My bucket list for my stay in Barcelona included eating tapas, drinking vermouth, visiting everything Gaudí-related and dancing flamenco. I cannot really dance in any coordinated manner but I knew I had to at least try flamenco at some point while in Spain.
I wanted to experience it first-hand. In my mind, I had always pictured Spanish women in dark dresses and flowers in their hair stomping and flicking their wrists. I wanted to know if that is just what we see in movies and TV, or if it was really like that in reality. So when I had the chance to take Spanish & Flamenco program with a flamenco class at a real dance studio with locals, I jumped at the opportunity.
The History of Flamenco
I met Marta, the flamenco teacher, at the studio on a Friday morning a few minutes before the beginner class started. She greeted me with a kiss on each cheek and gave me a short explanation about flamenco. She explained that the dance originated in the region of Andalusia but in the 1970’s about a million Andalusians migrated to Catalunya looking for work and bringing their customs with them. Flamenco was originally danced in the patios of homes, but now can be seen at festivals and events, on the street and as theatrical performances. I could only picture female flamenco dancers so I asked if men also dance flamenco. Marta laughed and said “¡Por supuesto!” She explained they have slightly different steps but nowadays gender is not as strict in terms of how people dance flamenco. She herself, for instance, has a very masculine flamenco style.
Flamenco Class in Barcelona
The class consisted of 10 Spanish women from 25 to 50 years-old all in long black skirts and heels perfect for stomping. I was the only foreigner, the only male and dressed in sneakers and jeans. I loved it already.
We started out standing in a circle practicing different beats by clapping and stopping followed by a warm-up of arm and wrist movements. Little did I know that we would be moving our wrists for virtually the entire class so it would be necessary to make sure the muscles were properly warmed up.
Marta would then lead the group in a series of steps, counting out the beat loudly along with the music. We twirled our arms and wrists, we stomped, we clapped and spun in circles, following Marta’s lead in the mirror. She would occasionally correct me by telling me to keep my head up, my chest out, my shoulders down or to lead with my elbows. I had no idea what I was doing but I felt completely comfortable messing up.
We were all having fun and laughing and I was glad to see that the others were not much more advanced than me. The culmination of the class was learning a serious of choreographed steps altogether. Only in the last few minutes were we all able to complete the series together without any mistakes and we clapped and cheered at the end. By then I felt like I had gone to the gym as I was sweaty and breathing hard.
I was a bit sad to take just one class as it would be fun to improve my form and maybe develop a new hobby. I will be pulling out my flamenco skills at future parties, weddings, and other social gatherings.
For anyone interested in dancing flamenco, I would say do it without hesitation. You do not need to be a dancer or be especially coordinated to take a beginner class. I loved the flamenco class in Barcelona and I did exactly what I had wanted – experience real flamenco with locals.
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