Observations from a Bench

By Andrea Williams
October 1, 2008

September 15, 2008
6:00-7:30pm
Bulerias por Fiesta Class

Sitting here on a bench, I can count at least 24 people without moving my head: the largest Bulerias class at Al Mozaico Flamenco Dance Academy in recent history.   What makes this class so popular?

I think it has a lot to do with Kasandra’s dynamic teaching style, her depth of knowledge, and he way she pushes her students to explore their own style all the while expecting them to perfect their compás. There, now I seem to have said it all – so what is left to say?

Well, for one, there is a vast range of abilities in this class.  Some students have been studying with Kasandra and/or Oscar for years, while others are only in their first season.  All, however, are super keen, and especially keen to learn this Thing we call Bulerias.   So funky, so edgy, so cool.

Not everyone seems to be doing the same thing.  So, Kasandra stops Juan, and goes over a little cosita, a detail.  A simple little torso movement to accent with the arms.  Again, not everyone gets it.  But all 24 are banging away at it nonetheless.  All very serious and studious – time with Kasandra seems to be precious indeed.
“Olé, finalmente!” she shouts, and the class breaks into smiles and chuckles of laughter.  The tone is now lighter, but brows remain furrowed and heads bent.  Flamenco aire?  That is hard to study!

In forty-five minutes they have learned an entrada and a desplante.  This class is moving quickly.  Juan the guitarist is no longer watching them; instead he is looking at his fingers as he repeats the same phrase over and over and over again.

Kasandra stops the class again to break down a new llamada.  Some students grab the chance to gulp water and Juan starts noodling out a new falsetta.  She slows the llamada down, and then shakes her head – to do it slowly takes more effort for her.  She does it by herself a couple of times, and then counts it out for her students as she does it for the third time.  Counting for the counters, talking for the auditory, and demo-ing for the visuals… Something for everybody.

Mozaico-Flamenco-Bulerias-2008

What?  Improvise?  Even to a “simple Bulerias letra”?  Kasandra states it as if it were NO Big Deal.  Some of her students look panic stricken. Others have already started to preen their feathers.  Eight off to do palmas for the rest of the class.  The other sixteen spread out and quickly take over their own turf.  Kasandra breaks into song, and the chattering stops.

The temperature is rising in the studio.  The heat from all the bodies is turning this place into a veritable Spanish climate.  I am already feeling it and I have not even put on my flamenco shoes yet this evening.  All the more to create the ambiance of Jerez!

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