Who is the Community? 

All of you, who come by to spend time on this site or at our events and classes

Tell your story here (long or short), and we'll happily add it.

Abby I love Halloween, and my favorite costume, which I wore two years in a row at 4 and 5, was the red flamenco dress my abeula gave to me. The next Halloweens to proceed, I was a gypsy two years running. My great grandparents and grandma were from the North of Spain, but I treasured the flairs of flamenco long before I knew I would dance it one day.At 10, flamenco captured me for a first time. I remember sitting in a tablao when I was 10 in Spain and not being able to control my feet from tapping under the table as I watched the performers in awe.I stumbled upon flamenco again at age 20 while living in Sante Fe, NM by searching in the phone book for dance studios. I continued on and off through college, studying in particular flamenco communities in Japan. I love being part of the wonderful community of flamencos Laura has brought together. I dance now because it makes me feel strong, alive and individually expressive within a beautifully rhythmic and soulful form. Celeste Well, my story is less dramatic than that. I started to salsa back in ’95, and was immediatly caught up in Latin Dance. At that time i promised myself that if i didn’t have a tango partner by the time i turned 50 (i wasn’t even 40 at the time), that i would learn flamenco, so i could do it by myself. Well, 50 came and went, and then a person i worked with, “Scotty,” died, and i realized i couldn’t keep putting things off, because tomorrow is so ephemereal. So, @ 52 1/2 started, finally, learning flamenco with Laura, though for the first several months it was just sevillanas. And now, today, i just turned 55. I still cannot flamenco, but i am more interested in it now more than ever…mostly from watching such fantastic examples. Thank you, Laura!

Anne Wrenn aka Ana Reina When I was 6 years old, I began to hear strange music in my head. I also became fascinated with the Gypsies I saw on the pages of National Geographic magazine. I was 10 when I saw Jose Greco on TV and realized this was "flamingo". Growing up in a small Southern town, we had no dance teachers. While in college in Wash. DC , I began to take lessons, attend concerts, etc. I danced with a group of Spanish women in Virginia, took classes in New York City, attended Teo Morca's workshops. I studied with Vicky Cooke for 7 years in Virginia Beach. I began to improvise and develop a "Gypsy" style. I am 73 years old. One day, I will study in Jerez with you.

Ara Melkonian I am dancing since I was 5 year old. I remember ever day after my kindergarten I was rushing to come home and do coreagraphy and making formation with my chess . I put the black ones as a men and white ones as a women, and I was moving them deferent direction. Then I start to take dance classes here and there by the way this was in Armenia. And 1975 we came to America and I start dancing professionaly in the Russian dance company, then one day I saw a flamenco show it just touched me in my the heart. I took class second day.

Celeste Well, I can't say that I actually dance Flamenco, but my intent to learn it began 20 years ago. I took up salsa and other Latin dancing and fell madly in love with it! I hoped--especially upon getting married--to learn tango, and I imagine I would have been quite good at it, as i am very musical and was pretty good at salsa. But i promised myself that if i didn't have a partner to learn tango with, that i would take up Flamenco when i turned 50, as you don't need a partner for that. I did turn 50, and never forgot my promise, but i didn't follow through until a year later, when i young client i worked with, Scotty, died. That galvanized me to finally begin taking a class. But, as usual, my finances got in the way of following through with any of my plans. Plus i wasn't very good at it! But since i've always been good at singing, it has been in the back of my mind for years to learn the cantas (and palmas) and sing and clap while the rest of you dance! And learn a little more flamenco myself as well. So I keep following along your journey, and your notices and schedules, and hope to squeeze myself back into it one of these days...especially by a year from now, when i'll turn 60!!! And I never lose hope that one day the tide will turn, and I'll actually have some money to spend, and can join you on one of your trips to Spain! or maybe even more than one!!! I am so glad that you followed your heart and intuition and took-and stayed on-the path of Flamenco. You are so brave, Laura! and so gosh-darn GOOD at it as well!!! <3

