Flamenco dancing comes to Southern


Chad Stebbins | Contributor

Stephanie Ramirez of the dance troupe Flamenco Vivo, teaches members of the Southern community traditional flamenco dance steps in the flamenco master dance class on Monday, Nov. 9, in the Taylor Performing Arts Center. Over 80 people attended the class and was one of the largest classes they have taught on this tour.

Flamenco is a Spanish art form made up of three parts: the guitar (guitarra), song (canté) and dance (bailé). Flamenco dancers try to express their deepest emotions while dancing and may often clap their hands, kick their feet and use castanets to aid in the “musicality” and drama of the dance.

I knew none of this before I went to a flamenco master dance class in the Taylor Performing Arts Center on Monday, Nov. 9. My only experience with flamenco was watching Morticia and Gomez Addams perform their own version in the movie Addams Family Values. With this steamy version in mind, I wondered how the dance class would go; would I have a good-looking flamenco dancer teaching me some fancy footwork? I had no idea, but I was excited for the event either way.

I arrived at the class a little early and was the first person there. The auditorium was lightly lit, the stage was empty and there was no one around. I thought maybe I was in the wrong room until I could hear someone talking from behind the stage and more people began to show up.

Soon, more people arrived, and then more and more. Close to 80 people were in the auditorium when the event got started. I was wondering how this was going to work and began to realize I was not going to be dancing with one person, I was going to be dancing with everyone. This was going to be fun.

The chatter in the auditorium quickly hushed as the evening’s instructor, Stephanie Ramirez, from the dance troupe Flamenco Vivo, took the stage. Her long, dark hair was pulled up in a tight bun, she wore a black leotard top that was low cut down her back and accentuated the long lines of her dancers figure. Her skirt was ankle length, black and traditional flamenco style with layers of green ruffles at the bottom. You could see her fishnet stockings and high-heeled dance shoes peeking out from under her dress. Everything about her spoke to the fact that she was a professional dancer, including her voice, which was like a soft melody as she began to tell us a little of the history behind flamenco.

Flamenco comes from the region of Andulasia and has a rich background influenced by several different cultures, from the native Spaniards, the Moor, and the Roma, also known as gypsies, who settled in southern Spain. None of these people were accepted by society at the time, so they came together and created flamenco, a dance that inextricably twines together music and dance.

“Dance, guitar, song are all married together,” Ramirez said.

When she was done with her presentation, Ramirez invited us all to join her on the stage. We lined up in rows, and with no music we began learning important yet simple arm and hand motions (braceo).

“We use a lot of elbow flexion, so we’re able to draw that line in space,” Ramirez said, describing the importance of proper braceos.

Before we started working on our foot movements (compés) Ramirez had us transfer from front to back so everyone had a chance to be in the front under her watchful eye.

I felt good about the lesson, and looking around me, I saw that most of the group was grasping the concept, or so I thought. Ramirez stopped us and broke a flamenco tradition by pulling up her skirt and showing us her legs. While she exposed her knees, she directed us to watch her feet and follow her movements.

After about an hour of learning all the steps and slowly putting them together, Ramirez thought we were ready and put the music on so we could perform some of the dance.

This last run through was the best of the night with some embracing the movements more then others.

Lucas Charles Hertzberg a freshman communications major at Missouri Southern State University, was very focused and threw himself in to each move with abandon.

“I enjoyed all of the steps, all of the hand movements. It was very spiritual. It was a thrill,” Hertberg said after we left the lesson was over.

Overall it was a fun and exhausting experience though not quite what I had anticipated. Jerry Bruck an 84 year old Joplin native summed up the evening perfectly.

“I enjoyed it, I just wish there had been more music,” he said. “I was expecting to get paired up with a good looking flamenco dancer,”.

Me too Mr. Bruck. Me too.