It's heating up around here, in more ways than one. Sure, this week the all-time heat record for downtown L.A. was set at 113 degrees (this was before the official thermometer broke), but just a few days earlier, the sounds of Latin music had things really steaming on the L.A. Music Center Plaza.
In celebration of Latino Heritage Month, the Music Center's Active Arts program presented A Taste of Dance on Saturday. The hot dance sounds of mambo, rhumba, afro-Brazilian, among others, could be heard throughout the day. But the genre that really got my juices flowing was FLAMENCO.
We're gearing up for our trip to Spain--reading, planning, making reservations, all of which seems a bit abstract. But a brief flamenco lesson, from a professional flamenco dancer, and teacher suddenly makes it more real.
Our teacher, Linda "La Matadora" Andrade, dressed in gypsy garb and full of inspiring attitude, encouraged us to "stand erect, chest out, show some pride," and then introduced us to one of flamenco's simpler rhythms, the rumba flamenca. She talked of the energy of "palmas," rhythmic hand-clapping, and spontaneous and heartfelt shouts of encouragement--Olé, a gypsy's equivalent of "bravo."
She also told us of the centuries of migrating gypsies, who much like the American blues singer and the Argentine tango
dancer, came to express their souls in their art form. If everything clicks and you're in the groove, when you're feeling the vibe deep in your soul, then you're said to have "duende," she said. Then she got us moving... some of us only moderately "deep in our souls."
To recorded music, she had us clapping hands held high, clicking heels, and turning as we gyrate hips, our arms snaking to the sky.
Finally, she placed us in a circle to create our own version of the gypsy jam session, a " juerga," clapping and clicking heels and shouting olés of encouragement to the brave souls who dared show their stuff in the center.
"Matadora" is Spanish for female bullfighter, but the term is derived from the word "matar," to kill, which is what a matadora does to the bull at the end of the elaborate display of gore and grace we know as the bullfight. Just between you and me, I doubt that Linda "La Matadora" Andrade has ever killed a bull, but I do know from direct observation, that she is a killer flamenco dancer and teacher. She also has a killer Web site and Blog.
And she inspired this old gringo to pack his laptop in order to be able to blog from Spain--to make the trip a sort of pilgrimage where engaged creativity trumps detached connoisseurship.
More about this later.
(Click on "Active Arts" and "Spain" labels for related posts.)