Emma When I was 5 years old, I got my first pair of wooden clogs. I put them on, and started to staccato forwards in them, Corrida style. I enjoyed the wonders of sound coming from my feet very much! (And kept staring at the source heads down, and ran into the wall and passed out).Growing up, I would purchase shoes with leather soles, and I would have a shoemaker add metal plates at the tips and heels to all of my shoes in order to prolong the lifespan of the shoes. It also provided great sound possibilities, coming from my shoes again. (Nowadays there are no shoemakers left, and shoes have synthetic soles, and you throw them away instead of fixing) As a young adult I went to Barcelona, and I saw a Flamenco troupe dance at the Ramblas, and was taken. When I moved to New York a few years later, I met a beautiful dancer, who volunteered her help in the public park where I worked as a gardener. She connected me with a Flamenco dance teacher, and I have never given it up since. At times I could not take dance classes regularly, because I lived to rural, but I still had access to Flamenco music, occasional shows caught when traveling, books and films. In the past decade I have been so blessed to be able to take Flamenco classes regularly. I have periods when I seriously consider quitting dancing, because it requires so much time, and money, both things I have a shortage of. I continue dancing, because I have to do some sort of physical exercise activity to offset the damage that full-time computer work is doing to my body. It would all cost time, and often also money. So I might as well continue with what I love so much anyhow. The prospect of life without Flamenco would be very void, unfulfilling and empty to me. There are too many aspects that I love about Flamenco music and dance to list here. Leading them is the fact that I derive great pleasure from making and accompanying music with just my body, dress and shoes, nothing else is necessary. Additionally Flamenco helps me cope with life’s many challenges, on many different levels. Others go to church or to a shrink for that, Flamenco fills the spot for me. Thank you for keeping up this wonderful blog/newsletter next to your busy schedule. I enjoy it highly, visit often, and learn much from it. It is indeed of great service to the flamenco community.

Elida Ok…here it goes! I am very new to flamenco, just one lesson to be exact, but I’ve always been intrigued. When I was a junior in high school I saved my money all year, enough to go and spend a summer with our foreign exchange student in Spain. I fell in love with the culture, with the people, with everything Spanish. It helped I had a boyfriend who refused to speak to me in English, telling me repeatedly that I came to Spain “para aprender espanol” (to learn Spanish), and by the end of the summer, he was right and I was dreaming in Spanish. Fast forward almost 20yrs., three kids later, a divorce and a lifetime of experiences. It’s because of all these experiences that I feel my calling back to Spain and to Flamenco. The first year I separated from my husband my motto became, “why not?” If I can’t find a really good reason not to try something, or to go for it, then I’m doing it. You should have seen me the first day of swim lessons, apparently I didn’t get the memo that a polka dot string bikini wasn’t appropriate and that everyone else was equipped with their speedo, goggles, and a swim cap! Thank God for friends who buy extras! I made it through the lessons though and I’m proud to say that although I’m not a fantastic swimmer, I’m decent….and I did it! I love to dance almost as much as I love Spain. I want to stomp, clap, and twirl with the best of them, and do it on beat! Ha! I don’t know if I’ll ever re-marry, but if I do I’ll wear a red dress and dance flamenco down the aisle! That’s a promise!

Erin Derr This is the story of how I came to Flamenco. Two years ago, I saw my first Flamenco performance near my home in Vancouver, BC. I talked to the dancer and signed up for lessons at the school where she trained (Al Mozaico Flamenco Dance Academy). I took lessons for a semester, and even performed two Coplas of Sevillanas at the year-end concert. I took a few more lessons after that, trying to move up to the beginner class (which was still a little too advanced for me) and the Bulerias por Fiesta class (which was way too advanced for me!) Unfortunately I ran out of money and wasn’t able to take classes after that. I hoped that my financial situation would improve and I would be able to return to lessons. That was two years ago. In the meantime, I moved to the Portland area and my financial situation has not improved. But I miss flamenco too much and I have decided that I need to find other ways to get involved with the community. I am pretty shy and self-depreciating, and have spent most of my life trying to be a small little ball that no one notices, to the point where it’s affected my posture. Flamenco helps bring out the part of me that is confident, proud, and beautiful. No one can say anything bad about you when you have nails in your shoes!

