My son, future dancer

One of my goals as a parent is not to impose my own desires on my child. I’ve seen it happen too often that parents try to live out their unfulfilled dreams through their children, usually to the frustration of those children. The trick is: what’s the line between trying to revive a lost cause through your kid and just sharing your passions and hobbies with them?

I’m starting to realise the extent to which this is true since, spending a lot of time with my baby, I keep imagining possible futures for him. And unlike those moms who imagine their kids becoming doctors or athletes or lawyers or other important muckymucks, I’ve become convinced that my son has the right build to be a dancer. He has these beautiful, slender legs that I’m convinced will be long, he’s strong and seems to want to stand on his own despite his six weeks (tomorrow), and when feeding, sleeping, or just hanging out, his hands will fall into the most graceful shapes. For an example, see picture.

It’s not that I want or expect him to become a professional dancer, but I like the idea that he will enjoy dancing. The truth is though, even this quite basic and understandable desire is about me. You see, music and his reaction to it gave me one of the most important moments of joy, of connection as a mother, in the last few weeks.

Back track a few months. Baby — just a fetus at the time — was starting to respond to sounds and music outside the womb. My husband and I were watching Fatih Akin’s documentary of Istanbul music, Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul. I was lying on the couch, and my husband had his hand on my belly, feeling the occasional shifts and movements. Late in the movie, there’s a scene on the outskirts of Istanbul, in a bar filled with Romani musicians. The musicians are well sauced, and the music is frenetic. One of the Roma interviewed talks about the spirit of the music, how in hearing it, you simply have to get up to dance. When classical Turkish music is played, he says, people just sit and watch.

All the time, the song is rising in a crescendo, the baby is moving like mad, and when the final beat strikes, he gives a good, solid kick in perfect time! My husband and I both feel it and look at each other in amazement. This only grows in the next scene, a short of classical Turkish music — true to form, the baby stopped moving immediately and stayed still for the rest of the movie.

We joked many times later that he liked gypsy music. In fact, as a fetus, he tended to react to fast dance music in general. Fast forward to five weeks after birth. I am tired from interrupted nights and what feels like constant feedings. I am gradually growing in love with this beautiful little creature, but I don’t quite know what to do with him yet. Newborns aren’t very interactive, after all. And then, one day when I’m feeling down, I remember the music he liked in the womb.

So I get the iPod that usually plays rain sounds all night, search for some “gypsy” music, and play it for him while he lies on the bed. We listened to Romanian and to Flamenco music, and his little arms and legs flew in every direction. Sometimes I guided his movements, sometimes I let him just react to it on his own. And can I add that random baby flails sometimes look like flamenco arms? Just sayin’.

Maybe he was reacting to the music, grooving in his own baby way. Maybe he had no clue what was going on. I never can tell with him. But it was a real moment of connection for me, reminding me that the little boy who now runs my life was once in my womb, dancing in time to the beats outside.


Review: Puela Lunaris’ Flamenco: You can do it! Sevillanas

I became interested in Puela Lunaris’s DVDs through World Dance New York, which is better known for its bellydance instructional videos. And while Lunaris has done work on the Zambra (the style of flamenco most closely associated with oriental dance) it is important to note that Flamenco: You Can Do It! – Sevillanas has nothing whatsoever to do with bellydance. In fact, the sevillanas are not even flamenco. They are an old, very strictly structured Spanish social dance which is sometimes performed in flamenco shows, but is also done socially in Spain. This DVD not only introduces the dance, but does an excellent job at showing how it can be performed alone, in a pair in a relaxed, social manner, and in a more showy performance style with fans.

The good:

As much as I generally do not like choreographies, this is the dance for them, since every sevillana is the same. The first choreo section is an extremely lengthy breakdown of all the movements necessary for all four sections of the sevillana dance. Lunaris is painstaking in demonstrating the steps, repeating them many times over, and then adding arms. There is instruction on posture, arm movement and placement, arm variations, the different styles of hand floreos.

Lunaris often also shows variations that can be introduced, not in the steps per se, but in the upper body styling or arm movements. This is where the dancer can express his or her individuality, since the steps are fixed. She also briefly describes how men’s arm and handwork differs from women’s.

In the second choreography, Lunaris has mini workshops on fanwork and on dancing with a partner, and runs through the entire choreography again using the fan. She uses her partner to show not only how dancers move around each other during the sevillana, but also more stylistic variations.

It should be clear by now that this DVD is a treasure, an absolute treasure. I am currently taking beginner flamenco classes and learning the sevillana as part of these. They are quite complicated, at least at first, and any online reference material has not been very good at explaining the dance part of it. To have a DVD at this price not only run down the entire choreography but also show variations is truly exquisite. The two performances at the end are an extra treat.

The bad:

As well-organized as WDNY DVDs generally are, I find myself wishing for more, especially when it comes to Lunaris’ videos. The current organization allows you to watch a demonstration at full-speed with music, then have a lengthy breakdown, then have choreography and practice with music. This is great, but it bothers me that some of the basics of the dance, like how to do floreos for example, are hidden away in a long choreography, with no way to guess at where they might be. There should be an easy way to jump to the descriptions of a few basic techniques, if not have them in a different section altogether.

More specifically to this DVD, since the sevillana is such a repetitive dance, all of the instruction would make much more sense if the dance were broken down in table form and available as a screen or even for printing. It would make the choreography much easier to learn.

How to use this video:

First, watch the first choreography all the way through. Just watch it. Watch the performances to see how it all fits together. Then start doing it, but take it slowly. In a normal class, this is material covered over months — the fact that it is all on one DVD makes this video valuable, but it is also unrealistic to expect to learn it quickly. Just focus on the feet at first, and only later practice adding the arms, and then, slowly, the hands.

That said, the sevillana is more approachable than flamenco dance. I.e., it’s easier to look good dancing the sevillana. Lunaris’ is a great introduction for those with no experience of it, and a wonderful reference work for those who are learning it in a live class. She has a charming on-screen persona, and she is careful to give you a sense of the culture, attitude, and context of the dance as well, so you understand the spirit as well as the movements. If you are willing to practice a little, you will not regret buying this video.