Flamenco brings out best in those who learn, teach it
By Jane Donahue For The Sun February 26, 2011 4:06PM
On the Web
To learn more about flamenco at North Central College, contact Jelena Sanchez at firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more about the flamenco class at Two Left Feet, visit Diane Campbell’s website at www.ritmoflamencochicago.com
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Naperville women searching for something new are turning to something old — flamenco. The Spanish dance, known for its expressive arm movements, rhythmic stomping and clapping, is now being offered in two Naperville locations.
Born to dance
Jelena Sanchez was born in Madrid, and flamenco was part of her family life. The Spanish instructor at North Central College has been sharing her native dance with students at the Naperville campus.
“My mother was a huge influence on me — she loved to dance flamenco at home and at parties,” Sanchez said. “Flamenco is part of my identity, it takes me back to my roots and to the emotions my family feels for Spain. The lyrics of the songs are poems that tell individual stories about love, happiness, pain, life and death. I can relate to the words, they move me every time I hear them.”
Sanchez teaches flamenco each term at North Central, and said participants vary in age from college students through senior citizens. And while it’s a native art form of Spain, flamenco has a universal appeal.
“You don’t have to be Spanish to love flamenco,” Sanchez said. “Many are fascinated with this art form, and become hooked once they try a class because of the freedom and confidence it gives them. My students are awakened and feel liberated from their own selves when they come to class. They are given a space to express their deepest feelings through dance.”
Christina Drazenovic first took Sanchez’s flamenco class for her Spanish grade, but takes it now for pure enjoyment. The 21-year-old said the Spanish dance provides an opportunity to challenge herself.
“I enjoy flamenco because it allows me to become a different person,” Drazenovic said. “I can be a shy person, but flamenco is all about being the center of attention, so I have to come out of my shell. Flamenco dancers must be confident in their every move and attitude — no one can mess with them, and they couldn’t care less what someone else thinks of them.”
The student said flamenco isn’t about having the “best moves” but about being expressive.
“You tap your feet and move your arms, but every movement has a meaning,” she said. “The point of flamenco is to evoke an emotion, be it anger, love or sorrow. The intensity of that is emotion is shown in the angles of the arms, the twirling of the wrists, and the stomping of the feet.”
And while the music provides the background for flamenco, Drazenovic said the body is an instrument, too.
“The body is the only instrument needed in flamenco,” the student said. “Sure, there is the guitar and singing, but clapping hands, stomping feet, and snapping fingers are really the only instruments needed to make music.”
‘Drawn to it’
Diane Campbell has been passionate about flamenco since she visited Spain in her 20s. The Naperville resident said the Spanish dance changed her life, and she wants to share it with others.
“I was drawn to it,” said Campbell, 44, “and I kind of feel like I’m the ‘ambassador of flamenco.’ It is sacred to me and that is why I want to share it with other people.”
Campbell said she was familiar with the style of dance, but became “inspired when she saw it up close.” She returned to the States and became an avid student of flamenco, training with instructors from Spain to Chicago for the past decade.
But when Campbell moved to Naperville three years ago, she couldn’t find a local studio that offered flamenco. She plans to change that.
Starting this month, Campbell will be teaching the Spanish dance at Two Left Feet Studio in Naperville. The former school teacher is merging her passions, teaching and dance, and thinks the suburbs are ready for it.
“It is an art form of the people — it’s an old-world tradition, and it celebrates life,” the instructor said. “It attracts people, because is talks about life’s experience. It is something you can personalize by pulling in what you’ve gone through. It’s full of emotion.”