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. 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” 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.