Hitting Reset

Forgive me, flamencos, for I have sinned. It’s been eight months since my last post.


That’s a record for me so let me tell you what’s going on in my world.

My dance class attendance has been sporadic at best and I’ve had very few flamenco-related things about which to write. As for why I haven’t been in class, well, I’ll tell you and I’m going to be completely honest because I have no shame.

  1. I got bigger and my bata didn’t. When bata classes began early this year, I couldn’t wait to get back into it. I hadn’t put my bata on in a couple of years, so about an hour before class I thought to myself, “Hmmm…maybe I should try this thing on …”. I stepped into it, pulled it over my knees and got it stuck at my hips. I gasped. I twisted, pulled and wiggled into it a little further, but it was still wide open in the back and there was NO WAY I could pull it closed and zip it even a little bit. Nope, wasn’t happening. I might have cried a little bit. So much for that.
  2. I’ve got a basketball jones. In the spring after I lost a few pounds and could squeeze enough of my butt back into my bata to fake it, I went back to class. Ahhhhh, how great it felt to be back! I was uncoordinated and my bata was tight, but I was having fun and it was great to be back with my girls. Unfortunately this was just about NBA playoffs time and I’ve got a duty to my team. My Boo, a lifelong diehard Golden State Warriors fan, managed to get me on the bandwagon and now I AM OBSESSED. I am so obsessed that I plan my life around when the Warriors are playing. I had to come clean to Rina about my Dub-addiction (Dubddiction?) so she wouldn’t think I just didn’t want to go to class anymore. I’m not proud of how I’ve prioritized some things in my life, but hey, the first step is admitting you have a problem.
  3. Potpourri. The everything-else-that-gets-in-the-way category. The times I got stuck at work late, which have been many over the last year. The times I could have gone to class but I didn’t because I felt so tired and mentally drained after work that I just couldn’t do anything or interact with anyone. The times Thursday had to be date night because that’s just what worked out for me and Boo. The times I missed class to celebrate birthdays or go out of town or visit the family. You know … life.

But back in April, I crawled out of my hole and attended the local Feria de Abril de Los Alamitos, and for the first time ever, sat in the audience and gave jaleo to Rina and my companeras as they performed without me. I didn’t feel bad, though. It felt good to support them. And just being there among all the flamencos, dressed like my friends and with my brother and my boo at my sides, I felt happy and just as much a part of the community as always.

I still have dance goals but life just gets in the way sometimes, or I let it get in the way. But I’ll keep trying. I won’t make any promises, but I’m going to hit reset and see how it goes.


It’s Just Business

I’ve been away from my blog for some time now and it’s been completely intentional. I’ve been busy, but I’ve also been going through an “I don’t want any attention” phase for the second half of this year.  So much so that I invited no one to see me solo at the show I was in a couple of weeks ago. First time EVER I didn’t tell the world I was performing. Didn’t invite my parents, my brother, or even my boo.

I’ve been in work mode lately and this particular show was kind of like a major project on a full production schedule. I didn’t have a lot of time to devote to preparation, so I had to make do with existing knowledge and resources and deliver the best product I could given my limitations. I think I did OK. I did my job, had some fun, got some experience and felt pretty good about it all. And I was grateful for the opportunity.

As much as I love performing and writing about it, my focus has shifted a lot within the last year out of necessity, especially within the last six months. I’ve had to adjust to the joys and realities of home ownership, and manage a busier schedule and new role at work. I’ve felt that expecting to spend any free time dancing or singing or writing was just … indulgent.

I’m learning that I do have a business side that sometimes needs to just get stuff done under the radar. Sometimes I want to be left alone to work. Sometimes I don’t want any attention at all.

Even as I write this, I kind of hate that I’m writing about this. Yes, the girl who has been sharing all of her deepest flamenco feelings and vulnerabilities all these years feels like she’s oversharing. It feels so … unprofessional. Gross.

