“I have been loving you standing on tiptoe
From the south-facing window
I saw the sky like it’s beginning to dance
Spinning and spinning
And after a light dizziness
Scatters pieces and pieces of photographs
My heart is thrown into disarray”*
*translated from the original Japanese lyrics
After months of dilly-dallying, doubts, and despair, I finally fulfilled a goal I’ve been aiming for as a writer: to study flamenco.
I’ve been hesitant to enroll in flamenco classes due to the lack of funds, my health, and the right shoes. Perhaps it didn’t help that my would-be classmates, or at least the students I see at the studio, were all women. (There are male students, but they were in other classes.)
I had a brief talk with Teacher Emma Estrada, the president of Fundacion Centro Flamenco about my plans. She told me that flamenco required knowledge in rhythm, among many things. She also asked if I was a musician or a mathematician, which I replied to in the negative. In any case, she said, I should take a few classes and see for myself if flamenco is right for me.
A week later, with only a pair of cheap boots in my bag, I started my first class.
The first lesson I took involved footwork, which is the most important part of dancing flamenco. We were also taught a bit of choreography, along with a few manos (those flowery hand movements done by dancers, especially the females) as part of our technique, although Teacher Emma said I didn’t need to do the manos for a while (I couldn’t stop myself, though).
Among the basics was the proper use of my feet : golpe, where the whole foot strikes the floor; planta, which is tapping with the ball of the foot; and tacon, or footwork using the heels.
I learned that balance and coordination is necessary to maintain a strong form. You also need presence of mind to follow the rhythm without fumbling or second-guessing (something I’m still having difficulty with). Also, performing the golpe, planta, and tacon doesn’t involve force but speed and technique, not quite like tap dancing. This is probably part of the reason that I needed the proper shoes.
Looking back, I’ve never had any interest in dancing. Ostensibly, learning how to dance will make you feel healthy, look good in parties, and learn more about yourself. But as someone with two left feet, an unhealthy body, and a less-than-sociable personality, I thought dancing wasn’t for me. Wrestling, maybe, but not dancing.
So what triggered me into wanting to learn flamenco? While it’s true that I studied it out of the (long-due) need for personal development, there’s actually another reason for taking up this art.
Some time before I started writing romance, I became a fan of Japanese singer-songwriter Kozo Murashita. Murashita was the same artist who sang “Hatsukoi” (First Love), one of the most popular songs in his time (and heard in some anime like “Boys Be”). His songs focus on love, sorrow, and other matters of the heart.
One of his songs that I was drawn to was “Odoriko” (Dancer Girl), a whimsical mix of folk and pop with a touch of gypsy music. The song itself is about unrequited love.
It was a particular version of “Odoriko” that sparked the idea of writing a story. My first idea was to make a music video featuring the story of someone falling in love with a dancer. But the idea grew and developed , and the next thing I knew, a full-length story was in order.
Now what’s this got to do with flamenco?
Flamenco is an emotional dance. It has a power and grace that can be felt in every stomp, in every sway, in every flowery hand gesture. It exhibits an attitude embodying passion, instinct, and emotion.
Incidentally, practitioners frequently mention this artistic term: duende. This is simply defined as “having a soul”, one that incites the expression of raw emotion, and affirms its authenticity. It is said that a flamenco dancer can draw the power of one’s dance from the deepest corners of the heart and soul, thus bringing out duende. The result, they say, is flamenco in its purest form.
My story, also titled “Odoriko”, is about a nurse under rehab and a professional dancer who had fallen from grace. They are paired up in a competition where they are compelled to dance flamenco. To put it simply, this is a story of two persons seeking healing, redemption, understanding, and perhaps with a little push from duende, love.
Learning flamenco is a moving experience for me. If anything, Teacher Emma is strict and relentless, but her lessons pushed me forward and challenged my mental and physical limits. I learned to hone my concentration, memorize steps, and sharpen my coordination. I also learned how much my stamina sucks, and that I need to get lighter and healthier to keep up with the others. And yes, there’s still that matter about getting the right shoes.
Recently, there’s this tune that I’ve been listening to frequently. It’s titled Zero, one of the songs from the game “Ace Combat Zero”. I listen to “Zero” after classes, and it keeps my blood pumping. While the tune was meant to be played for an epic battle between ace pilots, the Spanish guitar accompaniment gives it a flamenco-like vibe. Somehow I could feel like I could even make my own steps and dance to the tune. In my mind, at least.
I finished my first set of lessons last Saturday. As of this writing, my legs and knees are still feeling heavy, and my hips are aching. Ironically, my chest feels light, and something inside me is still moving to the beat of the steps that I learned throughout this month. Even now, the rhythm that I’ve tried to memorize and perform at home continues to play in my head.
There’s much for me to learn when it comes to flamenco. I await the day that I can take up lessons again. As for “Odoriko”, well, the story is almost done but I’ve only started posting its first arc on Wattpad. Now that I have practical knowledge of flamenco , plus the right music, materials, and inspiration to make this story work, I guess it’s time to write it again. Maybe through this, I could fully dance flamenco. Maybe I could even dance to “Zero”. Most importantly, I could find my own duende.