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Gap Year Abroad

2 posts categorized "Music"

02/20/2014

Flamenco y Sevillanas: Golpes, Tacones, y Pasadas

When I told people I was studying in Seville for a semester, many people reacted by telling me "You have to take flamenco or sevillanas classes!"  As a result, one of my first goals when I got here was to find a dance studio.  Flamenco is a pretty stereotypical part of the Spanish culture, and there are flamenco tablaos all throughout Spain.  However, it originated in Andalusia and is not a typical part of the Spanish culture as a whole.  The three main components of it are the singing, the guitar playing, and the dance.  The dancing part is not required, and many times it just involves the guitar playing and singing.  Sevillanas, as the name suggests, is a typical folklore dance and style of singing from Seville. It is usually danced in pairs and during the Feria in Seville.  As far as the relationship between the two styles of dance, some say that sevillanas is a part of flamenco and others say that they are different due to the folklore aspect of sevillanas. 

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Through CIEE, I was able to find a dance studio with a beginner's course in both flamenco and sevillanas that meets once a week.  So far, I have had two classes, and it is a small class with four girls total. We start the class with some warm ups that involve flamenco footwork and arms. The footwork requires a lot of golpes (or stomps) and toe-heel work.  Right now, we are still learning the basics, but each week, we will add new, more complicated exercises.  A few years ago, I went to a flamenco class with a friend of mine.  In the beginning, I was able to keep up, but later on, the steps and rhythms got so intricate and fast that it became impossible.  It will definitely be interesting to see the progression in the coming weeks.  We also have to work on getting used to the arm, wrist, and finger movements as they are major parts of the expression of the dance.  Afterwards, we have been working on learning the basic steps that comprise the sevillanas (pasos y pasadas), and by next week, we should have learned all the footwork for a typical sevillanas dance. 

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My dance teacher and I

Over the holidays, my family and I went to a flamenco tablao in Madrid, and I was in awe of the performance, especially the dancers.  There was so much energy and passion in their movements, and they made the most difficult steps seem easy.  I was amazed that they were able to keep dancing for two hours with this intensity.  I also loved the music they were interpreting.  Although I was already planning on finding a dance studio in Seville, seeing this performance definitely solidified my decision.  I have yet to see another flamenco performance in Seville, which is surprising, especially since I live in Triana, but this will definitely change soon.  With the many bars that host free performances and my personal experience learning this dance, there is no way I can leave Seville without seeing one.  

10/13/2013

Uno dos tres, cinco seis siete, GIRA!

It's hard enough getting up the courage to do new things in my own city, let alone here in Spain. It's much easier to follow a routine than it is to break out and explore options. I could very easily go to school every day, come home, stay in my room until dinner and go to bed at 10:30 every night. It would actually be much easier and I wouldn't be so tired all of the time! Instead, I've tried really hard to do things that scare me.

One of the things I have done is I have gone to a Spanish dance class/ language exchange night! My mom ballroom dances and I went to one of her competitions back in Georgia. While I was there I watched my mom dance beautifully and fly across the dance floor with her partner. I was so envious! One of her teachers took me onto the floor and showed me basic steps to whatever song was on and I wanted to know more!

This dance class in Sevilla seemed like a perfect opportunity to start a new hobby. I went with the other American girls in my program to a bar near my home where a dance teacher showed us all, and about 40 others, how to dance the Bachata. It was so much fun! I learned verb "to turn", "girar", and I danced with many different girls and guys (there are always more girls than guys at these kinds of things). The teacher called out the steps in Spanish, which made distinguishing my right from left even harder than when I hear them in English! She called out the beats and when to turn, which steps to use, and when to change partners. I got to talk in Spanish a lot, mostly introducing myself to my new dance partner. It was fun to laugh and mess up the dance, but even more fun when I danced with a guy who knew what he was doing and we danced the combination perfectly.

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(I'm in the red dress)

After this, I knew I wanted to dance more. I went the next week, even though most of my friends did not, and I learned a combination of Salsa. The combination was much harder than Bachata but also much more exhilarating.

I remembered that our program director told us she’d help us find hobbies while we are here, so I asked for a place where I can take ballroom dance classes for real in Sevilla. I'd love to be able to dance flamenco and waltz and salsa and bachata and paso doble and basically all of the dances.

I found a studio near my home and so far, I've been too scared to go in and sign up. If there's ever a time to try new things, it's now. Tomorrow I will sign up for classes and become a ballroom dancer in Sevilla, Spain! 

Screen shot 2013-10-13 at 3.41.52 PM

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