But despite how all of this sounds, I’m actually in a very good place. I’m happy, content and thankful. And of course I know this phase will pass and I’ll be ready to shine again in no time.

Those B!tches are in ‘Burque without Me

Oh, c’mon … I say that with love. Sort of.

Another year that I am at home while my friends are at the big flamenco festival in Albuquerque — Why, God, WHY?!?!?!? No, I’m kidding. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t make it but I REALLY wanted to go. So did my brother and partner-in-crime from the last trip. He was a flamenco dance virgin before our visit year before last, but jumped into a beginner’s boot camp for fun and ended up loving it — not to mention all of the good friends, amazing shows, great food, etc. ‘Burque as to offer. But oh well, I have some other priorities and he’s got a new job, so it just wasn’t an option this year. But I can’t complain. I’m grateful to have made it there twice and am confident I’ll (WE’LL!) return in the coming years.

I don’t know, it might have even been too much for me to handle right now, anyway. It’s been a weird couple of months. After Juan’s show, I went back to being a regular person, a non-flamenca, and spending more time on other things, which, honestly, was kind of nice. I thought about dancing, but just couldn’t muster the strength. I finally got around to unpacking a few of the boxes still left from my move in December. I finally hung some pictures on the walls of my new home. I had more time for my man, my family, and my couch. I slept in on Saturdays and Sundays. It was amazing.

Still, the nagging little gypsy inside of me wouldn’t entirely shut up. I knew I had to go back … I knew I wanted to go back. And you know what? I went back!

Saturday I went to Rina’s class for the first time in nearly nine months. NINE MONTHS! Sure, I had logged many great dance hours with Juan and crew during my time away, but I still can’t believe I stayed away from my original tribe for that long. I had been away so long that I was kind of nervous about returning: Would it be the same? Would my friends be there? Would there be new faces, a new dynamic? Turns out it would be all of the above. I was greeted by a shocked and happy teacher, many hugs, and the smiling faces of new friends.

The happy red face of a girl who just went to dance class for the first time in nine months (and who is proudly wearing a Golden State Warriors shirt -- Go, Warriors!)
The happy red face of a girl who just went to dance class for the first time in nine months (and who is proudly wearing a Golden State Warriors shirt — Go, Warriors!)

The class is a multi-level technique class and Rina was working in solea — my favorite palo. It was a nice way for me to get back into my groove. I love technique classes because I can focus more on what body is doing rather than remembering choreography, and that’s important. I need this. Because it all comes down to technique, I think. You can learn all the fast footwork and fancy choreo you want, but if your technique is lacking, you’re not going to look great doing it.

So while I’m not in ‘Burque, I’m back in the game at home and couldn’t be happier.

Are you at the festival? Let me know! I’d love to hear about all the wonderful things I’m missing out on — really, I would🙂

Dancing Tall

It’s Monday and I’m feeling surprisingly great — the show is over and overall it was a huge success!

Saturday was a blur. We gathered at the theater at 1 p.m. for tech rehearsal, a run through with musicians, working entrances/exits, tweaking choreography and all the other odds and ends that come up with this kind of production. Amazing how those hours flew by and suddenly it was 7 p.m and were scrambling to get pretty for the show.

I’m not going to lie — I had some big-ass butterflies. We three back-up dancers were the first to take the stage, so there was definite pressure to kick things off right. But after that number, I felt calm. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that calm in a show. Even coming out to do Sevillanas — a dance for which for whatever reason always makes me tense — I felt so calm. Happy, even. I was loving it!

No need to give a play by play, but there were many highlights of the show — the final one being the fin de fiesta, where I found myself looking around and thinking, “Holy CRAP! I am actually up here with this amazing cast of professionals!” A few years ago I never could have imagined it, and I certainly couldn’t have imagined it six months ago when I seriously considered taking a break from it all.

