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  • Calista Ocean

Heavy feet, light heart

“Dance is a conversation between body and soul.”

~ Unknown, sometimes attributed to Isadora Duncan

Several months ago, Joe and I were fortunate enough to enjoy an evening of Flamenco in Barcelona, Spain. I'd seen this form of dance before, but never in such an authentic and intimate setting. It was more than a performance, it was an experience filled with raw emotion and passion. We were asked to put our cameras away until the final minutes of the performance and to "feel" the music and dancing rather than trying to "understand" it. It was spellbinding!

Flamenco is an art form originating from the Andalusian region in Spain. It's roots are a melting pot of cultures, including Andalusian, Romani, Arabic, and Jewish influences, which reflect the diverse heritage of southern Spain. Developed in the 18th century, it was initially a form of folk music practiced among families and small communities. Over time it evolved into a more formalized art showcased in theaters and tablaos which transcended regional boundaries to captivate audiences globally.

It's important to understand that Flamenco is not just a form of dance, but is a conversation between the dancer, the singer, and the guitarist - each element is critical to the story being told. Renowned for its intense emotions, intricate footwork, and dynamic rhythms, Flamenco conveys stories of pain, joy, struggle, and celebration through its powerful performances.

A few months ago, I decided to look online to see if there were any local Flamenco performers. To my delight, I discovered a teacher who was offering beginner level classes. I signed up and took my first class in February. Of course, I had no idea how challenging it would be! Those who master Flamenco make it look effortless, their bodies seemingly carried by the music and emotion. Yet, as I've learned, each movement, each step, is the result of painstaking practice and repetition. As a beginner, I'm still in the phase of programming my limbs to remember the basic steps, the intricate rhythms, and the precise movements. Every remate, redoble, and picado is new vocabulary for both my body and my mind, requiring me (and my teacher) to practice patience and self-compassion.

We begin each class with footwork. Knees bent. Keep my weight over my hips. Stay grounded. The choreography starts in half-time, and then just when I feel like I've got the rhythm, we pick up the tempo and dance with the beat or in double time. When did my feet get so heavy? How do I keep my feet so close together when my long legs want to flail all about? Then there is arm movements, skirt movements, body movements, clapping (palmas), and fan work; and I still haven't learned to distinguish the different palos or categories of music that vary in rhythm, structure and time signature. Yet, despite my heavy feet, my heart is light.

Dance, to me, has always been a vital form of expression, a way to communicate without words, to connect deeply with music and, ultimately, with my own soul. Flamenco, with its intense emotional spectrum and physical demands, has become a new avenue for this expression. It is a journey of discovery, not just of the dance itself, but of my own capacity for emotional and physical resilience.

I look forward to the day when the steps become second nature, when my body moves not because I command it to, but because the music flows through me, guiding my movements with its rhythm and passion. Until then, I embrace the challenge, the learning, and the sheer joy of immersing myself in the art of Flamenco. In every stomp, every clap, every turn, I find not just the dance, but a piece of myself, echoing the beat of my heart and the rhythm of my soul.


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