Bulerías y Bach

Sing out loud, sing out strong.
Before I was a dancer, I was a singer. I’ve been singing anything and everything since I could speak. I have mainly my mom to thank for this; there was always music in the house, all kinds. Mostly oldies of the ’50s and ’60s, and the ’70s is still my favorite decade for music probably because it’s my first memory of current music on the radio. And in the ’80s and ’90s, I went through my Madonna phase, the new wave phase, hip-hop, gangster rap, grunge, punk, alternative/goth (which mom called my “forces of darkness” phase) latin, a little metal, you name it. As much as I hate to admit it, I even like some old school country. I rarely discriminate when it comes to music and I can never listen to just one kind in one sitting. Call it Musical ADD, if you will. Take a look at my iPod and you’ll see what I mean.

Did I mention I grew up on Lawrence Welk, as well? Yep. I loved watching those perfectly coiffed, melodic Stepford wives in matching chiffon gowns serve up their wholesome harmonies with a smile. Throw in a snazzy orchestra and some tap dancing and you had yourself one hell of a program.

When I was 8, I joined a children’s choir. It was more like a performing group, really; we sang and did a little choreography. It was here I learned many show tunes, patriotic songs and holiday classics. My teen years in a very urban high school choir brought my first experience with, among other things, gospel.

So you get the picture. Music has always been part of who I am; I love it all, and love singing it all. As an adult, I’ve continued with this passion as a member of the city’s chorale, which I’ve been with for four years now. Here I’ve been exposed to more classical works than I had before. There’s something very satisfying about being part of a group of 90+ singers learning seven-part harmony of a complex cantata, and then actually hearing it come together perfectly.

I took time off from the chorale last season to focus on the dance and I’m glad I did. I needed that extra time to focus on my dance since it was my first flamenco solo and the first time I had danced alone in front of an audience since I was 10. I wasn’t sure I was going back, but then today the chorale director emailed me to encourage me to return for the fall. The more I think about, the more I’m sure I need to go back.

My teacher once said that having a musical background helps when you’re learning flamenco. I couldn’t agree more. Every piece of musical training I’ve ever had has helped me in my journey to gypsy greatness. That’s why I don’t want to give up the chorale; I think it can only benefit my dancing. This season we’re learning various Bach pieces, which will be a challenge and a great rhythmic exercise. And I think it’s fun to be able to constantly switch gears between Bach and bulerías. More than that, I’m getting great training and keeping my voice strong, which will benefit me someday when I take on cante.

So I guess all this random musical training I’ve had in the last 30 years has prepared me for this. And maybe I needed to have all these experiences before I could take on flamenco. Yes. It just might make sense.

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