About a year ago, while running freelance classes at Roxy’s Dance Studio, I began teaching ‘Family Flamenco’. This family-friendly class spanned across three generations and has been one my favourite classes to teach. For me (and many others) flamenco is often a family affair. My mother has always made my flamenco costumes; my father, who is relatively new to flamenco practice, recently accompanied me as a flamenco singer and bassist in two performances; and it isn’t out of the ordinary to see my nieces and nephews tapping along during my classes or rehearsals. Even though I am the only flamenco devotee out of my parents and sisters, flamenco has, nevertheless, permeated into our family life.

    Some of the most reputable flamenco artists this world has seen have come from a lineage of flamencos, or ‘flamenco families’. The de los Reyes and Los Farrucos are but two examples. In these families, the tradition of flamenco is passed on from one generation to the next, with youth learning everything they know from their elders. In Canada, these flamenco-family relations have also emerged, with parent-offspring partnerships, such as that of Carmen Romero’s with her daughter, who now performs at Carmen’s recitals; or that of the Scannuras, a husband-wife duo whose daughter is now co-artistic director of their company; or that of Gareth Owen and his parents, who gave him his start into the world of flamenco. I suppose Julian and I now comprise part of Canada’s ‘family of flamencos’. Beyond our connubiality, our flamenco friends often refer to their fellow practitioners as their ‘flamenco family’, describing this mixed-bag of comrades, often from different walks of life, who come together and watch each other grow.

     So how might it affect your family life, if you, or one of your children, take up flamenco? Well, it might not necessarily lead to you making flamenco costumes, accompanying your child’s performances, or passing on everything you know about rhythm unto your offspring… Or it might. At Carmen’s School of Flamenco Dance Arts, I recently saw two flamenco dads partake in their daughters’ recital numbers, one as a singer and the other as a palmero[1]. Neither of them was a full-fledged ‘flamenco’, and yet there they were, up on stage, supporting their daughters as they worked their flamenco magic, helping them reach those “Olé”[2] moments. This does not mean you need to become a flamenco aficionado if your child decides to take it up. However, you might want to prepare yourself for a lively and percussive addition to your daily life. Thankfully, given that my familial co-habitant—Julian—is also a flamenco practitioner, he completely “gets it” when a flamenco idea comes my way and I feel a need to parse it out and record it. These urges to stomp my feet and clap my hands can come at the least expected moments, like when I am cooking dinner, or walking through the grocery store. One of my students often gets her ‘flamenco itch’ while standing in a Tim Horton’s line, where she’ll softly pitter-patter her footwork rhythms in her sneakers.

     Another thing that might come out of taking up flamenco is a new-found adventurousness in your or your child’s dancing, not in the sense that they’ll be adding more tumbles to their acrobatics, but in their passion and determination. Flamenco skills are often enhanced when one courageously makes eye contact, or gets in the zone and dares to improvise, or uses exaggerated facial expressions to convey rhythmic and dynamic intentions, in a deliciously cathartic way. With all its subgenres, flamenco has the capacity to help one express a whole gamut of human feeling. Having emerged out of a time when the descendants of several cultures inhabited the Spanish peninsula, it is the spawning of a cultural melting pot, so rich in history and folklore. Perhaps you or one of your family members is interested in taking on a new artistic challenge, and learning more about a culture outside your own. If so, what better way than by hearing it, playing it, and dancing it?

1 Hand-clapping percussionist.

2 Bravo, as said by flamenco practitioners.


Claudia Aguirre

A.k.a. Calu

This past weekend marked the 5th year of the Kultrún World Music Festival, KW’s biggest outdoor dance party. It is admirable to see how Isabel Cisterna, founder of the Kultrún, manages to organize an event of this size. She and her family members were all hard at work, delegating volunteers (including Julian) and answering queries for attendees. Family members also included her toddler son, who was clearly and unabashedly feeling the music.

At last year’s Kultrún we got to watch our friends from Ventanas play flamenco, Mediterranean music, and ancient ballads. This year, our attendance was that much more strategic. Isabel had told us about a Spanish band—Aurora—that she brought on board. She kindly coordinated their palmas (flamenco clapping) workshop at a time we could be sure to attend, so that we could meet the band and promote our upcoming festival. What a gal she is!

