On Joy

Me. Age 4. September 1978. It was my first day of kindergarten at Fries Avenue Elementary in Wilmington, Calif. I don’t remember much about that day, but I do recall this moment when Mom gave me this as a congratulations gift for being a big girl and going to school for the very first time.

I was a Grease girl. But who wasn’t at that time, right? While so many parts of my childhood are foggy at best, I clearly remember seeing this movie in the theater, many times. I loved this movie. No, you don’t understand — I LOOOOVVVEEED this movie. I wanted to be IN this movie. It’s hard to get a four year old to sit through anything for a few minutes, but I had no problem staring at a screen for two hours to watch this movie that featured a bunch of cool big kids singing and dancing. I was mesmerized by it.  (Of course I didn’t realize then that the big kids in the movie were all older than my parents in real life…)

Needless to say, I was giddy when I received this gift. At that moment, nothing could have made me happier. Just look at that little face. Have you ever seen so much joy on a kid’s mug? My little heart began to sing and dance the second Mom placed it in my hands. I didn’t care about school. I had the Grease soundtrack.

I played the hell out of that record and my mom took me to see the movie many times. I never got tired of it. And thirty-plus years later, it still makes me smile and want to break into song and dance.

Where am I going with this? I don’t know. I came across this picture today and it made me think about what I was like at 4 and what I’m like at 37, and that basically, the only difference is age.

I smile like that every time I leave class, even if only on the inside. I can be red, sweaty, achy, toenails busted, and butt-ass tired, but the sheer joy in my heart makes up for all of that. Flamenco is a bit of a stretch from Grease, but it’s all song and dance just the same. And no matter what I’m going through, it still always makes me feel like the little girl in the picture.

Let’s Dance!

I like performing, but it’s not entirely my fault. I don’t think I had a choice, really. I’m certain it runs in the family and I was reminded of this tonight.

My Uncle Zeke, or Chris Montez as he is better known, performed a benefit concert at El Camino College tonight. If you’ve never heard of him, he is a singer/musician who began his career in the ’60s and, believe it or not, was the headlining act on a tour of England that included the Beatles. He’s also probably one of the only people in the world who can say that John Lennon once poured a beer over his head.

Growing up, my Mom always played his records and told me stories about him. I remember listening, learning all the lyrics and looking at his albums and thinking, wow, someone on an album cover is related to me. And I vaguely remember scribbling my name on a cover he had signed because I really wanted to autograph an album cover, too.

Until tonight, I had never seen him perform live. What I saw made me smile. So much energy, so personable and still technically great. What a showman. I was inspired.

Prior to his performance, they showed a preview of an upcoming documentary about his musical journey — El Viaje Musical de Ezekiel Montanez: The Chris Montez Story. It was truly something watching this; I mean, here’s this kid from Hawthorne, my uncle, who jammed with the Beach Boys, toured with the Beatles, played rock, lounge, rancheras and everything in between, and continues to tour today. And more than that, he’s a genuinely nice guy who still loves what he does as much as he did when he was a teenager. He looks so happy when he’s performing and I totally get it.

What does this mean to me? It means that I really shouldn’t hold myself back from doing the things I really love and want to do. My family is musical, even the ones who don’t perform and don’t play instruments; it’s evident in the way they speak and act. I give Uncle Zeke credit for embracing his gifts early in life, continuing to develop his craft all these years and committing to making his living this way in good times and in not-so-good times. Music is his talent, passion and subsequently, his career. I have so much respect for that.

I might never have a career as a dancer or musician, but I think I have to approach these things as if it’s possible. I need to approach the dance and whatever else like a six year old who dreams of becoming a star when she grows up. At that age, you believe anything is possible. It’s unfortunate that most of us lose that as we age. I think I need just a little more of that mentality to help me do well at the dance, you know? Like, if I approach it as a career goal instead of a hobby, I could really be motivated to kick some ass.

Thanks for the lesson, Uncle Zeke.

Visit http://www.chrismontezmovie.com for more info about the documentary.

“So, what’s flamenco, anyway?”

Some of you have asked, “So, what’s flamenco, anyway? What’s it like? Do you have a partner? Do you wear fruit on your head? (Seriously!) And what’s this bulerías you’re always complaining about?” All you know about it, thanks to me, is that it ain’t easy to learn. My bad. Continue reading ““So, what’s flamenco, anyway?””

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. Continue reading “Something else to get wrapped up in”

OCFD: Obsessive-Compulsive Flamenca Disorder

I remember reading somewhere, perhaps someone else’s blog, that flamenco dancers are the craziest people out there. Why? Because you have to be completely neurotic and obsessive, not to mention super passionate, to stick with it. Me? Crazy?? Well, maybe. Continue reading “OCFD: Obsessive-Compulsive Flamenca Disorder”

Flamenco y familia

Last night was the first annual family reunion on my dad’s side. It was great seeing folks I hadn’t seen in years or others I had never even met. Four generations, from ages 3 to 85, gathered together to share good memories, eat good food and then get down on the dance floor. And get down we did. Today I can’t tell if I’m sore from flamenco class yesterday afternoon or all the cumbia dancing last night. Continue reading “Flamenco y familia”

Trying to advance

If flamenco were a man, he’d be a passionate, manic depressive artist who loves me one minute and hates me the next.

Two posts in one day? Yes! I was inspired to write after tonight’s class. See, tonight was a special night in my relationship with flamenco: I took my first advanced class. Now, I can’t say I am an advanced student yet, but my teacher encouraged me to take the class as a challenge. Ooh, another challenge! Again, I was down. Continue reading “Trying to advance”