It was an honor to work with Juan Talavera. I'm a lucky gal!
It was an honor to work with Juan Talavera. I’m a lucky gal!

I learned many things from J.T. over the last few months, but one thing he told me often was to “dance tall.” He’d say things like, “Marissa! Stop pulling yourself in! You look scared … Dance tall … stretch your arms out … hold them high … you’re very tall… use that … it looks beautiful when you dance tall.”

In reality I’m not that tall, although I do have freakishly long arms and I guess I appear tall among a group of petite women. But it’s great advice, both in the physical and figurative sense; like saying “Stand up straight and dance with confidence, woman! Be proud of what you DO bring to the dance.” I know Rina has told as much in the past as well, but somehow J.T. was able to beat it into my head.

So simple, yet so powerful. Dance TALL. Thanks for that, J.T.

And you know, I felt like I DID dance a little taller that night. Not sure how I looked, but I sure felt it. I felt all tall and warm and fuzzy inside.

Backstage right before the first number. We were so excited!

Juan Talavera, thank you for allowing me the honor of performing alongside you. And to all of the other cast members, thank you ALL for being so kind, helpful and fun.

To my sister wenches, Kristine & Nancy: I’m so happy I got to experience this with you! We make a good trio, no?

And a special shout-out to Victoria Romero Koh for hooking me up with J.T. in the first place.

My only regret about all of this is not taking more photos! If anyone has any, I’d love to see them!

Countdown to ‘Flamenco Bravo!’

When I got involved with this project back in October, the performance date seemed light years away — and yet now here we are, a couple of days from taking the stage. Where did the time go?!

I know I say I’m excited before every performance, but for this one the excitement is off the charts. This production is unlike anything else with which I’ve been involved and I’m not entirely sure what to expect come 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. I’m feeling pretty good about everything, but I don’t think I’ll be at maximum confidence until after our final run-through at the theater on Saturday afternoon.

What I AM 100 percent sure of is that I am going to be on stage with a fantastic bunch of professionals! Working with these folks has been eye opening. My biggest takeaway from this experience is that a professional dancer must be open minded and a master of adaptability. Things can change week to week, day to day, one minute to the next. Creative directors are struck with new ideas, choreography evolves, musical cues change — if you can’t or won’t keep up, you’re in trouble. I guess this really isn’t news to me, but this is the first time I’ve had to face all of the above without having the comfort of hiding behind the “but I’m a student” defense. In other words, shit just got real.

But, man, has this all been fun! I’m grateful for every second of it.

Here are a few shots from our rehearsals, which were chock full of creativity, hard work and a little hijinks. I’ve also attached the show flier to the bottom of the page. There’s still time to reserve tickets!

Juan says funny stuff and cracks us up.
The all-stars in deep concentration.
El Maestro shows us how it’s done.
Working it out with the musicians.
It’s really not what it looks like.
Trying to be artsy with this shot.


How is it March already?!

Twenty days until show time … wha?!?!

I am excited! And nervous! And obviously I’ve been so busy rehearsing or thinking about rehearsing because I haven’t written in for-EVER.

Fun with JT
Fun with JT

I’ve been taking it all in: the many rehearsals, getting used to a different group of artists, working in one particular palo for the first time, etc. There have been many firsts during this experience. At times I’ve been frustrated with myself for not getting it as quickly as I’d like, but I have to remind myself that we all learn at different paces and by different methods. But on each occasion I’ve spent practicing with all of these wonderful people, I left exhausted, sweaty and smiling because I learned so much and I had FUN.

But the fun ain’t over, folks. We’ve still got a show to do! Are YOU coming?

Hope you can all make it. Maestro Juan put together a great line-up. A whole lotta talent and variety. Ole!

Top 10 Flamenco-related Happenings of 2014

Happy New Year! Yes, it’s Jan. 7 already, but hey, don’t judge me. Since my tradition is to put out a top 10 list for the outgoing year, here’s mine for 2014. Yes, I should have posted it a week ago, but I was caught up in an amazing first trip to San Francisco and had better things to do than sit in front of a computer. Better late than never, right?

