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.

GypsyRoute

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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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.


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Book Review: Red Turban White Horse by Nadini Bajpai

Red Turban Whote Horse

I just finished reading the delightful debut YA novel “Red Turban White Horse” written by the local author Nandini Bajpai that is set in the Metrowest (of Boston) and is full of thinly disguised local references. For someone, like myself, living in the region, this is a tasty treat!

The heroine of the story (Padmini “Mini” Kapoor) is a resourceful, caring teen who comes in charge of orchestrating her older sisters wedding while at the same time a hurricane is barreling down the east coast. Mini is a generous soul and armed with the current know-how of how-to-get-things done, she sets about to get everything in order from location to caterer to finding their mother’s lehengas (a skirt that is long, embroidered and pleated) that have been packed away for many years so that her sister can have the fairy tale wedding she deserves.

Wedding Lehenga

Start with the rich descriptions of the beautiful fabrics of the lehengas, from the gold and cranberry to the raspberry and silver, add in the mouth-watering descriptions of the delicious aromatic curries, warm crusty garlic naans, fragrant rice and Tandoori chicken, and then sprinkle in sweet, youthful romance and strong family values and you have a little slice of swarg!

I highly recommend this YA novel! It is a fun romp through Indian-American culture, with strong, likable characters and lots of local flavor (I did reach out to the author and she indicated that the little takeaway that comes to Mini’s rescue is loosely based on a diner on Route 9 in Framingham called Welcome India. I can’t wait to try them sometime.)

Full disclosure: I stumbled upon this book at the LOCAL library book sale! All opinions expressed are my own.