It started with a Spanish beat, and then the sounds of heels stomping along with the rhythmic reverberations of a guitar that entranced anyone within earshot of the Brooklyn Sports Club’s (BSC) exercise studio. The BSC studio’s shiny wooden floor and walls with floor to ceiling mirrors reflected a flurry of colors as performers danced and twirled around. The rapid plucking of the guitar strings, the swooshing of skirts and the clank of heels were so intrinsic in the dancers’ movements that upon further examination many would be surprised that seniors living the Spring Creek Towers’ (SCT) community were the performers, who were rehearsing flamenco.
For eight weeks, Spring Creek Senior Partners (SCSP) is hosting a flamenco Dance Workshop in the BSC. Attendees are studying under the tutelage of Lisa Spraragen, a teaching artist with a diverse repertoire of musical experience as both a guitarist and dancer (along with her partner and well-known guitarist, Josué Pérez). Since October 5th, Spraragen has been showing the seniors how to perform professionally, with heelwork and dance movements.
The flamenco is a passionate dance with a rich history. flamenco originated in the mid-1800s in the Southern regions of Spain by Andalusian Roma (Gypsies) who migrated from Rajasthan, India to Spain throughout the 9th and 14th centuries, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. During their voyage the music they brought from their culture intermingled with all of those they encountered along the way to Spain, creating flamenco. This form of dance in itself is a fusion of the arts. It is a dance that entangles the performer with guitar rhythms, tap dancing, and the harmony of the singers, all to form an emotional experience. Flamenco deals with love, death, anguish, despair, and sometimes religious doubt.
In the beginning, many of the seniors seemed wary of learning such a difficult dance. But their fond memories of nights dancing with friends when they were younger, spurred a fire inside of them. Gloria Radgman recalled the days when she would party with her friends until the wee hours of the morning. She believes that the flamenco dance will reignite the dancer inside of her. “I think I am getting better as every class goes on. I’ve never danced to anything like this before, but it’s very nice and I enjoy it,” Radgman said.
The vivacious spirit of their instructor, Spraragen ensures that everyone in attendance is smiling and doing their best to improve their technique. There are four very important elements in the flamenco, the Cante (singing), Toque (guitar playing), Baile (dance), and the Palmas (handclaps). Spraragen goes into detail of each movement, the reason for proper posture and form, and how the fingertips to the point of their toes are beautiful extensions of themselves. Every frame, every turn and skirt swirl has meaning.
Spraragen knows the importance of understanding these details for first-time learners because she was not always a dancer. In fact, her love for playing the classic guitar lured her to the Flamenco. She wanted to understand the beats of flamenco music, and thus began her love for flamenco dance. The genre is passionate, and she thinks that flamenco goes across all cultures. “It’s something for every person to enjoy and be able to fuel their compassion for expressing themselves. Once you get a feel of the rhythm, which is so earthy, you start to move with it,” Spraragen said.
SCSP Director Theodora Ziongas hopes to have a final performance for all to see on December 7th. She also explained that SCSP was able to host this series of workshops with the help of funding by Catalyzing Creativity Grant from Lifetime Arts and Fan Fox and Leslie R Samuels Foundation’s Healthy Aging Program.
Photos by Amanda Moses