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It's Not Just About the Feet

My three year old self learned to plié from the moment I slipped my tiny toes into a coveted pair of pink ballet shoes. I’ve devoted years in dance studios, toes pointed sliding my feet from first through fifth position. As I got older, I studied jazz and now, tap. But I struggled with feeling the same excitement for dance as my younger self, until I rediscovered my passion at a small dance studio in Edinburgh, Scotland. 

The dancer’s silky red dress brushed my shoulder as she moved forward with arms that were strong but hands that were soft and elegant. Then the cante, the Spanish song began and everything that I thought I knew about dance floated away with each note. That night I discovered that Flamenco is not just a dance about its fast intricate footwork skills.

As the dancer moved a woman began to sing about a love so strong it penetrated her dreams. A man answered her call for love in a melancholy voice. As the dancing continued, his singing became more intense. The singers drew us into their seduction as they bared their souls to us. The entire room was electrified. You didn’t need to speak Spanish to follow what was happening.  

At times the growling rasp of the guitar was the only sound in the room. The way the guitarist plucked the strings you couldn’t tell where he ended and the guitar began. He filled the room with music from his guitar, his toque, and I felt a part of the dance even though I never left my seat.

The female dancers wore brightly colored dresses that hugged their bodies until just below their hips.Then the dress flared out to their ankles in layers of frills and ruffles that could be lifted or flipped. With each movement the dress took on a personality of its own. One dancer twirled around flicking open a large fan with just a slight twist of the wrist. She spun the fan above her head and dragged it across her body. She collapsed the fan with a bump against her right hip and unfurled it again with a slight movement of the shoulder. The fan became a whispered secret she wanted to share with us and when she was done sharing this secret, the fan disappeared as suddenly as it had appeared. Now, the feet. The dancer's feet make a distinct sound depending on which part of the foot hits the floor. There were such power and intensity in the stomping of their feet. I was consumed with their dance and music fusion.

Every August thousands of people converge on Edinburgh for the world’s biggest art festival, Fringe Fest. I had the fortune of being totally consumed by the music and dance fusion of a Spanish dance company, Alba Flamenca, during it.

Flamenco dance is not solely about the feet. It tells an authentic, vibrant story that is full of emotion and is inspiring. I had to travel 4,000 miles to rediscover my passion for dance. It is an experience that I remember every time I slip my feet into tap shoes and dance not just the steps, but from my heart. 

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