Why Flamenco Jondo? Finding the Superhero Within

By Cyrena “La Sirena” Huang
November 23, 2007

This blog is by Cyrena, Mozaico’s resident flamenco addict, professional cellist and educator, beloved Children’s Instructor, aspiring flamenco dancer/singer/aficionado and fearless friend. Her story inspires many, as flamenco poses many challenges along the way. As I have mentioned before, Flamenco is not for the meek or the weak. You must dig deep. Flamenco has a way of finding the fight in people and Cyrena has addressed this in this article. Thanks Cyrena!

Mozaico-Flamenco-Cyrena-2007

Photo by Andreas Hamaan

I always wanted to be a superhero. 

Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a superhero. My brother collected the X-men, Batman, Teen Titans… all the best comics. I devoured them all, and when he stopped collecting, I was ready to take up the torch. 

My first ambition was to become Wonder Woman, because she was the only heroine who wasn’t blond… until Spider Woman turned up, who was infinitely cooler and much more mysterious. I would lie awake at night dreaming of my super powers, and sketching skintight lycra catsuits for myself, each outfit more ridiculous than the last.

As a musician I was always hopelessly drawn to the songs of the persecuted. From a Yom Kippur prayer to a smoky torch song of a tragically wronged Billie or Chet, from the blues of the south to the unearthly suspensions of a viol consort… even a simple sarabande would begin to perfume my dreams with its ancient and haunting refrain. My mother continually lamented my love of all things steeped in melancholy yet despite her sad bafflement I continued to wallow throughout the whole of my music degree, both inside the music studio and out. Time passed slowly, as it does for many a disillusioned youth.

Then I found flamenco.

Cyrena wails Seguirya, El Jaleo 2007 -  Pic by Elvira Yebes

Cyrena wails Seguirya, El Jaleo 2007 –
Pic by Elvira Yebes

Like many of you, I first heard live flamenco music at the Kino cafe on Cambie Street.  The searing, almost unbearable heartache of its cry, the warm, rich strum of the guitar, the bright staccato of feet pounding on the wood floor – from the very beginning it was the music that drew me like a moth to a flame. 

I knew then that I had to dance.  Had to! I had no choice – the music demanded no less.  Me, a musician with no more coordination outside of my ten fingers!  Did I realize then that until now I’d lived my entire life ignorant of where my limbs were located in space?  Had I fully realized then that I might have to endure the snickers of my colleagues and struggle with my identity for years? (What am I doing on this stage? Musicians don’t dance! I should be respectably hidden behind my cello…)  Probably not. 

To make matters worse, I started out (as anyone who was in my classes 7 years ago can attest) as really the worst in my class.  A complete and total klutz.  I was so hopeless people would give me a wide berth in order to avoid sustaining lasting injuries.   Everyone in the class would be twirling and laughing and I would be standing there like an idiot staring at my right foot and daring it to move at the same time as my left hand. 

Flamenco came about as naturally to me as a deep-sea diving would to a cat.

I can honestly tell you the road I’ve taken has been and continues to be long, hard, excruciating and full of tears.  Yet despite all this, despite the fact that it’s taken me all of 7 years to finally feel like I’m no longer simply flailing my useless limbs about the air like a total spaz – I realize that starting on this journey has been the most incredible, profound and life-affirming thing I’ve ever undertaken.

Cyrena in superhero posture with Mozaico Mentors The Great Nieto, La China & La Sirena 2007, Pic by Harry Brewster

Cyrena in superhero posture with Mozaico Mentors
The Great Nieto, La China & La Sirena 2007,
Pic by Harry Brewster

I can also tell you that all the tears and frustration are worth it for that one moment of real, honest duende where all the horrors of the world and crimes of humanity are somehow overcome in your one small act of insurrection.  That the cares of the world fall away and you are lost in something so much greater than yourself. 

Because the thing about jondo flamenco, the one thing that to me sets it apart from all the other tortured music, somber dirges, plaintive wails, is that flamenco is not just a lament.  It’s not a mournful song of world weary resignation. Flamenco hasn’t the luxury of time to properly mourn because it’s still fighting the fight. It’s corny and cliché but flamenco really is full of fire. 

Flamenco insists that despite every obstacle set in your path, despite the sure knowledge that any action available will certainly end in death or even worse, despite everything being stacked against you, that there still exists such ferocious pride and passion and.. life… inside you and everywhere – in every gesture, every sound, every little moment of your existence – that simply can’t be ignored. And knowing this, you can’t but realize that living in this world means fighting for your life, fighting to the bitter end, fighting because you’ve been fighting so long and so hard against all the injustices borne on you and everything you hold dear that it’s all you know how to do anymore. 

I guess that’s what I love about flamenco. Flamenco gives me strength to fight for what I love. And it was inside me all along.

 So here I am. I’m finally a superhero.

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