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Moscow Is Obsessed with Flamenco

Everybody Dances – Secretaries, Detectives, Lady Bankers…

 Darya Averivechiva

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, November 15, 2003

 

Article about flamenco. Flamenco Theatre.

 Moscow is now obsessed with flamenco performed not for the audience, in the theater or at parties; people dance in the studios for their own pleasure, seeking something more than a simple motion in aerobics and shaping. What is more in it? This is the question our correspondents are trying to answer.

 Some five years ago, Moscow started seeing the advent of flamenco schools, workshops and studios. To many, this dance has become affordable at a reasonable price.

 Who is dancing flamenco in Moscow? Why do they go for Spanish passions instead of, let’s say, the Russian folk dance? Why is flamenco so attractive to them?

I go to one of such studios. The coaches here are the spouses Vasiliy and Inez Kleymenovs, he is dance master and she is solo dancer of the Flamenco Theater. They teach three groups: junior (starters), advanced and senior. The ladies from the senior group have been dancing flamenco for three or four years. They have various trades, appearances and personalities. The only thing in common is the flame in their eyes and the way they carry themselves in dancing.

 The sequence of claps and castanets sounds like the knocking of broken maiden hearts. Some sort of fascination rules the happening. It looks like a trance. I made an effort to restrain from jumping from my chair and joining them.

 A school checkroom, as flamenco classes take place in the four-storey building of a former school, where tired girls change their dresses.

“Flamenco is an act”, says Alina working for a legal firm and dancing flamenco for three years. “It is more than muscle flexing at shaping classes. This is a way of splashing around those emotions that are generally suppressed in the office or elsewhere. No urban tense or rush. Harmony and recumbence reign here. Everything is in it, and every bit of it is honest, a lot of play and plastique.”

“This dance has an impromptu width”, Maria joins us. “No one has to do it this way or the other way, as you are able to tailor your dance to yourself. Many ask, “Is it possible to lose weight? No? Why going there?” Not for losing weight, certainly, for being yourself”.

Ann is working at the Interior Ministry Academy and has been dancing flamenco for four years. “I like dancing. This way, life makes sense to me”, she says.

Julia is working for a bank. She first learned about flamenco in Prague and got obsessed with it. “This is a genuine art. Being in it and expressing oneself are joy and happiness. Flamenco is a feeling and an extreme depth. It is much deeper than other dancing arts. People dancing flamenco must have some experience.”

 

“I am not just a gipsy fond of flamenco. I am a professional choreographer”, says Vasiliy Kleymenov. “I was lucky to have good teachers. My first teacher Dmitri Martyn is one of the founders of famous Moldovan Ensemble ZHOK. My Godmother in choreography and in arts is Irina Time, a grand niece of Elizabeth Time who trained dancers for the Imperial Theater.

I graduated from the ballet master department of the State Theater Institute (GITIS) and I can teach classical, modern and jazz dances. But I teach flamenco, for this is mine, running in my blood. I used to be in it since my youth and feel I must convey it to someone. This is an art for all.”

“One does not need to have some particular parameters to dance flamenco. This is not a professional classical ballet where kids have to learn the correct feet position under medical supervision. There are no limits on weight or height.”

“Although, I do not think it makes sense to take flamenco classes under 18—20 years old. It is good to get general choreography training, dance folk and youngsters’ dances, jazz, modern, and develop plastique. Flamenco is sensual and full of internal drama. People dancing flamenco need to have some experience: unfortunate love, parting, loss of someone close. This is not generally experienced by kids. Of course, children are able to dance flamenco. Gypsies dance all together. And in Spain kids dance with parents. But this is meager.”

Q. Who are people coming to you?

A. These are usually accomplished people. Remember how little girls dress themselves to dance gypsy, Spanish or ballet dances. Dancing seems to come naturally to them. Grown ups do not have time for dancing. Study at school and institute and then work. Suddenly a chance offers itself. They come mature and apparently meet their youth.  

Q. Do they come at 50?

A. Even older. Two years ago there was a lady who used to attend classes for a year and a half. She was likely to be 70. Wearing a braid and tights, she always took her place behind me. I heard her crying. I came up to her asking, “Why are you crying, my dear? I do not like it.” She answered, “My husband is diplomat, we dangled around many countries, and I knew about flamenco. I dreamed of dancing, but it was not possible. When I came back to the Soviet Union, I did not know where I could learn this. In my home country I took everything: classical, folk and ballroom dances, but I did not feel it like my own. And finally I am happy, as I can hear this music and dance with you.” 