Eva I am Andalusian. My mother is from Granada. My father was from Seville and I, from Almeria. I grew up listening to my mother “singing” bulerias while cleaning the house and to my father listening to Paco de Lucia, Rafael Farina and others FOR HOURS. Since she will never read this, I can tell you that when I say my mother was singing, I am really embellishing it. That was not singing at all.. even though she still thinks it is. Anyway, as you can imagine, in such proud Andalusian household, learning how to dance sevillanas and other regional dances was a must. As soon as I could move my feet, and against my will, I was enrolled in sevillana classes. The problem is that I hated it and so as soon as I could stop, I did. That was almost 30 years ago. Last year, my father passed away and I miss him terribly. Wanting to feel closer to him, I began listening to sevillanas and flamenco. In doing so, I realized that flamenco music cheers me up. It gets my out of the funk I find myself in sometimes. Then, I also began thinking that maybe it was time to re-start my sevillana classes. Today was my first class, and let me just say that I wished I had paid more attention decades ago. I will probably end up “dancing” sevillanas like my mother used to “sing” bulerias but to me, it is more than re-learning sevillanas. I am completing a full cycle… if that makes any sense. I was in Almeria 2 weeks ago and I had my measurements taken for a sevillana dress. It makes no difference if I am good or really bad at this sevillana business, one year from now, I will be “dancing” them with my new dress. Laura, you were great and very patient. Thank you.

Joel Cuando tenia 8 a 10 anos mi abuelo me llevaba a Las corridas de toros ,donde los becerritos eran mas pequenos que los toreros y aun Asi con la Capa salian corriendo y volando del ruedo. Desde entonces me gusta el flamenco. ~ Between the ages of eight to ten my grandma took me to bullfights where the calves were smaller than the bullfighters, and even with this, they went out running through the sand with their cape. From that moment on, I've loved flamenco.  

John Dimick I started off with a guitar in my crib. It was a little wind-up guitar. I still have a picture of the guitar and me from almost 60 years ago. The next step happened when I was 15. I found out that some girls really like guitar players. I started practicing with more seriousness. A mix of classical and flamenco from a guitar method book. At the same time, I looked through my mother’s record collection and found two recordings that made all the difference. One was by Jose Rey de la Torre, a famous classical guitarist. A very beautiful recording of Spanish classical music. Albeniz, Granados, Falla. The other was the milestone recording Flamenco Puro, by Sabicas. When I heard that, I couldn’t imagine how he was doing it and I wanted to find out. Over the next few years I slowly picked up little bits of flamenco guitar playing here and there. But I didn’t become a flamenco guitarist. I never accompanied dancers or singers. I was a classical soloist who was able to copy a few things from Sabicas. Not such a bad thing. Ten years went by. I was making a meager but enjoyable living as a guitarist and teacher. I even got to make a TV commercial promoting a Carlos Montoya concert. It involved playing a few Solea falsetas on camera. It was exciting for me. One night I heard there was to be a juerga at a hotel in town. It was one of the first meetings of the San Jose Flamenco Society, founded by Anita Sheer. At the juerga Anita invited me to play. I wasn’t about to try any flamenco with all those real flamenco types around, but I ventured to play Leyenda and Recuerdos de la Alhambra, two of the most famous Spanish pieces from the classical repertoire. It was a big hit and they asked me back many times. I think they thought of me as the “classical relief” — a nice change of mood partway through the show.. It worked out very well for me. I got to meet some terrific flamencos. I learned a lot. I picked up some good flamenco stories, too. I don’t play anymore, but I still love to listen and watch, but mostly just on Internet videos these days. I am subscribed to your RSS feed, so maybe I can arrange to be in Portland sometime when you are having an event. It seems like there ought to be a place in Portland where aficionados can just drop in for a quick fix. Years ago there used to be a little hole in the wall next to the Brasserie in downtown Portland just for that. They had tapas and sangria and guitarists, singers, and dancers at various times throughout the week. It was a great little place. I don’t remember the name of it, but I’d usually check in when I was in town and it was always fun. Someone should start another one!

