Thinking about that first trip to Spain in 1998 has reminded me that I need to step it up in the doing things that scare the *#%~&> out of me category. Read on for a lesson around that idea and more of my story from that first trip. Also, find out why it's essential to listen to flamenco music, read a letra about Sevilla, then see a video of Juana la del Revuelo, Aurora Vargas, and Remedios Amaya ...

View of Sevilla from the top of the Giralda

During my time in Sevilla I saw these women perform live. As you'll see from the video below, it was wonderful. Their CDs were among some of the first I purchased once I accepted the fact that I needed to start listening to flamenco music. You see, in the beginning I wasn't very interested in listening to the music, especially cante, unless I was dancing, but Chris convinced me to start listening. He said I needed to do this to understand and internalize the compás.

Chris and I met at the gym in Sevilla.

I know.

I joined the gym because I had been enjoying too many Spanish treats and felt I needed to exercise to compensate. Yes, dancing more would have perhaps made better sense, but I didn't feel my brain, or emotional state, could handle any more flamenco. (Plus they had yoga classes at the gym.) Chris was there because he was (and still is) a workout guy. We both lived pretty far from the center of Sevilla, each in a high rise apartment in a part of town where you rarely saw any Americans.

One day the owner of the gym asked me what I was doing in Spain, and I told her I was there to study flamenco. She got excited and told me about another American who worked out there and who was studying flamenco guitar. She said that I should meet him.  

I did not want to meet him.

I did not want to meet other Americans. I wanted to meet Spanish people. (I quickly came to realize that it was pretty silly to close myself off in such a way and that a cultural experience was unavoidable no matter what.) 

Anyway, she was so nice and friendly and excited, and she really wanted me to meet him.

So I did.

Chris and I had two things in common. We were both Americans uninterested in meeting other Americans, and we were both in Sevilla for flamenco.

Chris knew a lot about flamenco. 

The Puente de Triana and the Río Guadalquivir at sunset

He was a dedicated and serious student and already a professional musician in the states.

And he was nice.  

When I told him that my flamenco studies consisted of two hours of class per week he told me about Georgia. 

"You have to meet Georgia. You’ll love her, and she’s an amazing teacher," he told me.

Georgia was Miguel’s wife. Miguel was Chris’s guitar teacher. He said that she was an incredible flamenco dancer, originally from Brazil, and that she danced in Juana Amaya's company. I had no idea who Juana Amaya was. Chris told me that she was super famous.

So I met Gerogia. And he was right. I loved her! She was so kind and open and warm and friendly. She was a beautiful person. I knew I would love taking classes from her. Finally, a teacher I didn't feel afraid of.

I began with one class, but quickly found myself in a bunch of her classes. I even started renting the studio to practice on my own. So I danced with Georgia, and I danced with Ana. (And later I added in classes with Matilde.)

Chris helped me a lot.

We started taking palmas classes together with Miguel. Because apparently this compás thing was very important. We had class in his apartment. We would laugh and laugh and LAUGH in class. The place was small, and sometimes we had to have class in the bedroom, on the bed. Palmas class with Chris and Miguel was by far my favorite class.

The Torre del Oro and the Río Guadalquivir at sunset

Chris and I would get together and practice too. I was always rushing the compás.

He was in disbelief about my very sparse collection of flamenco music and my lack of knowledge of the artists. But I wasn't that into the music. I liked the dancing. I liked the emotion and the movements and the rhythms. Was it really that important for me to listen to the music? Chris insisted that it was, and I felt pretty stupid about how little I knew and about how little effort I was putting in to learning more.

So I began listening to the music that I didn't think I liked all that much.

And soon I started loving it.

I started craving it.

The guitar, the compás, even the cante,

Listening is essential for any flamenco student.

(It is also addictive.) 

Listening to flamenco music helps you: 

Plus, it offers inspiration

The Bigger Lesson

I was so isolated those first couple of months in Sevilla. Sure I'd found a roommate (she was from Sevilla), had made a few friends, was teaching English classes while I looked for other work, and was taking some flamenco classes, but I was stuck in overwhelm and fear and feeling very lonely. 

I needed to put myself out there.

Once I did, things began to change. In both my personal and dance life. I started to feel like part of a community. I was able to find a good job and a new living situation closer to my classes. I started to really have fun. Learning became easier, and I felt driven to study more because I wanted to. Not because I was supposed to. 

Get out there.

Talk to people. Ask questions. Open yourself up to possibilities your mind can't conceive of. Try things. Even when you don't know where they'll lead and even when you feel afraid. Give something a chance rather than hanging on to your own assumption that it won't work out or that you won't like it or that something bad will happen.

Often when we feel fear, that's the most important time to act. It indicates that we're getting ready to take something to the next level. It's supposed to be scary. 

So, take action, any action. It will lead you to your next step,

Just get out of your head and DO!


And Now, the Letra,

From Sevilla es de Chocolate (Tangos)
Martín Jiménez (Revuelo)

Soñé que Sevilla es de chocolate
y que la Giralda es de piñonate
La Torre del Oro es de caramelo
Y el Guadalquivir es anis del bueno

I dreamt that Sevilla was made of chocolate
and the Giralda of candied pine nuts
The Torre del Oro made of caramel
And the Guadalquivir of the best anisette

Hear Juana la del Revuelo (who passed away last June) sing it below in Carlos Saura's Flamenco. This song was written by her husband, Martín Revuelo (who passed away in 2012). The video is set to start at today's letra, but I definitely recommend watching it all to see Remedios Amaya and Aurora Vargas too. 

You can also hear this letra five minutes in. 

What Are You Not Doing That You Want to Be Doing?

What are you not doing that you want to be doing? What are you not doing that you think about all the time but that scares you? Can you think of a time you put yourself out there? What did it do for you? Let me know in the comments below.