I’ve been taking flamenco dancing classes for about five years, off and on. I’ve taken dance classes before – ballet and tap when I was young, swing and salsa in college and later – but flamenco is my favorite. It’s not necessarily my favorite one to dance but it’s definitely the one I admire the most and the one I would like to use as a metaphor for my life.
When I took ballet, it was always about sucking in your stomach, trying to be graceful, and – even as a young child – not being too large. Flamenco, on the other hand, embraces whatever size or shape (or age) a woman is. My flamenco teacher is constantly telling us to “take up all your space.” It’s about being stable on your feet and your hips, using all the body that you have, and learning the technique in a way that you can impart the dance with all the soul and feeling that it needs.
Another thing I like about flamenco is how empowered the women look. There is a specific look cultivated with this dance, and empowered really is the best word I can think of for it. Women keep their head up, look proud, and don’t lower their eyes for anyone. There’s also the stomping – which is clearly not the official term and my flamenco teacher would be angry with me for using it – that is so cathartic. As wikipedia says (and I rarely quote wikipedia) El baile flamenco is known for its emotional intensity, proud carriage, expressive use of the arms and rhythmic stamping of the feet.
I want to live like that. Not proud in a narcissistic way, but proud in a non-apologetic way. I had to spend so much of my life apologizing for who I was – in words and actions – that I didn’t get to have that proud carriage. I still feel so often (but less and less!) like I’m broken and flawed in an irreparable way that it’s hard for me to feel that I have the right to have a “proud carriage.” I come off as empowered to many people because I’m opinionated and not afraid of public speaking, but that’s not how I feel. I want to have the empowerment inside too.
I also want to feel like I have the right to take up all my space. I don’t want to try to be smaller or shrink into spaces I don’t fit in. I want to take up the space that I take up and stomp if I need to. Again, I think I come across as stomping much of the time but I don’t want to be an angry, reactionary stomper. I want to express myself in stomping if I need to. I want to stomp because I feel proud, empowered, and expressive. I want to stomp because I am beautiful and persevering and have learned to hold my head up high.