COVID-19, coronavirus, pandemic – it has several names. But one thing is consistent, it has all but stopped life as we know it.
Those in the arts industry; teachers, studios, and students, alike, have felt the loss deeply when the very thing that feeds our souls is all but yanked out from under us. I remember thinking, at first, this will last only a few months, but, here we are, still on the COVID ride almost a year later.
It forced me to realign. A lot. In the midst of teleworking for several months, then relocating to a new state for a new job, and trying to adjust to new surroundings, I could have easily let flamenco fall by the wayside. I couldn’t, though. I needed the one thing I can always count on to balance me to still me present in my life. I needed a way to express myself, despite everything. I needed the happiness and sense of completion flamenco gives me to remain.
Like me, the pandemic has forced all of us to figure out new and unique ways to learn, practice, and share our art. It has forced us to gather in parks, parking lots, back yards, and other roomy spaces where 6 feet could be between us. It has forced those who make a living teaching dance, and those of us not willing to stop learning, to find a viable outlet. So, online, we went.
All I can say is, thank God for the oasis that is the world-wide web and all the flamenco offerings that have arisen from the ashes of the pandemic! As we sunk deeper into the COVID abyss, more and more online flamenco classes popped up, and I, for one, am very grateful. It has enabled me to collaborate and reconnect with my Flamenco Louisville family, take classes from flamenco greats I would not ordinarily have the chance to, learn new choreography and technique, listen to lectures, history, and theory of flamenco, and continue friendships as well as gain new flamenco friends from around the world.
Don’t get me wrong. Nothing is the same as in-person gatherings. The hugs and smiles, the quirky outtakes, the up-close adoration of a fellow dancers new shoes or skirt, the live music, the determined faces, the conversations, the better view of footwork…those things are not the same online. Honestly, a sense of being unfulfilled lingers, probably because flamenco is such a personal and intimate art form. That said, the things that drive us to flamenco – the passion, yearning and dedication – is still very present in the online world. I will take it however I can get it.
In the beginning, I was one of those parking lot dancers with my group from Flamenco Louisville. In addition, various members of the studio offered online “Front Porch” flamenco challenges, footwork challenges, and Zoom classes. It was a lifesaver as transitioning to being away from one another proved very challenging! In the months that followed, I also participated in online challenges and choreography construction lessons from Rina Orellana out of California. Rina is so energetic and patient, I couldn’t help but enjoy it. Casa Flamenca in Albuquerque, NM hosted several classes I took, including David Lagos (cante) and Antonio Moya and Mari Peña (guitar and cante) so I could learn more about understanding the palos and listening to the singer. I took a Romance class from Carmen Ledesma, my flamenco sister at heart. I found a great course with Manuel Betanzos, called “Maestros Flamenco,” and took a few lively and informative courses in Tangos de Triana. Juan Parades gave a great bulería por fiesta class that I took and a friend told me about a stirring lecture on flamenco history from Meira Goldberg, “La Meira Flamenco,” that I sat in on. Right before my move to Texas last summer, I started taking online classes from someone I’ve always admired and wanted to learn from; Miguel Vargas. Miguel is such a talented dancer and I have now learned what a great teacher and personality he is, as well. In these seven or so months, I have participated in Tangos de Triana, Bulería, Cantiñas de Pinini, Tientos, and Soleá classes with him. Miguel enhances his dance lessons with a weekly flamenco theory course where we discuss history and origins of the particular palo we are studying at the time. Another fun thing about these online classes is being able to virtually travel to Andalusia with these teachers!
Needless to say, my flamenco cup runneth over! While taking classes online requires a different kind of motivation and dedication, it has been fabulous to learn from so many different artists, all of whom add to my “tool belt” of knowledge and perspective. All of whom add to the voice I embody when I dance. All of whom I am grateful to for offering me their wisdom.
Yes, it has been hard to find good things in the world with all the discourse we live in. But, it can be found. You just have to appreciate the simple things and keep your passion alive however you can!
Keep dancing! We will get through this together!
*Originally posted January 24th, 2021 by LORI KULLBERG Contributing author for Flamencos Online since February 2021.