by Kasandra “La China”
July 18, 2012
Motivation and inspiration were never a problem for me in the years before kids. I went to Spain every year for a couple of months to study with great artists, wandered around Spain, drank a lot of cafe con leche, absorbed the culture through my pores and saw lots of flamenco shows. In those days, returning back to Vancouver, I had unlimited time in the studio to choreograph, work out and practise. I performed everything I could, as I was performing at least twice a week in the flamenco tablao scene in Vancouver. Getting paid to practise in front of a live audience was fun. I had chops and was on the edge.
That was then. This is now. Post kids, I am struggling with staying both motivated and inspired. I haven’t been to Spain since 2008. Has it really been more than 4 years ago?
In four years, I’ve had a lot of time to stew over flamenco technique, choreography and concepts. At this point, everything I have learned has merged into one. I have no idea where I have learned things from nor from whom they came and the material is now a great pool of knowledge. So that is a great “plus”.
But not being able to go to Spain to recharge has left me in despair on the artistic front. It is hard to stay emotionally charged and pumped up. Not that anyone cares, but at home I care for two kids, a dog and the household. Then I head into work, and have to be revved up to teach 8 classes a week, which is energetically draining. However, teaching is also rewarding and gives back, but over time.
Flamenco is the only place I can be myself instead of someone’s mom, so I am ever so grateful for my wonderful work. But I have to acknowledge now that I am having great difficulty not being replenished as an artist. It has been years.
I have been able to take some short workshops here and there from guest artists. Whenever they come, a workshop over a few days represents new material. But there are only a couple of artists that have truly inspired me in recent years.
One is Cihtli Ocampo, who made a great impression on me by watching my video and saying, “No, you don’t need any more moves, you just need to know how to finish them off!” So with her, I took some private lessons. We worked a lot philosophically…discussed aire, creating energy, having presence, maintaining and letting loose control, finishing off remates. Oddly, it is really hard to “just stand there” and have presence….probably one of the most difficult things to do in flamenco. She made me count to 100 before starting my escobilla. Wow. That was really brutal. But she did teach me what it takes to create that “essence of flamenco”. I worked on Solea por Bulerias and Solea for a few years just deliberating on what she said to me. I would highly recommend private lessons with her if you have a solo and want a critique. Thanks Cihtli.
The other artist that left a lasting impression on me is Domingo Ortega, who was here for a week in May. He taught such a wildly inspiring Alegrias workshop that I belly-laughed the entire week and smiled with full teeth while struggling to remember the sequence of about 15 crazy remates. I didn’t even care about the blisters bleeding in my shoes. I can’t remember when I was that happy. I have a video footage of me, Cyrena and Shyiang laughing, complaining and groaning while trying to execute the Bulerias de Cadiz which is totally hilarious.
I forgot how fun “Man Dancing” is, haha! I just LOVE dancing like a dude! At first I thought it was going to be really hard translating his movement into a female body, but it wasn’t at all. It made a lot of sense, kind of devoid of estilo de mujer, all rhythm. That was fun! The workshop was very successful because we were able to work on it 3 hours a day for 5 days. But Domingo maintained a great pace. I love when a class has momentum and some pace! I also like when the dance and choreography relates to the music. (I’ve been to some dance classes where it is a pure movement class totally devoid of any musical inspiration. WRONG. NO! Don’t like it…can’t dance in this environment.) Another big plus…Domingo sings in class, awesome!
When he left Vancouver, I was in utter despair walking into the studio with no teacher. The general feeling was, I was either going to cry or scream….but managed to get a hold of myself and just suck it up. But I just felt empty. How is it possible for someone to come into your life for just 6 days and there be such a vacuum when he has left? After about a week of melancholy despairing, I slipped back into the regular rhythm and schedule at Al Mozaico Flamenco.
But I cannot forget the elation, exhilaration and relief to be inspired by someone else. A couple months later, Domingo is still my muse. I must find some way to get him back here.
Sadly, with no maestro, I must actively seek inspiration in music, poetry, art, colours, and YouTube.
(Haha, I’m a midnight surfer…I guarantee you I am on there…You know, this YouTube thing is fascinating! It makes it ridiculously easy to gain access to wonderful flamenco artists and dancers. I remember the old days when we had to pay an arm and a leg for PAL videos from Europe and then pay again to convert them to NTSC to watch them here in Canada. Now, all I do is do a search: RAFAEL CAMPALLO, ISRAEL GALVAN, FARRU, ISABEL BAYON, BELEN MAYA, RAFAELA CARRASCO…AND BOOM, I can watch all the latest choreography from these great artists any time I want.)
So YouTube is great, but it is no substitution for the real thing. I vow to bring flamenco artists year round for my own selfish purposes and drag all my students to class with me.
If anybody has any inspiring or motivational quotation, book, poem, literature, music, video, whatever….please remember me and forward it. I need some help. This is me crying out for help.
I also find myself listening to a tremendous amount of violin repetoire and feeling wistful and melancholy about my old violin career. Not many flamencos know that I have a couple of performance diplomas in violin performance. I gave it all up in my 20s but now, starting to miss melody and that soprano voice. I hear my pre-flamenco friends remember me playing Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto…ya, I did play this once upon a time!
Last week, I made it back into the tablao circuit performing with Flamenco Alcala and Oscar Nieto at the new Chai Lounge. It was a great homecoming after a 5 year hiatus, as students and the flamenco community turned up to support me and Oscar. I wasn’t too sure how I was going to feel about this but after last Saturday….YA, I have missed it. It is fun and another source of inspiration. When one performs, you get some immediate feedback and lots of energy back from the audience. So ya, I need this. I need to do this.