I have always had a fascination for flamenco. I remember tearing up with emotion the first time I saw a live flamenco dance performance. Its raw and intense energy held me mesmerized. I especially remember a dancer who jumped on top of a table and moved with such force that it felt as if she was a tornado giving away all of herself in each movement. This vivid memory from my teenage years led me to try flamenco dance lessons with Wendy Clinard, a Chicago flamenco dancer that also exudes the same sweeping life energy when she performs.
I decided to take her current summer session as the perfect excuse to reconnect with my love for Flamenco. And believe me, it has been a beautiful reconnection. However, this dance is like a temperamental lover: it can be very challenging. There is a lot to be aware of, for example, that the intention of your footwork should not come from your feet but from your groin and abdominal area, “de tus adentros”, as flamencos would say. The same goes for your arms: the movement originates from the chest, a heavy back, and even the core. And what about the abdomen? It always needs to be contracted against your back…and don’t stick your booty out! You should always think you are holding a coffee bean between your butt cheeks for that. Flamenco is a constant contradiction, while some part of your body contracts, another one extends. It is this grounding and extension, all that contortion, that makes this dance so beautiful to see.All this awareness makes you sweat like crazy. This is better than Bikram Yoga!
Yes, there is a lot to learn, but Wendy, along with her two instructors Andrea Peterson and Marisela Tapia, has her ways to teach all this in a very didactic way and with a contagious enthusiasm. She makes use of props, such as wood sticks, to help you become aware of all the axles that move in different directions in your body.
Her studio is located in an intimate space in Pilsen. The students are from different ages and backgrounds, all of them sweating their hearts out in each lesson.
Our six lessons of flamenco will be put to the test when we perform on August 11 at the celebration of student and professional work to close Clinard Dance Theatre’s summer session. The special guest for that evening is Alfonso Cid, a wonderful Flamenco singer from Spain. It should be very exciting. Here are the details:
August 11 at 2pm
National Museum of Mexican Art
1852 W 19th St
Buy your tickets here
Alfonso Cid will also offer a “Dance to Flamenco Singing Workshop” on August 10 that will help flamenco dancers understand flamenco stanzas, how they are phrased, and the patterns of that phrasing so you know at all times where you are at in the song. Click here for more information.