Last week our Flamenco teacher announced that he’d no longer be teaching us from the end of June. We’ve worked with him for over a year and it’s been a wonderful experience - rigorous, insightful, great fun, and a privilege we’ve all valued hugely.
He arrived in Derbyshire in September 2011 without knowing a word of English, and ended up staying through two of the worst winters in years, and making a living teaching dance all over the county –and seems to be staying for the foreseeable future. We all sympathised with the fact that he felt burnt out, struggling with too many classes, a new language and endless snow. It was understandable that he needed a break, but nevertheless we were all upset.
Yesterday we heard that he’d relented – at least for now. He hadn’t realised how much we all liked his class!
In the pub we found ourselves talking about what it was exactly that we’d miss without our weekly Flamenco. Several things; the opportunity to learn from someone who’s grown up with it, lived and breathed it all his life; he’s beautiful to watch as he dances; we’ve all worked hard and achieved a lot over the months, and he’s an excellent teacher. For at least two of us there was something else – the discipline of his approach. Here we are – a small group of middle aged women ranging from those trained in dance to those
with very little dance experience. But every week we are treated as if we are dancers, not just a group of women coming out to have a fun Flamenco class. In that hour and a half we work with discipline, attention to detail, and rigour. We are expected to take and apply corrections and act professionally.
It’s this that I love and value so much. It doesn’t matter that I have no hope of achieving a professional standard - the teaching is professional in every way, the demands the same, and that gives me a huge sense of something accomplished. There’s a commitment to the form. I’ve discovered that it’s rare to find amongst teachers of many dance classes I’ve attended.
We also talked about how hard it is for our teacher as a professional dancer, finding himself far away from his culture and his equals in Flamenco. As a dancer he feels he’s expected to devote his whole life to his discipline – how impossible that is in rural Derbyshire. Should he then give up rather than compromise? I can appreciate that point of view, but at the same time I’m irritated. If I can’t become a monk should I stop praying altogether! The luxury to devote life to art is a privilege bestowed on very few people. Does it have to be all or nothing?
What feels vital and essential is that for a short time every week we can devote ourselves to Flamenco - we can work with rigour and discipline and taste something of that world. There is always more to learn and
to accomplish, for everyone, in any form.
Tricia Durdey dances, writes, and teaches Pilates.