Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Students, You Will Change

I don't believe there is a point in one's flamenco journey when one has "arrived." We have breakthroughs, epiphanies, and growth spurts, but there is no end when it comes to learning. We are all students from the time we discover flamenco and decide to pursue it.

The idea of being a student is far more complex than we often realize. Being in front of an instructor and doing what they tell us is just one part of something bigger. For example, our beliefs and attitudes inside and outside the classroom greatly affect what we gain from our studies. Adjusting to who is teaching and what is being taught is another skill that ensures we take away something lasting and meaningful from the experience.

Suppose I find myself in a class with an instructor whose methods and style don't feel comfortable. Should I determine that it's a waste of my time to be there, or should I do my best to understand the instructor and their material? What if I can't see a scenario where I'm using the material they've given me?

Perhaps the best approach is to assume there is something beneficial in the process that will manifest itself in some form in the not-so-immediate future. A slight difference in the way one does something may produce big changes down the line. Perhaps the change won't be big, but significant nonetheless.

I get it. We all desire to develop our own "voice" as artists. What we never seem to realize, however, is that this will happen whether or not we consciously pursue it. However we interpret information we're given determines what our voice ends up looking and sounding like. Often times, it is our resistance to change that causes us to stagnate as artists. In the end, maybe our biggest apprehension is that we'll change in some unplanned, unforeseen way, and we don't like the idea that we're not in control.

As students, it seems our biggest challenge is accepting change because it threatens our own concepts of self identity. If I don't fear change, however, I will inevitably grow in a way that is unique (and unavoidable). While it's important to understand and recognize our voices as they currently are, it's just as important to realize that, like it or not, they will change in some way. Wouldn't it be better to welcome in the change and enjoy it for what it is?

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Chasing That Which Cannot Remain

   The high one gets from putting on a good flamenco show only lasts about a day or two.  The Facebook and Instagram followup media helps it linger a bit longer, but life goes on and it's on to the next thing.
  Knowing how quickly these moments fade, I often wonder what the point of putting so much blood, sweat and tears into a performance really is.  A painter or recording artist has a finished product at the end of the day, but there is something about a shared flamenco moment that isn't meant to live on beyond the memories of those present.  Maybe that's why a given performance is special.  But we do seem to want to preserve these experiences.
  I have to admit, I study videos of performances on YouTube pretty often.  The first view is always the most exciting and impactful, but each subsequent view becomes more of a learning experience than a moment of enjoyment. There is something less palpable in a videoed performance, something I can't quite explain.  Perhaps it's akin to receiving a gift in the mail rather than face-to-face from a smiling loved one.  But its more than that.
  The live performance puts you there in the emotional space filled by artists provoking and inspiring each other to reveal their inner secrets and turmoil.  To label it "intimacy" is to risk using the cheesiest of cliches, but we lack a better word to describe it, and so it will have to do.  Some flamencos reveal their visceral selves from the moment they step in front of an audience, while others take their time observing, processing, and eventually trusting onlookers enough to honestly express themselves.  Each style provides a unique type of satisfaction, and sometimes the feeling can be recalled long after the performance is over.
  Years after the fact, one may ask an aficionado what it was that made their favorite show so good.  One is unlikely to get a clear answer.  How can we freeze a moment like a snapshot and do justice in describing what it was that broke our hearts or made them soar?  Surely it wasn't a single sound or visual, or combination of the two.  It must have been the way we became lost in the moment and did not desire to come back.  But we always come back.....and desire to get lost again.     

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Retirement, Restructuring, and Return

There are times in our lives when our desires and needs do not harmonize, no matter how much time we spend trying.  In fact, it may be a mistake to suppose that they would.  Sometimes we believe we can organize our lives to the degree that everything works together like a well-oiled machine, but life doesn't seem to have gotten that memo.

I walked away from performing flamenco almost three years ago.  It became clear at that time that in order to provide for my family (including home ownership), I had to focus my time and energy on developing a career that provided steady income.  I returned to school and obtained an MA in Communication.  All the while, I'd been working a good, steady job at a social services agency.

As I rode the high of my new accomplishments, I received some unexpected news.  My department was undergoing "restructuring" and my position would be discontinued.  Suddenly, the security of what I'd been pursuing for several years seemed to have hit a big roadblock.

One of the only things I could think of to generate a little income in the meantime was, you guessed it, flamenco gigging.  With the help of a dear friend and fellow dancer, I have been back in the thick of performing for a few weeks now.  It proved to be a case of the proverbial "getting back on a bicycle."  Things went fairly smoothly my first performance back.  I attribute this to my never having ceased dancing around in my living room when the urge came on.

My take away from these experiences has been this: we are not what we do at any given time.  I never ceased to be a flamenco even as I removed that distinction from all my social media and professional profiles.  These identifiers serve merely to communicate with whatever audience happens to be in front of us at the time.  As life (and the job market) is uncertain, I cannot be sure how long I will be interacting with this current audience, but I'm enjoying it while it lasts.