(November 6, 2013)
BAREFOOT FLAMENCO: Dialogues through Dance
By Eliza Llewellyn
I recently watched a beautiful documentary about the meeting of Kathak dance and tap. Though worlds apart, these artists found a common ground: beneath their feet, a connection to each other, a dialogue, an exploration and a revelation. It reminded me of my own first steps in dance, stomping my feet into the earth, relishing in the impact and the beat- and I was still years away from discovering flamenco. So when people ask me “Why do you teach barefoot flamenco?”- often looking at me quizzically- I explain to them that flamenco is first and foremost a way of life, a language out of a specific culture (Gitano-Andalusian) and with deep, ancestral roots tracing back to India, Africa and the Middle East, among other far reaching cultures.
The connection to the earth and a shared human condition is fundamental and so much of this art form can be understood eliminating the shoes- an element often intimidating to the uninitiated. Other more practical barriers- such as a lack of proper flooring- also compelled me to devise another way to make flamenco accessible to different audiences. In fact, the first time I ever taught a “Barefoot Flamenco” class I was living in the jungles of southern Mexico and a small eco-hotel requested the classes as part of the “exotic” offerings for their guests, young and older, men and women. Our palm-thatched hut, with sand flooring, demanded a creative approach. Playing my favorite flamenco tunes, moving through the basics of posture, feeling the cool earth beneath our feet and the joy of motion became a fi rst step into a world many had never ventured to enter or, in some cases, a world completely unknown to them. The Barefoot Flamenco class that I teach today, combines body conditioning exercises, and an introduction to the language of flamenco with a heavy focus on braceo (arm work), floreo (hand flourishes) and palmas (rhythmic clapping). It’s a fun way to explore this rich, complex, and beautiful art form all while searching inside ourselves for that common ground, that language beneath our feet.
For more information about Eliza’s Barefoot Flamenco & Traditional Flamenco dance classes or private
instruction, please contact email@example.com and visit http://www.elizaflamenkita.com
Barefoot Flamenco with Eliza in 2014 at Dancing Grounds Speakeasy Studio in the Bywater.
(November 6, 2013)
VICARIOUS FLAMENCO Ven Pa’ca at Casa Borrega, 11.1.13
By Daniella Santoro
Ven Pa’ca put on a spirited performance at the new (must-see!) restaurant/bar/venue Casa Borrega on Oretha Castle Haley Blvd, last Friday November 1, known here in Louisiana as All Saints Day. Their unique blend of traditional fl amenco palos and a jazzy fusion of alto saxophone melodies , nestled in well in the rustic dimly lit but colorful new venue, itself a fusion of Latin American folk culture, and New Orleans local culture. The place was packed with couples clinking margarita glasses, committed flamenco lovers perched at the bar, myself and my dancer comrades quietly tapping out rhythms on tables, chairs, and with our feet. Different than other longer staged performances, the environment of Casa Borrega offered a casual atmosphere to enjoy the music, a balance between intimacy and formality. Ven Pa’Ca performed two sets; Leticia performed a rousing Alegrias and concluded the formal program with a Seguiriyas with punctuating alternations of creativity and convention.
At the conclusion of the formal program, Leticia called upon dancers to join her in Sevillanas- a wonderful conclusion to match the energy Leticia’s dancing, and the musicians had already raised in the intimate space. Michelle and Leticia performed an elegant set on the small wooden stage. Then, Leticia warmly welcomed other dancers, myself included for another set of Sevillanas.
My personal favorite moment -because it was so unique and spontaneous- was when from my own vantage point, as Ingrid and I completed our own copla, I could see Vanessa, dressed in a full ‘day of the dead’ skeleton costume rise when the guitar trill beckoned, to match Leticia in their pasadas. Hands raised, back angled upward, her painted skeleton pallor obscured any typical registers of life energy, and so it appeared just for a moment out of time, that perhaps, the dead had risen and joined the party.
No image is more fitting for the eve of Dia de Los Muertos, which reminds us that life is short, and my personal addition: as Nietzsche once said “we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.”
As the candles and incense burned down on the day of the dead altar on the patio, I pondered how surely there is no better way to call the dead back to earth for a visit, then to offer them a dance.
♦ Ven Pa’ca is: John Lawrence on guitar, Leticia Jimenez dance and palmas; Dave Sobel on cajon, Rob Wagner on mini saxophone.