January 12, 2007


This evening I went to a Flamenco lesson.

As so often happens at Knox, when we book a visitor, we try to get them to do or talk about a variety of things. So when the dance department was inviting a guest instructor for the ballet class, they asked him if there was something else he could teach, too. Flamenco it was, which led to a co-sponsorship with the Spanish Club and a variety of other groups. Attendance was from a broad spectrum, including the dance regulars (members of Terpsichore) as well as much of the Spanish Club, Sarah Day-O'Connell's world music class, and a whole bunch of the ballroom group. Plus a few people who probably just thought it sounded neat.

It was! I actually drove home at 5:30 just to pick up my latin shoes, which I'd meant to bring this morning but forgot, because I figured, hell, this is pretty much precisely what a wood-block latin heel is for, there's no way I'm not wearing mine. I cruised in right on time, put on my shoes, and joined the ranks. The teacher moved really fast, and for most of the people there this was (by design) more of a "feel the rhythm" sort of survey rather than a "try to remember this" lesson, even for the dance professors. For my part, I was really digging the similarities to things I knew. In particular, my revelation of the day was that paso doble is essentially the partnered version of flamenco dancing. I've even seen flamenco before, but it never really registered how much the shaping matches. All the stuff with the forward hips, the pulled-back shoulders, the appel from a standing position? Identical.

A difference is the timing. Although there are some things phrased in 8 (the usual form for paso), most appear to be phrased in 12, with a really common duple-triple alternation; the first pattern we learned (and boy would it have been easier if he'd just counted it like this, but I figured this out later) went *1*-2-&-3-*4*-5-6-*7*-8-&-*9*-10-&-*11*-12-& and then repeats starting on the other foot. Another starts off with a slip-pivot motion on 2-3 into a presentation pose that holds till 6 and then prances on alternate beats, so that again the whole pattern is two threes then three twos: (1)-2-*3*-(4-5)-*6*-(7)-*8*-(9)-*10*-11-*12*.

The killer for me was totally the hands, though. In flamenco, the hands are always moving. I suck so much at coordinating hand motions with anything else; back in my jazz choir days, when we had to clap, I would actually make sure to clap silently, because with me also singing I would inevitably drift off time with the clapping. Which still screws up the visual, but at least the audio works! Anyway, so, flamenco. There's this sort of wax-on, wax-off thing you do with your wrists, and if you're a girl, the fingers are constantly spiralling in and out, while boys rotate the wrist as a fist and then pop their flat palms out when they get to the end of the rotation—before immediately making a fist again and rotating the wrist the other way. All of which is going on while you're doing moderately complicated foot stuff (which may be more than just stepping, as at least a few of the moves have a tap-dance-esque thing where the ball of the foot hits the floor with one timing and the heel hits with another!).

But it was all a lot of fun, of course. And then there were tapas out in the CFA lobby. That was when Jennifer Smith (the head dance professor) asked me if I would be interested help out with Rep Term's movement workshop, teaching some ballroom dancing. It was about all I could do not to shout, "WOULD I!" Of course I would. I've been itching to do something like that nearly since I got here. So it looks like I'll be teaching two to four days' worth of one of the Theatre/Dance department's movement workshops later this term. Whee!

"Everyone hates flacks. Journalists hate them because they think they're incompetent whores. Businesspeople hate them because they think they're incompetent whores. And flacks hate themselves because deep down inside they suspect that they might be incompetent whores." --Forbes

Posted by blahedo at 11:58pm on 12 Jan 2007
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