Julie My very first experience with flamenco was when I was 14 on a student tour of Spain with my teacher and many other very young Americans. In Madrid, our guide offered to take a few of us to a tablao flamenco show one evening we had nothing else planned. As a ballet dancer myself, I jumped at the chance, even though I really had no idea what flamenco was. Unfortunately that was also my very first time trying sangria, so memories of the evening are cloudy at best, but I do remember that it seemed strange and powerful, and that it left a strong impression. My affinity for all things having to do with the Spanish speaking world eventually brought me back around to flamenco again many years later when, in the mid 1990′s my new husband and I went for dinner to Cafe Sol in Portland, where Rafaela de Cadiz and Victor were performing. I was entranced. We stayed until the performance ended, and I knew in my gut that this was the next thing I needed to learn. I introduced myself to Rafaela and began lessons the next week. Now, many years and two children later, flamenco is still the main passion in my life, coming only after my family and my vocation, teaching Spanish to teenagers. I continue to study and dance with Rafaela, but also began studying with Laura three years ago. The balance between the approaches, influences, and specific talents of these two inspiring women was just what I needed. I have learned so much in those three years, especially from Laura, but also from the many other flamencos I have had the pleasure to meet through Laura’s tireless work to “grow” the flamenco community in Portland. My flamenco life has been unquantifiably enriched by the time I have spent studying with Laura and in the company of other flamencos surrounding her. And…I can’t finish this “testimonial” without adding with true appreciation: Laura is a natural born teacher, warm, nurturing, challenging, observant, and dedicated!

Laura Castleberry I’ve always loved to dance and had been hearing a lot about Flamenco. I just happened upon a performance on TV and was totally swept away by the sounds of the castanets and the taps of the shoes hitting the floor, and the drama of it all. I thought ‘Wow! What a great way to release your emotions’. Shortly after this, I was at a picnic and one of my friends who had been taking classes with Laura showed us some of the steps she had learned and told us how much she loved the classes and flamenco. She gave me Laura’s phone number and I started classes right away. I quickly realized that it would be a long, long time before I advanced to castanets. But once you get the flamenco fever, it’s with you forever, castanets or no castanets. And it’s a definite bonus to have a teacher who is both passionate and encouraging.

Naomi I’m not really sure what happened. I think I saw a flamenco performance on TV. Somehow I wonder if I equated the stomping sounds with the sound of Linda Carter’s boots in the TV series Wonder Woman–really love that sound! As odd as that connection might seem at first, it ends up making sense. Wonder Woman was agile, passionate, and powerful. In those boots you could hear her coming and you might want to be on her side! (and seriously I LOVE that sound!) But really, that first performance that I saw moved me like no other art ever had or ever did again. (I can still hear the palmas and I don’t even know who it was.) I HAD TO DO THIS!! So, I looked for 3 years for a class that worked with my schedule. I learned that flamenco embodies the same qualities as Wonder Woman–passion, power, and agility. And when I am lucky enough to make it to a show, I am even more entranced than I was as a little girl watching my hero on TV. So I guess that connection isn’t so weird after all. …….and the sound of the shoes. I could write a 10 page essay on how I feel about it and still not be able to convey that adequately. So I guess the best way to say it: “Ole!”