The guys in the band were a pleasure to meet and listen to. Max Villavecchia and Joan Carles Marí were excellent workshop leaders, contextualizing flamenco’s roots and the inspiration behind their work. It was exciting to see visiting flamencos dialogue with their Canadian audience and share with them, not only their music, but also their knowledge of its history and of (world) music, more broadly.

An evening with SHAD

    After Aurora’s workshop we set-off to another workshop, but this time as workshop leaders. SHAD is an organization that provides an enrichment program for youth, allowing them to take workshops in a vast array of disciplines, i.e., in science, math, technology, and also in world music and dance. This is the third year that SHAD Waterloo has invited us to lead a flamenco workshop, and it is one of the summer events we look forward to each year. The students are always bright, open to a new experience, and engaged; not to mention brand new to flamenco. In this context, I feel in a position of power because I have knowledge about and experience in an artform that the audience has yet to learn. I feel confident in guiding them in the fundamentals of flamenco, explaining what it is and where it comes from, and teaching them an upbeat sequence that is suitable for first-time flamenco dancers. Upon reflecting on the series of events of this past weekend, I realized how this sense of power and confidence can so easily be shifted, right beneath our feet, depending on who enters into our environment and what expectations we place on ourselves.

Aurora Sunrise

Our workshop with SHAD was well-received. Julian even gave a couple of musical keeners an impromptu lesson on flamenco theory and technique after the official workshop ended. It was a pleasant surprise to see two young Canadians so eager to learn more about flamenco music-making. The next morning, I picked up dancer, Pol Jiménez, and singer, Pere Martínez, of Aurora. The day before, I had requested back-to-back private lessons in each discipline. I had asked each artist if I could show them some of my material and if Pol could provide me with additional footwork and if Pere could help guide me in improving my vocal sound production. The night before the workshop, I barely slept a wink. The thoughts that were plaguing me were, ‘What will they think of my chops?’ ‘Will I embarrass myself?’ ‘Will they find my skills-set workable but improvable? That would be the ideal.’ ‘How much can I really learn in 1.5 hours?’ ‘Is it worth investing in private classes as opposed to group classes’? Apart from these nervous thoughts, I was also exhilarated at the possibility of growth, opportunity, expanding our network, and witnessing something exciting right in our very own space. In the end, I got exactly what my heart desired.     I was provided with intricate but feasible footwork and tips on how to achieve better sound (to help get rid of the Kermit the Frog quality about my flamenco singing). I got the one-on-one attention only available through a private class; and more than that, I got to witness breathtaking singing right next to me, I got to take-in improvised, delicate, and detailed footwork right before my very eyes, and I got to experience an impromptu bulerías jam between Julian and the guys. Julian has trained with some pretty top-notch flamenco artists that I can’t hold a flame to, so I am always grateful when he has the opportunity to play with those who can play to and above his level, bringing his potential up, and reigniting that excitement that drew him to flamenco in the first place.

The set that Aurora played later that evening was exceptional. It was a spectacular hybrid of flamenco meets jazz meets rock. Pere consistently sounded like an authentic flamenco singer but had these glorious moments when his empathic wailing was akin to that of Maynard James Keenan’s. My worlds collided in a magnificent way. All the band members delivered something unique and special. The audience loved Pol’s dancing, and I was glad when his fellow band members supported him with palmas, giving his footwork skills the opportunity to stand out and shine. Max whipped out some sweet solos on the keys that were jazzy and reminiscent of psychedelic rock. Joan rocked out of that kit like he was ready for a metal festival, and Javier Garrabella is an absolute monster on the bass (I would know, I used to play). Much to my surprise, although I probably I should have expected it, the pianist and drummer also had some slick flamenco moves that I got to see as they were doing some post-show, backstage jamming. I’ll be frank and say that I am disappointed in myself for not jumping in when invited to do so. I admit I let my own demons of shyness and lack of self-confidence get in the way; but I am happy that I got to sing with them all they way from Victoria Park to Albert and Weber, close to the hotel where I dropped them off. I might have messed up some lyrics along the way, as I often do when I realize people are actually listening to me, but at least I took the risk and put myself out there as a flamenco practitioner playing along with those in the major league.


Claudia Aguirre

A.k.a. Calu