Q. Is there some internal transformation through flamenco, or a feeling of being Spanish?

A. Sure. But generally a native Spanish is not a flamenco dancer. This is a gipsy dance, their pain, suffering and roaming around countries. This is what they keep in their soul and heart, give back and make their living. But one needs to see oneself in the dance like in the mirror. You do not have to feel Spanish or Gypsy. You need to feel what is inside you.

Q. How long will it take to learn flamenco?

A. That depends. You can learn one dance and enjoy it. You may learn all your life. People do not stand still. You may want to dance another type or sub-type of flamenco: Seguirilla, Farruca, Fandango, Bulerias, Alegrias, Tonadilla, etc.

Q. Why do people choose flamenco? Why not Russian folk dances, for one?

A. I love all styles of dances stemming from the earth. I am a perfect dancer of Russian dances (round dance, quadrille, etc.). But life is not that long for me to teach Russian dances as well. It is a pity that the Russian dance has crossed a certain line, distancing from its roots and becoming too academic. This puts people off. They do not want to dance it. This is weird to me. I know how folk dance “gypsy dance” (tsyganochka), “apple dance” (yablochko) or “mistress dance” (barynia). This is fantastic! It is worth seeing. But there are no choreographers who would really raise interest to the Russian folk dance among general public. This is true not only to the Russian dance. Why is there no Jewish dance? Yes, there is “tailor dance” (portniazhka) or something. This musical and dancing culture stands alone and it merits our attention. Unlike those dances, flamenco has not become highly academic. It is not so much professional, and you do not need to spend 50 years to learn how to dance it. You learn two or three gestures, feel the music and go dancing. My student danced at the corporate party, knowing three or four gestures only. All men got to their knees, and the bank raised her salary!

Q. Is flamenco enthusiasm a sort of backlash to capitalism? We are transforming into blindfolded office people. And flamenco is a rescue from everyday drudgery, is not it?

A. That is true. People are enchained. At school, you sit at your desk, at home – at your table or TV set. In the offices, people sit before computers and in the cars they sit at wheels, so we sit everywhere. No circulation at all. Young cute girls coming to my classes are like hunchbacks, carrying withers on their necks. Women would apparently give birth to humanoids soon: big clever heads, small legs and good for nothing body. I am very upset about it. We need to take people away from the screens and bring them back to where they belonged. We need a physical culture. Not everyone would go for weight lifting or running like mad around the town. Do the girls need it? This is pretty dull. And choreography is the highest step of human physical development, especially flamenco. Your various muscles are developing together with your musical culture. Of course, we need to go out of the offices. But if a student is suffering from thrombophlebitis, I must know it.

Q. I have heard that non-professional flamenco training may be harmful to human health. How could one know a professional?

A. This is a great problem. When I was a student, choreographers used to learn human anatomy. Not a single choreographer would have started teaching prior to medical training. Today they simply kill the children. Money is all that matters. They do not understand what move would develop what muscle, what is harmful, what is not. But you would never know whether this is a professional or not unless you “break” something. I always ask whether someone has some chronics like thrombophlebitis, arthritis, meniscus, weak articulations, spine disturbances, flat foot, etc. I must know it to make comments or warn against something. A dance or a lifestyle: what is flamenco – music, singing, dance or lifestyle? It embraces all and does not fall apart. Take up, for one, segirilla, a crying song. This is flamenco fundamental, its musical size, rhythmical picture, internal pain and suffering. Cante hondo is a vocal, deep singing style, not necessarily only vocal singing. Soul is singing in the dance and in the guitar. The guitarist starts and keeps on playing to create trance. This goes on to the singer. The dancer is listening to them, gets “sparkled” and only when he is overwhelmed with his feelings he gets up to dance. Flamenco is a fusion of music, singing, dancing and lifestyle.

 

In conclusion, I asked Vasiliy Alexeevich to show me some dancing movements. I did not wear a long glowing multi-frilled skirt and special black shoes for tapping, but I wanted to experience this. Inez and Vasiliy Alexeevich said that the start-ups dance in ordinary trousers and shoes. The hills should not be higher than 5cm. I tried to follow. I did not make it. I did not hit the rhythm. The mystery of this dance was haunting me.

Darya Averivechiva

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