I love flamenco. No seriously, I love it. I wish there were more specific words to describe my "love" for it. I don't want to mislead anyone by giving the impression that I put it on par with my family or my God; by no means do I mean to suggest that it even compares. I wouldn't even say that flamenco is my friend. I just mean to say that it has become the way in which I communicate with the world.
As a teacher of flamenco baile, it fascinates me to ponder what others see and hear when taking class or watching a show. What does flamenco mean to them? Is it a temporary love affair or are they hooked? Some people wear their reasons on their sleeve while others keep it guarded under a thinly veiled surface. I see lost people alongside extroverts. I see myself in all of them.
It's for this reason I believe it's important to quietly observe. We can learn a lot about ourselves by watching others. It's not an easy thing to do when we're so engaged in the moment, yielding to the senses in order to learn from or to savor the experience at hand. It's easy to forget that there are others next to you when we've been lulled into a sense of intimacy that flamenco can create. I recommend peeling the eyes away for brief moments, just to see the expressions on the faces next to you. One may be surprised by what they see.
I've seen flamencos doing this before; at times observing and at others outright staring, not at the performance, but at other observers. They rest their heads back a bit, squinting the eyes or raising an eyebrow with a not-so-subtle hint of skepticism, as if to say, "Do they really get it?" It gives one the feeling of being sized-up, and for good reason. This is not necessarily the type of observation I'm speaking of, though it has its place too.
An opposite approach exists, and can also be useful; we can gain a lot from observing flamencos in the crowd. If there are high-level artists in the audience for example, I can't help but pay attention to how they react to what's on stage. It's as though I'm in class, learning from my teacher. It can be inspiring to see someone you revere become inspired themselves. It can be equally dangerous however, because we can fall into the trap of not judging for ourselves what we like and dislike.
I'm not so bothered by judging, by the way. We all do it. There's no escaping it. We can control how we choose to treat other people, but we all have emotional attachments to flamenco. We experience love, jealousy, envy, sorrow, joy....the entire gamut of the spectrum, and these feelings do a lot to shape our perspectives about both the art and the artist. After all, aren't we tricked into thinking we know more than we actually do about the person by what we see of them on the stage or in the classroom? At any rate, as is true with many things, our views change as we mature, both as people and as artists. This maturity is what eventually enables us to know honestly what we enjoy (or not) in flamenco.
It may seem like I've made things more complicated than they need to be, and maybe I have. There are those out there who can just walk into the studio or the theater and be in the moment, without giving much attention to anything outside the simplicity of the event; I, myself, can be that person. It just seems to me that if someone loves what they do, they pay homage to their art by giving it thoughtful consideration. This has been my homage to art and the artist.
by Jason Martinez