Something else to get wrapped up in

Someday I hope to have more grace than this guy. ©Disney

My right wing is killing me.

Saturday I had my first experience with the mantón, or the large shawl worn or wielded by dancers. Such a lovely, elegant prop when handled by the right flamenca. In this beginner’s hands, not so much.

My mantón is black silk embroidered with bunches of red roses among other colorful flowers, leaves and squiggles, trimmed with long black fringe. LONG black fringe. I didn’t realize how long until I was in class trying to untangle myself from its clutches or keep from stepping on it. The whole piece is quite big. If I fold it in half diagonally like a dinner napkin, I can almost grab the ends if I extend my arms all the way out to the sides. There’s a lot of material to manage. I’d never worked with one of these things before and I quickly realized it’s not as easy as my teacher makes it look.

First, you have to get used to just having this large piece of fabric hanging over your shoulders without letting it be a distraction or fearing it’s going to slip off. I felt like this initially when we started doing rolling golpes with our arms out low to the sides and doing floreo. Then, when I went to extend my arm across my body, that hair-like fringe settled between my fingers and wrapped around my wrist, which created an issue when it came time to twirl the shawl over my head.

Ah, the twirling. It’s hard to describe but it required rotating it swiftly above me with my hands at each end, and then getting it to land neatly around my shoulders. The trick, I think, is to whip that mother around with intention — do it half-heartedly and it’ll turn into a twisted mess. This I learned from my first few tries. That thing was wrapped around my neck at one point and around my forearms a few times, making it impossible to complete the move or move on to the next. Instead of looking like a dancer, I looked like I was struggling to hang my bedsheets out to dry.

I add mantón skills to the ever-growing list of things I need to work on. I have to say, though, I love it! And I admit, I felt kind of bad-ass throwing that thing around. The sight of a bright, beautiful little work of textile art moved by my own gitana momentum, waving above, then enveloping me, was so dramatic and empowering. I felt part Carmen Amaya, and part … Darkwing Duck. (Yes, I have all the grace of a caped cartoon duck at this stage, but at least I’m honest.)

And this is why my wing is sore. Working the mantón is rough on the back and shoulders when you’re not used to it. I have much work to do if I want to build up my strength and improve my grace. Now for some Advil…


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