. Lay on your belly, rest head, eyes and energy. Listen to your heart and try to hear your heart beating. Can you slow it down? Do you notice how calm you feel? How Happy? How Safe? How strong? crocodile_1

11. Zombie: Rise up and find your inner zombie. Similar to mountain and up mountain pose. Skip the last one  with the cut in 1/2, guts spilling out. But do say “arrrgggghhhh” and plod around on your mat a bit. zombie_yoga_by_wonder_twin

12. Crescent Moon: Can do it with breath. img_3922

13. Witch on a Broom (with hat), Witch Taking Flight & Flying Witch: “I am brave (Warrior I). I am bold (Warrior II). To our brooms, we take hold! (Warrior III)” 

14. Eye In The Sky: Twinkle fingers. Big smile.dsc01693

15. Owl: “whoooooooooooo” breath. Turn head side-to-side. Tuck arms in like wings. img_3923

16. Littlest Pumpkin in the Patchimg_3924

17. Tootsie Roll: The most calming!  bryce-gets-wrapped-up-like-a-map-during-yoga

 

18. Freeze Yoga Dance: Start out by leading them into poses and saying freeze to get them to hold the poses. Then let them do any poses they want and randomly stop the music. Then starting adding in suggestions, such as: Do a pose with one hand on the floor. Do a pose with your belly on the floor but not your feet. Make the smallest pose you can. The largest. And so on…

 Fun Halloween Songs:

  1. Purple People Eater
  2. Woolly Bully
  3. Monster Mash
  4. I Put A Spell On You
  5. Love Potion No. 9

¡Olé! Happy Halloween! Love, Eveimg_3917-1

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Cultivate Your Flamenco Body

Cultivate your flamenco body

My yoga teacher, Barbara Benagh used a metaphor for cultivating a plant in relation to growing a pose in yoga. This metaphor really resonated with me and I brought it with me to flamenco class this week.

At the beginning of class, we explore the body structure to be held during flamenco and  I describe the process physically:
*Feel a long lower back
*In return you will feel a response in your belly, a lifting in your belly
*Bring your belly into your spine, so you fill out your lower back
*Feel your side ribs lifting
*Have deep arm pits
*Lift your shoulder girdle up and then drop it over the top of the rib cage
*Do not pull your shoulders back, instead open your upper back wide
*At the same time, open your chest up wide too
*You need a micro-bend in your knees and elbows
*Pull the back of your cranium into your neck for a long straight line from tail to crown of head
*Eyes are down cast (hooded) in a far off type of way (do not look at the floor)

This week, however, I led the class using visualization to allow my students to create new habits in forming the flamenco body:

“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.”

This is a much different image than if you imagine the feet are rooted to a soil line right below them. In this scenario, the legs are not rooted in the soil. But with the soil being at the hip line, you can instead imagine the legs to be strong roots growing deeply down into the soil and then allow the feet to hold you to the earth.