This winter, as we meet for our weekly Flamenco class, it’s not drifting snow that contrasts so dramatically with the brilliance of Spanish dance, and the Seville oranges I bought last week for marmalade – but rain. Bleak, monotone mornings, dark puddles in the fields, and sandbags against the door of the Parish Rooms, as water swirls down the gutter. Here we are, a year later, still attempting to master the foot rhythms that Jose makes ever more complex. ‘Practise, practise,’ he says, in his fierce way, ‘it’s only then you get better.’ He reminds me of the imperious Martha Graham, with her extraordinary headpiece, in her film A Dancers World. As young dance students, we hung on her every word.
But somehow the Passodoble we’re learning, complete with shawl, fan and hat, is reminiscent of a simplified version of Frederick Ashton’s Façade (here's his tango) more English cabaret, than Flamenco. Such gaiety! It’s guaranteed to make us smile, even as we get tangled in our shawls, or drop our fans. And because I have no Sombrero, I dance with a Panama – as long as there’s something to whip on and off my head, and twirl round my body.
At home, glancing through the window as I teach class, I spot a Tree Creeper, tiny, white-breasted bird, rodent-like, circling the trunk of the apple tree, as it climbs. Before I can stop myself, I’ve told my class, so everyone crowds to the window to watch for a moment.
Later, working on my novel about dance in Holland during the war, I’m preoccupied with a sense of responsibility – how to write sensitively about the horrors of Nazi Occupation – and whether I have the right to tackle such a subject? And above all how can I convey the power of dance and music, as antidote to despair?
Today the snow has come at last, and I look out at the blizzard over the orchard and wonder if I’ll manage to get to London tomorrow – or indeed to class later on today.
Winter rushes on – so many images, sounds, sensations, even in the space of an hour. And dance - like a thread of brightness – that holds me, and everything, together.
Tricia Durdey dances, writes, and teaches Pilates.