The Spaniard in Spain

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This morning I was reading a blog posted by a woman from England who moved to Spain to study flamenco about six years ago. It was filled with familiar experiences of what it is like trying to build a life as a flamenco dancer in Spain. The woman has an interesting slant because she is black. La Meira, a veteran dancer from NYC shared the post on her Facebook page which is where I encountered it. She related her experience of studying flamenco as a Jewish woman in the 1980’s. She found the flamencos welcoming and aware of the shared history of a culture persecuted and forced to live on the fringes of society. I had the same response from the gitanos when I told them I was Jewish. They said, “somos primos.” We are cousins and to compare the similarities in our families faces, we are.

Reading the blog started me to think about my time in Spain. All told, I spent about six years living there. After reading Meira and the other woman’s writing about Spain, one would think that my cultural background as a Spanish–not only Spanish but Andalusian Jew, would set me up to be welcomed and accepted. That was far from the case. If anything I found that I was held to a different standard. Not being pardoned for being a foreigner, but because I looked the part, it being assumed that I was a native. I can’t count the number of times that I heard, “pero como tienes esta cara tan Andaluza?” how do you have that Andalusian face? My reply became rote: We have the same blood. I was just born in New York. Yes, there are Spaniards who left, not many, but there are.

In Granada I earned the nickname, La Media Giri (the half foreigner) from the guitarists at my flamenco school. I decided to be flattered. I think that my insistence on learning puro flamenco in the caves of Granada had something to do with my always feeling on the fringes. Despite my yearning to belong, I finally realized that it was never going to happen. That spurred my move to Sevilla where there is a vibrant ex-pat flamenco community. We are accepted, and even welcomed to perform in many, many venues. It literally is a different world. It is a different flamenco too, but the community is much less isolating to navigate.

Here in Virginia Beach, we have a number of wonderful vibrant communities and I am slowly finding my place among the Jewish community and the dance community. They both have the warm undertones of a group of people who have found each other because of shared interest, and understanding of what it was like to be the other.

As I get older I realize that community is the key to my happiness. I want to have strong community. I know that the lack of feeling PART of the flamenco/Spanish whole was what caused me to leave Spain and embark on my next adventure of a flamenco dancer in the wilds of America.

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Zen and the Art of Flamenco

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I am getting back into the studio. I am working on a guajiras for my Una Tapa Flamenca show that I will be performing in schools as part of the Young Audiences of Virginia. I have less than a month to finish it. It is short, only a few minutes…but why is it so hard?

For me, the creative process is about inspiration and ritual. I have to be inspired and I have to spend enough time in the studio to grow something that speaks to me. I have a difficult time working by myself in the studio. Give me a group of dancers and I can choreograph quickly and brilliantly on them. Leave me by myself and it will take me hours to set a few measures. Post motherhood, I haven’t found the magic formula that works for me.

Getting into the studio is hard enough. I am lucky enough to have a “studio” in our house, but parenting a three-year-old on my own while my husband travels for work makes it difficult for me to get into the creative head space I need to be to produce what I consider quality work. Working without interruption is key.

I am trying to find my zen. I am trying to find the place where I can look forward to shutting the door and relaxing into my creativity. I am trying to become the artist I was, who can work joyfully without interruption for hours on end. Right now it feels like an uphill struggle. Perhaps it is because I am not yet used to dancing with my new pregnant belly. Perhaps it is hormones. Perhaps it is because I am stressed with Mr. Georges being away…

Whereas the inspiration seems to be absent, I am relying on the ritual of showing up to get me through this rut. Maybe through it I will rediscover my Zen.

Creative Movement Class Structure (2-5 year olds)

After many years of experimenting and tweaking, I have finally settled into class structure that I like. I prefer to teach a 45 minute class for children younger than 6 years old, but sometimes that is not possible.

Entrance Song.
I always lead my students into the dance space at the start of class. We weave around the space and end up in a circle to begin. I will write a post about how and why I teach in a circle during the early years. Enter the space like this keeps the dance energy focused and we avoid the dancers running around the studio.

Breathing Exercises
I began to incorporate simple pranayama after I completed my yoga teacher training. We always start by taking little sips of air as we touch our toes, our hearts, and our heads and then stretching up high we release as we bend down and begin again. Then we take deep breaths and blow up like a balloon and take turns popping each other. It is great fun. Sometimes I will incorporate a breath that goes with our theme, flower breath, lion breath…or I will create one. I like the breathing exercises because we can talk about using our breath to help release strong feelings we might have.

Circle Warm-up
This is an age old warm-up that is a treasure I received from my mentor/master teacher Livia Vanaver.

Read or Sing
We join together to regroup. Here we read a story or sing a song that supports the theme and objectives of the new skill portion of class. I find that a few minutes of focused time is really beneficial to help the littles make it through the rest of class.

