“Elbows out, twist your hands, hold your posture, feel the rhythm … feel the rhythm,” Christine Lian told herself. She was in a flamenco lesson in Spain, trying to master the steps of this fluid, dramatic dance. “My biggest challenge was grasping the beat,” she says. Christine had taken classes for more than a year in Tampa, Florida, but she wanted a deeper understanding. So she traveled with two friends to study at Taller Flamenco in Sevilla, the capital of southern Spain’s Andalusia region, where the Roma people (Gypsies) are said to have created the art form hundreds of years ago.
Every morning for five days, Christine spent two hours in a technique class at the school. Along with six classmates, she would warm up, then work on posture, head movements, and when to snap, stomp, and pause. “To help us catch the rhythm, the teacher, Lourdes Recio, would play the same song over and over, and beat time on the drum. She’d often show us the move herself—she made it look easy,” Christine recalls. Then it was time for private Spanish lessons with tutor Carmela Gordillo. “We’d sit for two hours and talk about our lives and the status of the world. ¿Cómo se dice ‘global warming’?”
Later, Christine and her friends explored the cobblestone streets and Moorish architecture of Sevilla. They shopped for flamenco skirts, sturdy leather dancing shoes, and the fabric flowers dancers pin in their hair. “One day we walked into a department store where there were thousands of dresses for sale,” says Christine. “We were in flamenco heaven.”
On several evenings the group joined crowds of tourists and Sevillanos at professional flamenco shows. “I felt very inspired that this was the capital of flamenco, and the locals loved it as much as I did,” she says. Afterward, Christine and her friends would sit down to a late dinner of tapas: calamari, caracoles (snails), oxtail, and other local specialties. Then the trio would return to the modest but well-kept flat of a Spanish family.
With each day the dancing got easier. “I had to feel the beat of the song with my heart,” says Christine. “At first I had to close my eyes, but finally I felt it.” On Friday, everything came together. “You’ve got the balance, the coordination, the hands, and the rhythm, and you’ve been sweating over it,” she says. “But all of a sudden your body is in sync.” A
34/954-56-42-34, tallerflamenco.com From $888 for a five-day trip, including lodging and private language lessons.
This story appeared in the September/October 2011 issue of AFAR Magazine.