Pat Coffey Great questions. I have no ready answers. Though I don’t know much about the music, its forms, its history, I’ve always felt an emotional connection with flamenco. My wife died last year. Since then I’ve been trying to deal with the darkness without either embracing it or running away from it, which is a fine and difficult dance in itself, and your classes seemed like something that might help me to do that. Zumba is shallow; salsa is too raucous; I can’t afford sailing or golf. Flamenco dance, with its potential for depth of expression, has possibilities, but the bleak truth is that my injured leg will probably be too much of an impediment. There is still singing and cajon, and, failing that, red wine. We shall see. Keep up the good work.

Robert (Bobito) I started out as a drummer in a rock n roll band in university, then switched to electric guitar. During travels in USAF I stopped at a family friend's place for a couple nights & he was taking flamenco guitar lessons - had a bunch of records (dating myself) - Carlos Montoya & Sabicas were about all you could get at the time. I was hooked. Started collecting Montoya & Sabicas, even Mario Escudero, while stationed in Korea. Bought an inexpensive classical guitar on the Ginza while on R&R - Yairi, now known for their Aria guitars, but I think I paid $12 for my first. As soon as I got discharged from the air farce, I moved with wife & first son to San Francisco & started taking lessons from Mariano Cordoba who used to be an accompanist for the Antonio dance company back into the 50's & early 60's. On & off lessons during the decades that followed, also studied classical guitar, bought an excellent Conde Bros flamenco which is still my constant companion after 40+ yrs. Washed up in the Portland area after living in Hawaii for over 20 yrs, found Julia Banzi, took lessons from her for a couple years, started accompanying in the Portland area - think I accompanied you a time or two at Frank Engel's garage studio, jammed with Yoshi whom I respect immensely. More lessons after age 60 in Sevilla with Ruben Romero, sometime accompanist at Jose Galvan's dance studios - one of a legion of talented young Sevillano guitarists who play like gods! Still living in Rome for the past 15 yrs where there is NO flamenco 'scene' but still practice regularly because, well, when it's in your blood, it's what you do. I hear good things about you & your efforts to foster continuing interest in this intricate & demanding discipline. Plz keep on keeping on! As Toshi would say: Ganbatte!

Stefani I take flamenco because of the people I get to meet and socialize with and travel with. It is great exercise for me that is not boring. Other classes are so repetitive that I give them up. Flamenco stretches my comfort level and pushes me to do things that I would not normally do. (ie-perform, take advance classes, sing, etc) I think that is good for a person and keeps them from getting old and set in their ways. I am totally addicted. I can’t ever imagine not being involved with flamenco because it has become such a big part of my life.

Val I just like dancing ( but never took lessons – until now), and I really love music. I love my Caribbean music, so my facial expressions come naturally; ……… and as for flamenco, I remember as a kid I would watch the Western or movies from Spain with women performing this beautiful dance and was always fascinated over that. I never knew it was called flamenco until I saw you perform at the Revels event which brought back childhood memories; plus your intensity of your performance stuck with me since; so maybe that has something to do with my facial expression in my flamenco piece although not intentionally done. I also play the guitar ( although I have not played in years) so I have a special love for pieces with string instruments.

Rosalina Our family was at a park in east Los Angeles and there was a Spanish dance group performing on the outdoor stage. The teacher, Lily Aguilar, announced that she gave free lessons. My small daughter wanted to take lessons. I would sit with the other mothers and watch and wished I could take lessons, all the students were young. After a few months my daughter didn't want to continue. I talked to Mrs Aguilar about taking lessons. As it turned out she had another class for older students and invited me to come. She taught Mexican folk dance and classical Spanish dance not flamenco. Loved learning. Eventually we moved Fresno ca. One day was passing the theater and saw that there was going to be a flamenco show, I didn't know what flamenco was. Well sat there and fell in love with flamenco, started taking lessons. Over the years have had several teachers, some good, some not so good. But my love of flamenco has has not diminished. I am now in my seventies and attribute the fact that my body is still flexible to flamenco practice. I have recently move to Whidbey Island, Wa, where there is no flamenco. Hope one day to go to one of your workshops. Love to read your writings. I've learned so much from you. Looking forward to your book.

Share your story here (long or short), and we'll happily add it to this page.