New Skill
Our new skill can be anything from feelings, a story dance, stop/go, over/under/around/through, animals, weather etc. I always incorporate free dance time here.

Ending Activites
To end class we free dance with bubbles and then regroup with pompoms. I have a basket of pompoms that the children pick up with their toes.

Reverance
We finish class in a circle, just as we started and finish with a reprise of our circle warm-up.

That is my 2-5 year old class structure. It is repetitive enough for them to develop mastery, yet flexible enough that we don’t get bored. I have a good supply of props and games that I can pull out of my dance bag if and when the ‘structure’ isn’t working that day. I will write about that soon.

How do you structure your class? What do you always do? What activities do your students remind you of if you forget?

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The Importance of Creative Movement

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At the end of my Mama & Me dance class last week one of the mothers asked me when I was going to begin teaching some “moves” to the students. It was a totally innocent question and I tried hard to respond without getting on my soapbox.

I told her that a three year old enjoys discovering his/her capacity to move much more than being taught technique and “moves.” I told her that here in Virginia Beach when I tell people I am a dance teacher, I have heard over and over that parents have pulled their children from ballet/dance class because they didn’t like it.

…pause while I get on my soapbox…

How can a three/four/five year old child not like moving and expressing him/herself to great music in a supportive and playful environment? In my creative movement classes we learn skills through play and repetition. My students aren’t drilled in technique or learning some “cute” little dance to a borderline inappropriate pop song. Dance in the early years should be about exploring the myriad qualities and dynamics of movement. I believe that for a trained dancer to maintain that duende– the magical, other-worldly quality that draws the audiences’ eye s/he has to kindle that innate, G-d-given desire for expression through movement. It is that spark that led his/her caregiver to enroll the child in dance classes in the first place. Technique too early can snuff that spark out in a flash; the second dance is no longer fun or the instant that the child feels too judged, censored or worse self-conscious or self-censored can be the end of dance for a prospective dancer.

So, how do I do it? How do I work with young dancers to kindle that spark and turn it into a flame? Keep reading the blog…

I will talk about my theory of teaching dance. I will share how I structure my classes. I will even share exercises and activities. I will talk about how I not only teach dance and creative movement but also how my students gain knowledge about how dance can help them be stronger people and give them invaluable skills to help them through school, stress and life–all of the good stuff that I learned from years of teaching creative movement and dance and also from my Masters in Social Work.

Stay tuned because we are just getting warmed up! Next up– my Creative Movement class structure.

Picture credit: http://dsm-studio.com/design/

Keep Calm and Dance Flamenco

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Perhaps the keep calm and ______ sayings are passé and totally 2014, but I am holding on to Keep Calm and Dance Flamenco as my motto for 2015. This year is going to be a big year. I have plans to form a flamenco cuadro in Virginia Beach, to begin self-producing, to increase my student body and to start performing with the venerable organization, Young Artists of Virginia. In addition to these professional projects I am working on a very special one of my own. Baby Georges #2 is expected in June.
The New Year, 2015 is going to present new challenges and big adventures. When my daughter was born I took a hiatus from teaching and performing. It was more forced through circumstance of living in Southern Italy than by choice. This time around, in Virginia Beach, I am continuing to teach as long as possible and I have commitments through the first year. I am really excited about the prospect of keeping up my artistic momentum. In my few years of experience balancing motherhood and my art I have found that continuing the momentum is crucial.

New Classes this fall!

So pleased to announce that I will be teaching some new classes this fall.
FLAMENCO for adults and lots for kids

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At Todd Rosenlieb Dance

Flamenco Mondays at 6:00-7:30pm

Moving Together; Mama & Me Dance Thursdays 10:00-10:45am

And at the Simon Family JCC

Mondays
Dance I <

Dance I: Students will begin to learn dance technique through exploring different styles of dance. Modern and Ballet technique will be taught as students experience dance techniques such as Israeli folk dance, tap, flamenco, jazz, Lindy Hop and more! Students will gain a solid foundation in dance technique and will understand how it contributes to all forms and styles of dance.

Percussive I

Percussive Dance: Learn percussive dance techniques from around the world. Bring your tap shoes! This class will combine percussive dance techniques including Flamenco, Quebeqoius Step dancing, Appalachian Clogging, Tap, Rhythm Tap and Irish Step dancing into a whole new and exciting style.

Wednesdays

Moving Together: Mama & Me Dance: Mamas and babies learn a whole new way to play together through music and dance. Yoga, creative movement, music and more come together in a great way to introduce your child to dance and music and just have fun together!

Creative Movement

Creative Movement (4-5 yrs): Learn the fundamentals of dance in a playful, creative way. Children learn and discover dance through songs, games and stories. Creative movement is the perfect way to introduce children to the exciting world of dance.

*times to be determined shortly