10. I got a new dress. Hey, fashion is important to me. I really love my new dress! Love the color, love the style, love that it makes me feel like a pretty girl. I also love the lady who made it. She’s talented and a sweetheart. Thanks, Maria!

9. New connections. I’ve made many friends through the dance network in L.A., but also via this blog. It amazes me when someone from another state or country writes to tell me they’ve found my blog and are enjoying it because they are having the same experience with this crazy dance. I’m so glad to hear from all of you, and I sincerely appreciate your support.

8. “She’s a dancer …” More than once this year, my man, a talented painter, introduced me to friends and fellow artists as a dancer. It seems like such a simple thing, but I can’t tell you how much this filled my heart with joy. “I’m a painter … she’s a dancer.” Isn’t that lovely? So much better than, “I’m a painter … she makes web pages at a school.” It made me feel like he appreciates my dedication to this dance and that he sees me the way I want to see myself.

7. Opportunities. I’m so grateful to Rina for offering opportunities to perform — it’s always an honor to be invited. One thing I took part in this year was a benefit for a local organization, Helping the Homeless Help Themselves. Dance experience AND giving back WHILE hanging out with some of my best friends? Can’t say no to that!

6. I turned 40. How is this flamenco related? Age seems like SUCH an obstacle when you begin flamenco in your mid/late 30s. I remember thinking, “But I’m almost 40! How can I possibly TRY to learn all of this NOW?!” Ugh, what a dumb way of thinking. I see that now, especially this year. There are so many other dancers I know who either began at the same age or older, or have been dancing 20 or 30 years longer than I’ve been on this earth and are still kicking ass. Turning 40 brought me a weird sense of peace and motivation.

5. The Meltdown/Fallout. So you’re probably thinking, “Oh no she DIDN’T …!” But yes, I am placing this series of events on the list. Not because it was one of the best things that happened (far from it), but it was certainly significant. (Read the posts about them here and here). Shook me up hard and almost took me out of the game, until …

4. Along comes J.T. If it weren’t for Juan Talavera, I might still be on the couch while my shoes collect dust in a closet. (Read post about J.T here). I could have taken months off or more if he hadn’t offered me a rare opportunity; luckily I took him up on it! (And thanks, Victoria for the recommendation!). Having this phenomenal artist who didn’t know me tell me I’m good enough to be in his show was just what I needed to get back on my feet.

3. I go to WERK! Working with J.T and the rest of the cast over the last couple of months, in a different environment, has been really good for me, I think. I’m used to working only with Rina, so it’s interesting to see another artistic director’s method and perspective. Plus, he’s a man and that puts a whole different spin on things too. He’s fun and I’m learning so much! Most of all I’ve learned that even though I’m being challenged and I’m out of the safety zone of my O.G. Torrance crew, I’m not a bad little dancer. Yes … I can do this! I AM doing this! I love doing this! Come to the show in March!

2. My friends in flamenca sisterhood. I say it every year, because every year it continues to hold true. My flamencas (my classmates and teacher) are MY PEOPLE. They are funny, quirky, and supportive and I admire them all in different ways. I can’t imagine going through this flamenco thing without them. (So, yes, Rina, I’ll be back soon.)

1. I bought a house! Wha?! I know, right?! It’s crazy. I didn’t think it would happen so soon, but it did, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. What does this have to do with the dance? Everything. I now have my own little dance studio! It’s what I’ve dreamed of for years now. Now, I still have to put down a proper floor and put mirrors on the walls, but I have a real space dedicated to dance. No more complaining that our usual studio space is unavailable, too expensive to rent by the hour, or too inconvenient to get to. Now I get to walk a few steps out my backdoor, anytime day or night, and go to work. This is HUGE! How’s that for way to wrap up 2014?!