Thursday, April 12, 2012

"A Man Who Isolates Himself...."

There is a struggle within myself which has eased with the passing of time. I like to believe it has become a less strenuous battle because of the wisdom I've picked up along the way, but it could be that with age comes fatigue, and with fatigue comes a lack of desire to struggle and fight. All I know is I'm not too concerned with this internal conflict anymore.

I'm now convinced (for the most part) - there is no "I" in flamenco. With all my preaching about flamenco as a communal art form.....I think I am starting to actually believe it. It only took thousands of hours in an empty studio with a drum machine or ipod to start the thought process. Maybe you really DO need others to do flamenco. Perhaps it does make sense to focus more on fostering growth in others than in myself. It could be that ultimately, it's more to my credit to put out solid dancers and musicians than to throw my name up on a marquee or my face upon a poster.

This will, no doubt, be our least popular blog entry. I do want to be clear however, I'm not pointing the finger at anyone. I've just come to realize that flamenco can be a very lonely world unto itself if we don't reach outward. We cannot own flamenco, or hide it in a corner, or bury it under the porch. It has to be given freely to those who respectfully seek it out. I believe what singer/dancer Paco Valdepenas quipped in Tao Ruspoli's film, Flamenco: A Personal Journey, "Flamenco is one person singing and one person receiving it.....and the two have understood each other, and there is nothing else..... ." If we take away that which is at the very core of flamenco, expression from one human being to another, we lose it all.

And now, let me begin the process of alienating my American readers. We, in this country have it backwards, you see. We see the opportunities to gain from flamenco and we start marketing ourselves before we can even put on our shoes, tune our guitar properly, or sing a letra of tangos. I know all this because, while I've never been one to adamantly seek the spotlight, I've always sought personal growth and gave nothing in return. It was a one-way relationship with flamenco. It took walking a far distance along that selfish path to realize there was no prize in sight. It was just an illusion, and this ended up being an unfulfilling journey.

But there's a different, more narrow path - one that doesn't dangle a picture of fame or money in front of you to keep you moving, but instead, offers a refreshing drink of water, a cool breeze, and the company of genuinely beautiful people. Along this path, you come to the realization that once you take the focus off the self, there are amazing things happening all around you. Suddenly participation in the process of teaching and learning, itself is the reward for one's travels. The ecstasy of being one part of a group that comprises a single flamenco entity is something that cannot be rivaled by an artistic breakthrough or a well-received solo performance. Along this path, as with the selfish one, there is also no end in sight, but I don't mind at all.

Now I don't want to give the impression that I expect to be commended for coming to these conclusions. In reality, there are people all over the world who grasp this idea during their very first flamenco lesson or their accidental exposure to a spontaneous juerga in some one's backyard. What I'm saying is, if a mule like myself can understand this truth, there is hope for us all.

Take my advice, for what it's worth. I have plenty more to learn, sure, but I've stumbled upon some great things, much like the senior citizen who hits the lottery. To understand flamenco as an intimate exchange, in its truest form, is freeing, and you'll sleep better at night. I wish success to all those who love flamenco and dedicate themselves to studying and teaching this art form.

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