By Lori Kullberg
It wasn’t until I was on the plane, settling in for an eight hour flight, that it fully hit me: I was on my way to Sevilla, Spain, for 10 days of flamenco immersion.
I, along with ten other dancers, teachers, musicians and spouses from my home studio of Flamenco Louisville in Louisville, KY, descended on the city with excitement.We rented a beautiful house in the city center, the perfect location to enjoy all the festivities of la Bienal de Flamenco de Sevilla. This bi-annual flamenco event fills Sevilla with aficionados from all over the world, as well as Spain’s top artists and musicians, for nightly shows in different theaters around the city. As this was my first trip to Spain, taking flamenco lessons was at the top of my list. There are many escuelas de flamenco (flamenco schools) in Sevilla and even more offerings during La Bienal, so it was a little daunting deciding which one to invest my time and money in. Sometimes, artists float between different schools, so narrowing it down, for me, was a matter of class time, cost, location and styles being taught. These made my short list:
Taller Flamenco: http://www.tallerflamenco.com
Escuela Flamenca, Juan Polvilla: http://www.escuelaflamenca.com
Flamencos por el mundo: http://www.flamencosporelmundo.com
Centro de Arte y Flamenco de Sevilla: https://www.centroflamencodesevilla.com
My final decision rested on wanting to learn from someone who was more traditional. Mercedes Ruiz, teaching at Flamenquería in Triana, was my pick. Mercedes did not disappoint in her instruction and was very personable and skilled. The class moved at a fast pace but Mercedes was happy to review when needed. It was a full class, about 15 of us, of varying levels from all over the world. The first couple of days, I caught everything, no problem. As the middle of the week arrived, I was warned a hit to my jetlag would be felt and it sure was. I was exhausted but I persevered and got over the hump. The end of the week found me with new moves in my tool belt and a feeling of immense pride that I made it through.
But there was a language barrier and I only speak minimal Spanish. Fortunately, my teachers in Kentucky are staunch believers in introducing their students to the correct flamenco terminology and structure…in Spanish. I happily understood and responded to everything Mercedes instructed us to do in class. In fact, I was able to communicate all over the city with my minimal Spanish. Making an effort to speak the native language of the country you are visiting goes a long way and I highly encourage it! That said, don’t worry too much if you aren’t fluent in Spanish, you surely won’t be the only one.
I came back home feeling energized and empowered. I have changed as a dancer and as a person. When I show up for class now, I hold my head a little higher and stand a little taller. I gained a special kind of confidence in Spain I don’t think I could have experienced anywhere else. Olé!
Lori Kullberg has been studying flamenco dancing with Flamenco Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky, since 2012. This past year she joined the Associate Company as a dancer/performer. Lori discovered her passion for flamenco at 45-years-old as a way to express herself. While nurturing this demanding and emotional art form, Lori created Fleur de Flamenco, a blog chronicling her study and journey of flamenco dancing.