There was a moment in Carlisle 116 last week when I felt something very different. I wish it could have lasted longer than a moment, but I’m grateful for it anyhow. It occurred to me, as I moved and breathed and perspired with dozens of other dancers, that I actually spend a whole lot of time alone when it comes to flamenco. Being in workshops in this studio for six days was a sharp contrast to that. In a moment of realization I could see all of us moving together in the mirror. Eyes, arms, shoulders, hips, feet: synchronized. For the first time in a long time, I could see something beautiful in that mirror.
This year was my 22nd attendance at the annual Festival Flamenco Internacional de Alburquerque. I have to be honest - doing flamenco hasn’t gotten any easier after all those years. In many ways, it is harder. This year I found myself struggling to “stay in the room.” I didn’t like the way my body worked, I was discouraged by how slow I learned, and I didn’t like being away from my kids and my husband. Most of the time I felt alone, even surrounded by the hundreds of people in attendance of workshops and performances, many of them dear friends.
The last evening performance, Fiesta Flamenca, closed with one of my favorite flamenco artists in the world – Juana Amaya. She was not the youngest or strongest dancer at the festival this year. She doesn’t enjoy the same popularity as some others. Her shoes were not the shiniest. She was the only mother on the stage, and in fact, the only grandmother. And maybe all that has something to do with why she was the one to move the audience to tears, to joy, to goose bumps and oles and why she was meant to close the festival... she was the best. It is hard to argue otherwise. And aside from that moment of connection I felt in Carlisle 116, what I felt when Juana danced was the highlight of the festival for me. Because of her, I know that I can keep practicing this art even when I’m not sure I belong in it. When I'm tired. When I'm making the mistake of comparing myself to everyone else. When I come home to crying babies. When I think there are not enough hours in the day to do this. Juana is proof that flamenco is for people like me.
Many thanks to Eva Encinias for creating and growing this festival, now headed into its 30th year. She is a mother, a grandmother, and a creator of beautiful things in New Mexico. Eva, thank you for “staying in the room.” Like so many others who spent last week in that room, I’m home now but more inspired to press forward, to grow, and to watch myself move again among those who dare to look in the mirror.