On friday, the Fulbright Grant period officially ended. I will be staying in Spain until August 1st, returning to Albuquerque for a month, and then back to NYC on September 1st. Until August, my adventures here will continue, but I wanted to take this moment to reflect on the year.
First off, the year has flown by. I am in need of time to digest and internalize everything I have learned here. You won’t believe this, but earlier this week I was writing the date and wrote April–apparently the year has flown by much much faster than I have been able to comprehend recently. It also does not help that time doesn’t really exist in Sevilla–lunch takes however long to eat and chat, usually around three hours. Getting a drink with someone can take up to six hours. There’s no rush here in Sevilla; we enjoy, we savor, we live with a schedule based on personal interactions, not pre-planned timetables that command our lives. New York is going to be one hell of a culture shock for me….The day to day existence here has been one of the biggest challenges and most enriching parts of my experience. And it’s also the day to day life here that shapes flamenco–so very important for me to have immersed myself in…
Back to the Fulbright, what did I come here to learn and what have I learned?
Mostly, I’ve learned that there is a LOT I don’t know and want/need to learn. Yet I’ve deepened my knowledge of flamenco in ways I never even thought of before.
I’ve learned how to study flamenco. I’ve learned that I need to experiment and take apart and understand the steps I have learned. In mounting a new alegrías to perform this week, I realized I loved the steps that I was using that I learned from Andrés Marín not for the steps in themselves, but for how they fit with the music. At first, I tried just using those steps in whatever song the singer sang, and it did not work. It’s not about placing steps over the music, it’s about mounting steps that reflect the music, go with the melody, or break from the melody when I want them to–it’s about playing with the musicality. I’m still working on this–on the experimentation in the studio–and will be for the rest of my life. Flamenco song is unfathomably comprehensive and there is always more to learn and understand and a million ways to mount dance steps to the music.
I’ve learned a lot about the importance of practical knowledge vs. theoretical knowledge, and the importance of the former. I want to do; I don’t want to talk about doing. I mean this in regards to flamenco, but also in any aspect of life. It’s not opinions or thoughts that change the world, it’s actions. Practical knowledge and theoretical knowledge must complement one another and coexist; each one alone is void, and sometimes it’s easy to get stuck in the theoretical side.
I’ve learned a lot about people. About the importance of knowing yourself, not comparing yourself to others, of being truthful to yourself. Flamenco is my language and it is through language that we understand ourselves and the world. I don’t want to be an imitation of any dancer, I want to find my own vocabulary in flamenco and tell my stories. It’s hard not to imitate–it requires a much deeper knowledge of flamenco, it requires dancing consciously, giving every moment meaning and intention. You can’t dance ‘me lo sé’ (whatever). I want my dancing to speak; that means every moment of the dance has to feel like new, a new moment of creation.
I’ve learned lots of facts about flamenco singing and history and the songs. You’ve seen some of what I’ve learned in earlier blog posts. The variations, nuances, and histories within each palo, not to mention the key figures in flamenco is unending. Every day I learn something new about flamenco.
Most of all, I have a different perspective of flamenco. I see it as an ever-evolving art form. It is like a language, and from an academic perspective, it has to be studied like a language full of various dialects, complicated history, and always open to evolution.
So what’s next for me?
Still a month and a half left here in Spain–lots of dancing to do here! Then I want to put everything I have been studying here to work…that means dancing, dancing, dancing, everywhere, anywhere, anyhow back in the States. Teaching and giving lectures about flamenco–sharing what I’ve learned here. Continuing to learn and study–even though I will not be in flamenco’s homeland I can still listen to and study the music–thank you Spotify and Youtube; it’s not quite the same as learning from the source, but I do need to study the recordings of singers from generations ago. I will create new dances, make old ones better. And then a big project, I want to create my own show; it’s a work in progress and I have lots of work to do on the business side of things….but I have an urge to share my work–practical knowledge….it makes me think of this video:
Yes, most importantly, I never want to lose my love of dancing and sharing that love with anyone and everyone…And to never lose that innocent urge to create, to be free through creating.