I bit the bullet tonight and enrolled in the next 6-week term of Advanced Flamenco at The Dance Workshop on Monday nights. Last weekend, only 48 hours back in the country and the Southern Hemisphere, I saw a poster advertising Beginner’s Flamenco classes around the corner, on Whatley Crescent. I messaged my High School classmate, Deanna, on Facebook to ask if she knew who the teachers were and she asked, in her reply, “Is the class for you? If so, don’t put yourself through a beginner’s class!! You’ll go crazy!!” I haven’t done a dance class in more than two years, let alone a flamenco class. It’s now 20 years since Deanna and I danced together in our High School’s end of year concert. She’s just started teaching a Monday night class again, which is a more convenient time for me than the Saturday Beginner’s class. I decided to challenge myself and jump in the deep end. I enrolled back into an advanced class instead of a beginner’s.
I felt like I’d showed up to a foreign language class where I’d not only forgot basic vocabulary but the alphabet as well, and was trying to keep up with conversation. My brain almost kept up; in my mind I could see what my feet were meant to be doing to match the percussive rhythms. But in the 1.7 m between the top of my head and the nailed soles of my flamenco boots (which are now sadly falling apart) my neurotransmitters dried up and my legs stuttered and my feet could barely move. Frustratingly, if I stopped thinking about what I was trying to do I sometimes did it with ease. Or if Deanna was demonstrating I could follow. But when I looked at myself in the mirror and tried to remember whether the next step was a dig or a stamp or a heel my mind visualised a tumbleweed and nothing else.
Some things I could rely on body memory and did not have to concentrate but one thing I could not override was stamping and clapping at the same time:
Feet: StampR R L StampR R L R something…
Over four cycles of 12 counts, the fourth having a different emphasis at the end and palmas changing from sordas to seca and a different rhythm that Deanna suggested fit to the rhythm of saying, “Triangle. Triangle. Triangle.” It worked. I can’t for the life of me remember now what my hands or feet had to do.
If I ever go back to Bharatnatyam classes at least I’ve found my notes: I codified each basic step into a hand-drawn diagram, which I scanned, then cut & paste next to phonetically written soundtrack:
It’s been 14 years since I last danced that item but I can still follow my notes and convert the basic steps to translate them back to the choreography. If only I’d done the same for flamenco classes!
Time to buy a new notebook.