Going to Spain was something she'd always wanted to do.
But life kept getting in the way
And then one day she realized that life wasn't going to let up,
that the perfect moment wasn't going to arrive,
that the time to go to Spain to study flamenco was now.
She realized waiting any longer made no sense.
Below read Mariana's reflections on her two experiences studying flamenco in Jerez as a Flamenco Tour student.
A flamenco student in Jerez,
Reflections from FlamencoTour alumnus Mariana Gomez:
“Todos los deditos," I hear Mercedes’ deep husky voice saying in my head. We hold our arms parallel to the floor as we slowly work to stretch and train our muscles to get a full extension in our arms and hands. The searing burn in my shoulders is a pain I can’t forget, yet oddly it’s something I yearn for.
Going to Spain is something I’ve always wanted to do, but life never seemed to allow it to happen. Then, two years ago I decided that if I continued to wait for the “right” moment, it would never happen.
I had been taking Flamenco classes for two years on and off and I still considered myself a beginner. I definitely felt intimated by the prospect of going to study in Spain with the little knowledge I had. I sent Laura an email, and she assured me that all would be fine.
I arrived in Jerez on a warm sunny autumn evening. I was welcomed to our apartment by Laura and Stefani, neither of whom I’d met prior to this trip. They were so nice and welcoming. I immediately felt comfortable around them, and I knew then things were going to be okay.
Each day we had technique and alegrías class with Mercedes followed with bulerias class with Ani. Two polar opposites of technique and teaching styles, yet I learned so much from each. Mercedes’ methodical and structured style is exactly what I needed for when I felt lost. It gave me predictability and a framework that I could build on and see progress as the weeks went on. Ani’s teaching style relied more on feeling and being comfortable in the movements and with oneself. She helped me to see I that I could build confidence where I had none.
As the baby flamenco dancer of the group I felt embarrassed to dance in front of others and ashamed to ask questions. There were so many emotions I was struggling with: shame, fear and resentment, that the years I spent studying flamenco didn’t quite prepare me for this trip. It would have been very easy to give up, skip classes and spend my time exploring the city, but Stefani and Laura really did an amazing job ensuring that I didn’t give up, and I think it’s because Laura has been in that spot once before. In the evenings Laura and Stefani led “solidification” sessions where we reviewed the material learned earlier in the day. These were so critical in my ability to build confidence and the muscle memory I needed to not fall too far behind in class.
A year later I lay in bed with aching knees and feet from having spent several hours dancing and then afternoons exploring the cobble stone streets of Jerez. Despite struggling through classes on my first visit to Spain with Laura, I came back. The second time around the challenges are familiar and not so overwhelming. I focus more on my technique and spend less time worrying about my shortcomings. I enjoy the experience more and I am able to retain and learn more as my inner critic is less audible. And this year Mercedes’ voice repeats a new phrase in my head “pompis por dentro!"
Olé, tú, Mariana, thank you for sharing.
P.S. She even made the photo montage you see above highlighting some of her favorite moments.
Can you relate to Mariana's experience? Please leave a comment.