#MyFlamencoStory - Seana {Portland, USA}

#MyFlamencoStory - Seana from Portland, USA | flamencobites.com

José and I are very happy to present our first interview in our #MyFlamencoStory project.

Seana who is from Portland, Oregon shares with us how she got started learning flamenco and how it has now lead her to her new found passion of Sherry! 

If you have any questions for Seana ask them in the comments below,

This picture is of me dancing for the first time in front of friends and family with my Portland flamenco community. This night I was wearing all my new digs from Jerez. My nerves got the better of me that night because my in-laws were visiting from California. I still don't think my in-laws know what flamenco is ; )

What is your first memory of flamenco?
My very first memory of flamenco is a little hazy - but I was seven or eight years old and taking an after-school spanish class. I don’t remember much, but my teacher’s name was Concha and she wanted to teach the girls in class to dance. I don’t remember the dance, but I think we were in pairs and I remember striking a pose at the end. So, my assumption is she was trying to teach us Sevillanas.

Where and when did you start taking classes?
I was a Spanish major in college, which meant I would take a semester in Sevilla as part of the program. I was in Sevilla the spring of '98 during La Feria and I didn't want to 'look like a tourist', so I took classes after school with a teacher named Valle. The class included about 10 of my fellow students on the same exchange program. We met in the corner of a workout gym. I'm sure we all looked rediculous. I never really learned much past the first Sevillana. ; )

Then, in 2004 I was living in Denver and had been a newlywed for a couple months when I had the desire to dance.

My husband wasn’t a dancer and was not comfortable with me dancing with other men. Flamenco doesn’t require a partner, you can be any size, any shape, any age.

I told him I wanted to start learning flamenco again. Literally, the next day a flier appeared in my mail for a teacher originally from Sevilla was teaching beginner classes at the local community college.

I danced with her and her community for three years and still maintain good friendships with several of them though we all parted ways.

In 2011, my husband and I decided to move back to the west coast to be near our families. I decided I wanted to find a flamenco community again to build relationships. Having been established in Denver for 10 years, I did not feel like I was moving back home. I felt like I was completely uprooting and having to start all over again. I found Laura Onizuka. She is like no teacher I’ve ever experienced - she dances like a natural - but since she’s from the States, she can explain things and break movements down that make so much sense. I’m no longer dancing steps - I’m understanding flamenco.

Have you travelled to extend your studies?

I wish I had more pictures of me dancing in Jerez - not really feasible to take a selfie while busting out a bulerias. The picture of me and Mercedes Ruiz makes me laugh - she was pouring us oloroso - it was our last night when she and her dancers put on a private show for us.  Her company danced for us, we watched, Mercedes didn't dance either. It was her way giving her dancers the spotlight. They were amazing. Her husband Santiago Lara played guitar and David Lagos and his wife Melchora Ortega were our performers. If I had known then the caliber of flamenco artists in the room with me, I would have been a puddle on the floor. But to us as new students - they were our friends.

Laura created a Flamenco Tour to take students with her to Jerez. I had the privilege of going the spring of 2013.

It was life changing.

We were there 15 days and dove into the culture studying technique with Mercedes Ruiz in the mornings and bulerias de Jerez with Ana Maria Lopez in the afternoons. We lived in apartments, got to know our landlords and the patrons at their bar, Bar Porron.

It was on her trip that I discovered sherry - and have been obsessed ever since! I even started a blog to share my journey sherrysips.wordpress.com

It was also on this trip that I fell in love with castanets. Somehow being focused on my hands playing castanets allows my body to dance better because I’m not thinking about my feet.

What has been your biggest challenge?
I have a terrible longterm memory when it comes to remembering choreographies. I’ve lost some of the best dances from my time in Denver, because I never took the time to record them. I’m very visual - but most teachers do not like having themselves recorded - and too often I can’t remember from the time I leave class to the time I get home what it was I had learned. But my body somehow retains muscle memory and will come up with steps on its own, often times when I’m trying to learn a new footwork, which makes me mad because I can’t get my head and my feet to cooperate.

My husband shot this picture of me the very first time I performed on stage in Denver. It was a fun choreography to el maestro (may he rest in peace) Paco de Lucia: Entre dos aguas. I loved this shot because I was so conscious of keeping my arms in position con aire.

Has studying flamenco dance changed your life in any way?
Studying flamenco has been wonderful for building new circles of friends no matter where I’ve studied. But, since moving to Portland, I have had opportunities to work with guest artists and attend flamenco retreats at the Oregon Coast and even experience flamenco in Jerez all with the same community of dancers. They’re like family!

It has also allowed me to find, not necessarily a confidence or boldness, but an acceptance for the way my body is made. I will never be flamenca or gitana. I’m tall and long and can tell you all my flaws. But I’ve learned to have fun and relax into the dance. With Laura’s classes, there is such a safety to dance by myself and know I won’t be criticized for making mistakes.

What is the next step in your flamenco dance study?
I believe once I made the realization that my goal isn’t to become a bailaora - it took a burden off my shoulders. Right now I’ve decided to keep studying what I do know and improve on the little details, as well as take more advanced classes and workshops to keep growing.

You can’t grow if you’re always wanting to be comfortable.

Do you have any advice that you would share with other dancers?
No matter how advanced you are as a dancer - flamenco will keep you humble. Keep growing, be open to learn from others, encourage and be patient with those who struggle.

Todo los deditos, pompi adentro y respiro.

Seana thank you so much for taking part and also for sharing some great photos with us!

We hope you'll go and have a look at Seana's blog sherrysips.wordpress.com and see what she has been learning about the world of Sherry.

If you would like to share you flamenco story please contact us at submissions@flamencobites.com with #MyFlamencoStory in the subject line. We have been contacted by some wonderful students but we are still looking for more teachers to share their experiences.

Please feel free to share our details with anyone you know who might be interested in taking part.