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 🙂

The Next Adventure

Ay Dios, has it really been more than a month since I’ve posted?! Ugh, I’ve been a bad girl. But I’m back, enrolled in a full load of classes with Rina, ready to whip myself back into fighting shape. We’ve got a show in September, but before that I’ve got to prepare for my next adventure: Albuquerque for Flamenco Festival 26!

I’m doing things differently this time, though. Unlike last year, I am NOT taking 87 classes. I’m not even taking any advanced classes. No, I learned. While I felt fine in Olga Pericet’s bata class because it was mostly about the dress, each morning I woke up nervous about Pastora Galvan’s class because it was very challenging for me and because I was a little afraid of her. And I considered myself lucky to be in that class because I had heard horror stories about her other advanced class. And boy, were those horror stories spot on. The last day of workshops, we were allowed to sit in on any class and I sat in on that one. Good God, that class was fast. Crazy fast. A long choreography and insane footwork that I with my four years of experience NEVER would have grasped. I guess it all depends on the group of students. If you’re in a group with dancers who are just beginning advanced classes, you’re cool. If you’re in a group with truly advanced dancers who are performing regularly and already teaching, you’re screwed. That was the case with Pastora’s other class. All of those advanced dancers were pros. Had I ended up in that class, I literally would have cried my eyes out.

Not taking that chance this time around because I might not be so lucky. I’m taking two intermediate dance classes and cante. Two fewer classes than last year. This way I can retain more of what I learn and maybe have a little time to rest. If you kept up with my daily festival updates last year, you’ll recall that I was exhausted, starving, and completely swollen from the knees down. I was a mess. Happy, but a mess. I came home skinny and injured, and I cannot do that to myself this year.

But perhaps my main reason for taking it somewhat easy is that I’m bringing a partner in flamenco crime: my little brother! And he ain’t just coming as my support system or as a spectator, either. Details on his own little adventure to come. But we want to make this trip as much about New Mexico as flamenco — soak up the culture, see the sites, and just have quality brother/sister fun time. If you know me well, you know that he’s pretty much my best friend so I’m really excited to share this experience with him.

Are you going to Albuquerque? I’m looking forward seeing some familiar faces!

Festival Day 7: Nooooooooo!!!

It’s over. I’m so sad.

This day was a blur. As I type this from my couch in Los Angeles, it’s hard to believe that 12 hours ago I was shoving my puffy feet in my pretty pink Gallardos, wicked-stepsister style, getting ready for my final workshop with Pastora Galvan.

It was madness in Carlisle Gym today as flamenca/os scrambled to get to their final workshops (and videotape choreo!), buy last-minute souvenirs, snap photos, and say goodbye to friends. It was also open workshop day, where we were free to sit in on any class and watch.

A quick recap of my day:

1. I left Pastora’s class with a decent grasp of the choreography, which was exciting. I thought it was funny when she asked that only people who knew the choreo well be videotaped. All the lame people, myself included, were asked to sit that one out.

2. I really didn’t want to, but I ditched castanets so I could go watch Pastora’s other advanced class. All I can say is, holy crap! Had I ended up in that class, I’d have dropped out the first day and gone home crying. They covered a ton of material in seven days and there was a lot of fast footwork I could never handle. But it was obvious there were many professional-level dancers in that class, more than in mine. I think she slowed the pace in my class when she realized what she was working with. I lucked out.

3. My feet were pretty much shot days ago, and yesterday the area below the calf on my right leg, above the heel, has been hurting/burning. By the time I got to bata, I was done. I shed that pile of ruffles about 20 minutes before class was over and plopped myself on the sidelines. I felt guilty, hoping Olga didn’t think I was being lazy, but I had to listen to my broke-down body and rest. I recorded the cute choreography to practice at home, then ran out to catch the shuttle back to the hotel to collect my bags and head to the airport.

4. I’m bummed I missed the last gala show and festival after-party. Poor planning on my part. Now I know better.

5. I’m bummed I saw NONE of Albuquerque. I never had time! I didn’t allow myself meal breaks, let alone tourist time. Too bad because I hear it’s a charming and friendly city.

My bags are open on my living room floor because I’m too tired, too sore and too unmotivated to unpack them. I’m happy to be back in my humble home, but sad my adventure is over and that it’s time get back to who I am in real life. I hate to say this, but I thought about very little when I was away. I was focused on dancing — not work, not boys, not stupid things that I usually waste time worrying about. Being around so many flamencos — dancers, singers, musicians — of all ages, all races, all nationalities, and all skill levels, I felt like I was among my people, you know? Of course, that’s the way I feel when I go to Rina’s class, but it’s more intense and wonderful when you have that feeling literally 24/7.

I’ve got thoughts that aren’t yet fully processed; I’m sure I’ll be writing more about my experience in the coming weeks, once I can make sense of everything. But I will close with this: I loved it all and would do it again in a gypsy heartbeat.

Festival Day 6: Rafael Campallo is Still Sexy

Yes, that’s right, I said it again: Homeboy is one sexy flamenco.

