Always Be Dancing Expressive Arts

Yoga and Flamenco for Every/body


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Flamenco Books for Young Readers and To Read Aloud

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  • All About Flamenco/Todos Sobre Flamenco by Silvia Oivo

  • Aunt Elaine Does The Dance From Spain by Leah Komaiko
  • Bird With The Heart Of A Mountain by Barbara Mariconda
  • Flamenco Fantasy by Cynthia Ventrola Struven
  • Lola’s Fandango by Ann Witte
  • Mo Baila Flamenco by Fresia Barrientos Morales 
  • ¡Olé! Flamenco by George Ancona
  • Perlie and The Flamenco Fairy by Wendy Harmer
  • Quiero Bailar Flamenco by Azucena Huidobro
  • Spain by Susie Brooks
  • Spain: The Culture by Noa Lior
  • Thea Stilton and The Spanish Dance Mission by Thea Stilton
  • Today I Am A Dancer by Marisa Polansky
  • With Love From Spain by Carol Weston

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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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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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Flamenco Arms

flamenco armsFlamenco Arms

There are many different styles of arms, elongated and elegant; strong and sinuous. There is the classic style, lifting from the elbow or the modern style, with elbows bent and lowered first, riding tight to the body. Some arms are wild and unschooled. While still others are technical and calculated. All styles, when they are compatible with the dance, are authentic.

Your arms are never just your arms. They are an expression of your art. Next to facial expression, arms and hands are the most expressive element in flamenco dance. They capture attention as they create line, rhythm and feeling. They are the most difficult technique to master.

Learning to use your arms as part of your overall body line is of utmost importance, no matter what your style is. The arms must be extensions of the shoulders, chest, hips and legs. Arms held overhead are rarely held high enough and droopy arms are distracting and are definitely not flamenco!

 

To create the sweep for classic flamenco arms you must grow wings! Spread your back wide and lift your arms. Keep this image of wings as your back body spreads open to cradle the front body. As arms rise, shoulders must stay down and back. Not wrenched back, so that the shoulder blades pull in, but spread wide open to make the arms even longer than they already are. This is the key to the elegance and gypsy arrogance held in flamenco dance. Elbows must remain high throughout the movement as the shoulders remain down.  Feel the the initial extension of your wings from deep within muscles between the shoulders.  When you arrive at “T” position, shoulders must drop over the back of the rib cage. This will cause the front body, around the collar bones, to open wide, like a display case. There you will imagine that you are wearing a beautiful diamond necklace. This area is your display case, lift it up and display your necklace! Wear it proudly.

The arms must have energy all the way to the fingers; use Dynamic Tension. Feel your arms moving with the strength and unity of the whole shoulder girdle. 
Feel your arm pits are deep caverns with vaulted ceilings. You can create a small hollow opening inside as if to cradle a very ripe, very juicy apricot (do not squish it or drop it).

The passage of the arm must go through all the “stopping” points (3, 6, 9, 12 n  clock face) and create the shape necessary at each point (ie Never just bring your arm up with out passing through:  low “v” to “t” position to high “v” etc…). In low “v” & 6 o’clock,  make sure you do not compress the arm pits. 

Arms must always be controlled. Never throw them around as if you are directing air traffic. Arms are under constant tension. You can imagine from the torso to the wrists, as your arms rise, that an elastic band is pulling tights. Feel the tension, but do not show the tension. There is a buoyancy as they rise, like they are pushing through water. Keep the gently descending line from shoulders to elbow to wrist to finger tips. This picks up again as the arms pass through “T” position and then again the dynamic tension is created from the arms back into the body.  Make sure your arms flow.

A little about hands:

Hand movement are very personal and your hands are an extension of your personality and the emotional content to your dance. They are the fine sable hairs at the end of a paint brush. They add flourish, punctuation and can pull energy into your field or press it away. They add the final important details to your dance. the hands move from the circling of the wrists. The wrist circles do not involve any other part of the arms-so pay attention to your elbows!

 

There are two hand movement styles:

  1. Gypsy: The little finger leads the way in opening and closing the hand-like a fan opening and closing.
  2. Classic: The middle finger leads.
    • Keep thumbs in as you turn your wrist.
    • SEQUENCE: palm, fingers, wrist, fingers
    • Bend wrists as much as possible. Bring your finger tips towards the very inside of the wrist before making the rotation. That is your accents point. The unfurling carries the rhythm till the next accent.
    • Hands move with rhythm not randomly.

 


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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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World Music Boston November Featured Performances: Cuban Dance, Flamenco and Tango! ¡Olé!

LIZT ALFONSO DANCE CUBA

LIZT ALFONSO DANCE CUBA

LIZT ALFONSO DANCE CUBA

Saturday, November 7, 8pm

Sunday, November 8, 3pm

$79, $65, $50, $40 Reserved seating

(includes Cutler Majestic Theatre $1.50 restoration fee)

Emerson/Cutler Majestic Theatre (wheelchair symbol)

219 Tremont St., Boston

 

http://worldmusic.org/content/event_page/2991/lizt-alfonso-dance-cuba-

 Founded and directed by dancer-choreographer Lizt Alfonso, Havana-based Dance Cuba features 25 beautiful and technically superb dancers and live musicians, capturing the heart and soul of Cuba with music and dance from the ’50s to today. The award-winning company performs the Boston premiere of Cuba Vibra, a riveting, highly sensual display of Afro-Cuban dance, including the cha-cha-cha, mambo, rumba, conga, bolero, and more.

 

 PACO PEÑA FLAMENCO DANCE COMPANY

PACO PEÑA FLAMENCO DANCE COMPANY

PACO PEÑA FLAMENCO DANCE COMPANY

Performing the Boston premiere of Flamencura

Sunday, November 15, 7:30pm

$58, $48, $37, $30 Reserved seating

(includes Berklee $1 restoration fee)

Berklee Performance Center (wheelchair symbol)

136 Massachusetts Ave., Boston

http://worldmusic.org/content/event_page/3006/paco-pe%C3%91a-flamenco-dance-company

 

Exceptional flamenco dancers and a sensational band of musicians and virtuoso singers come together in Flamencura, a new production from legendary flamenco guitarist Paco Peña. Packed with intensity, depth, and raw energy, Flamencura is grounded in the present but also pays tribute to flamenco’s rich heritage.

 

 THIS IS TANGO NOW

 THIS IS TANGO NOW

THIS IS TANGO NOW

Friday, November 20, 8pm

Saturday, November 21, 8pm

Sunday, November 22, 3pm

$40 Reserved seating

$36 World Music/CRASHarts members

The Institute of Contemporary Art (wheelchair symbol)

100 Northern Ave., Boston

 

http://worldmusic.org/content/event_page/3031/this-is-tango-now

Formed by renowned, Tony-winning tango artists Fernanda Ghi and Guillermo Merlo and musician Alfredo Minetti, This Is Tango Now represents a unique approach to tango, reflecting an unconditional passion for the art form. Featuring a stellar company of 12 dancers and musicians performing the world premiere of Carmen . . . de Buenos Aires, this breathtaking new production of Carmen blends tango and flamenco with an original score based on Bizet’s beloved melodies.

 

 

Free preperformance talks with Boston Dance Alliance Executive Director, Debra Cash, 30 minutes prior to curtain in the ICA lobby.

Free post-performance Q&A with the company Friday, November 20.