Just got back from Fiesta Flamenca, one of two gala performances that showcase the festival’s featured performers. My Rafael was last to dance. Ay, que cute. I swear if you could watch me watch him, you’d see little cartoon hearts shooting from my eyes. I’ve seen him around Carlisle Gym all week and it took every ounce of restraint to keep myself from pouncing on him, or at least saying something very embarrassing. So I just admired him from afar. Sigh.

Show was stellar. Pastora, Olga, Alfonso, Adela and Rafael, and Yjastros (the local company) were all fantastic, but in very different ways. Friends have asked me, “Aren’t you tired of seeing flamenco every night??” Uh, NO! Not possible. No two performers are the same. And it’s interesting to talk with friends post-show to hear everyone’s favorite. Everyone has a fave dancer whose energy somehow speaks to them more than the others. It’s very personal.

Suddenly I feel reality setting in: This was the last show I’ll see here because I’m leaving tomorrow. I took some last photos with my new friends and I’m packing my things tonight. I’m bummed. I don’t want it to be over.

Festival Day 5: I’ve Been a Bad, Bad Girl

It’s pretty much official that I dropped out of the technique workshop, but something had to give. With all the pain and swelling, it was critical that I eliminate some of the stress on my body. That workshop, with the constant footwork drills and traveling across the room, was harder on my feet than Pastora’s advanced class.

I feel a little guilty; like I’m a juvenile delinquent ditching school or something, but that’s just how it goes. I didn’t want to risk really hurting myself and having to drop everything. I think I have the right to be bad given all I’ve gone through here.

Speaking of bad girls, Pastora’s show was tonight … FUN!! See, I tend to like my flamenco dirty. The dirtier, the better. Hmmmm, I wonder what that says about me … And I wonder how Pastora would react if I told her I enjoyed her dirty dancing … (No, I’m not going to mention that to her on the shuttle tomorrow). I’ve always been fond of her style because it’s sassy, a little rough, and full of booty action. I can relate to that. Anywhere I can incorporate booty action in my dancing (or just life in general, for that matter) I’m all over it. Pastora’s style is beautiful, of course, but girlfriend gets down, too, and I so dig that. Any girl who can kick off her slippers mid-performance and cut a rug is bad ass in my book. I’m so glad I took her workshop!

Since we’re on the subject of bad girls, tonight I did something I said I wouldn’t: I bought shoes! Beautiful, glorious shoes. I’ll tell you more about those later, but I will tell you I can’t stop looking at them and they’re lying next to me on the bed. Hey, sometimes a girl doesn’t want to sleep alone.

And now I’m ending this post before it gets any worse. Clearly the Albuquerque heat is getting to me.

Festival Day 4: Call Me Puffy

As I write this post, I’m lying in bed with my legs propped up on three pillows, feet resting on the headboard. The swelling is out of control. It’s not cute.

Today I ditched the technique workshop because my legs and feet had been so swollen, and the continuous drills we do there are hard on the paws. I thought I was being responsible my cutting an hour off my dance day; I thought it would do me good to rest. I was feeling pretty good, too, until I was sitting in the theatre tonight watching the Yjastros show (great show!), and I could feel the straps on my wedge heels getting tighter…

I was shocked when I got home and saw what was going on down there. I had puffy, pregnant feet! Within minutes I had filled our trashcan with ice and submerged myself, one dog at a time. Ahhhhhhh. Between that and getting them elevated, my feet are looking a little better, but I can still see puff pockets around my ankles and calves. This sucks.

I’d love to write more about the day but I need to get to sleep. I’ve slept very little since I’ve been here and that can’t be helping my fat-feet situation. I just need to rest.

Did I mention I’m still loving every second of being here? Well, I am.

I imagine tomorrow I’ll have tons to share: Pastora’s show is tomorrow night. I can’t wait!

Festival Day 3: Pixie Dust

Today was all about bata class. I felt good there — reasonably confident and not terrified like I am in Pastora’s jaleo class. No, in bata, even though there are some great dancers around me, I can hold my own and stand up front next to Olga without fear of making a complete fool of myself. Plus I think Olga is cool.

She trips me out, really. I don’t know how to explain it but it’s like she’s otherworldly — not in the space-cadet sense, but in the who-is-this-magical-creature-and-where-did-she-come-from-? sense.

She speaks only Spanish in class, so it’s not like I can chit-chat with her, but I can understand some and she’s adorably expressive when she explains things to us. And when she stops everything to demonstrate how it should be done … damn! It’s just so fast and crisp, you almost don’t see it. Sometimes I can’t take my eyes off her. (Wait, that’s not weird, is it?). I’m just hoping that a tenth of a speck of her flamenca pixie dust will fly off her and land on me before I leave here.

Tonight Olga and company performed their show “Rosa, Metal y Ceniza.” I loved it. It was so … her. Modern, experimental, technically sound, magical. She worked the heck out of the manton, and I was was so happy to see her bata outside our workshop. Oh, and another unexpected treat: One of her guitarists is female. This whole performance spoke to me.

How lucky am I to spend seven days with her? That’s pretty magical in itself.