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I remember a time when I didn’t have the time to catch my breath much less dance.

I was an elementary school teacher living in Echo Park and teaching third grade at Rosemont Elementary. Although I was young, I was stressed out, over weight and over worked. On top of my work load, I had a really needy live in boyfriend, a hyper critical family, a narcissistic best friend and very poor personal and professional boundaries. All this at age 23. I though to myself, “But I’m just starting out in life, how am I ever going to make it!” Truth is I wasn’t going to make it if I kept denying myself the time I deserved to take care of my own needs, desires and dreams. I did not know the meaning of the word no. Instead I strived to please everyone so that I would be liked, and if I was lucky I thought, maybe even loved. I had no time, or more accurately, I did not think I was deserving of the time to do what in my heart I knew I loved, which was very simply to dance Flamenco.

Self-Love is a tricky thing to figure out when you’re brought up to think that it’s something you find outside of yourself through other people’s approval and validation. Dreams are not important, they don’t pay the bills or put food on the table so don’t even bother cause brown Mexicans don’t dream, they work hard jobs that no one else wants to do to make ends meat – is what I was brainwashed to believe. Women, especially women like you, as brown as you are, are born to serve and care take – was the message I received. In retrospect, I had a lot to work through and at 23 I did not have the awareness to know it but I did have Flamenco. And Flamenco is a very strong energetic force with an irresistible pull as strong as the oceans, that has the ability to heal you if you let it. When I danced and when I listened to the guitar and the whaling sounds of anguish come out of a singers stomach, I knew if only on a subconscious level that this was my only hope and my way out of this mess. It was how I was going to step into my power, my Goddess Self and how I was going to, in a very real way, keep alive.

I take this deeper knowing of Flamenco very matter of factly as truth. It goes way beyond learning steps in a studio. It has a profound effect and can change your life. It can be heavy and intense or off the wall ecstatic, but ironically it’s what keeps me Zen – centered and balanced, and what keeps my heart and outlook on life care-free and light as a feather. I will always remember and be thankful for the time when I didn’t have the time if only to remind me that I am worth doing what I love, that I am deserving of my dreams, that my needs are important and that I matter. So do you. So do you.

Yours in Flamenco,
Briseyda

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The Rhythm of 100 Michael Jacksons.

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So what do palmas/hand claps, rhythm, singing and Michael Jackson have to do with Flamenco dance? Everything! (I’ll get to the MJ part soon, bare with me). Forgive me for the rhetorical question and if I’m preaching to the choir. In flamenco the instruments we have at our disposal are the guitar, the cante/voice, the palmas/hand claps our bodies and our shoes….ah yes and the cajon/percussive box, but that came way later. Sounds like a pretty minimalist set up right? It’s always amazed me how just with these elements we can make magic happen — How simple yet how powerful this all is. I’ve always been enamored by the cante, I’ve been singing since I was a little girl and the guitar is the most comforting instrument for me…my dad and all my uncles play the guitar and my mother sings. And rhythm, well I discovered I had that when Michael Jackson’s “Off The Wall” album came out and when I learned my feet were instruments in tap class and I danced with abandon to the big band song, 42nd street (to this day one of my favorites!)

For me, discovering flamenco was like finding the holy grail. It had all the things I liked put into one — the tap dancing, well kinda, the guitar, the singing and the rhythm of 100 Michael Jacksons.

Although all my classes are infused with these things I am now taking the plunge and opening a class exclusively dedicated to Palmas and Cante. I’m so excited to finally be doing this.

Playing the palmas is the number one way to participate in Flamenco and to support a dancer. Suffice it to say that the majority of the time I’m in stage, I’m not dancing but sitting in my chair playing palmas! In class, we’ll sit or stand in a circle, family/juerga style, and I’ll teach you how to clap out the different rhythms with confidence. You’ll learn the do’s and dont’s and the most popular letras/cantes for the different dance styles. Now you don’t need to be a singer or want to be one to learn this — If you are interested in the dance, this is reason enough to learn the songs because as dancers that’s the most important part! Also you’re not obligated to sing, you can listen, take notes and soak it all in…Flamenco happens through osmosis as well. I came into flamenco singing via dancing…now I’m singing my heart out for other dancers, and I even sang in Sevilla twice this past Spring? Who would’ve thought?? So really you never know where this will lead you. One things for certain, we’ll learn and have fun doing it!

This first session of this class starts on Saturday, August 4, at 3pm in LA. You don’t need any special attire or shoes, just bring yourself and come as you are. For the complete schedule, and how to sign up just email me here or go to my website: https://briseydazarateflamenco.wordpress.com/classes-workshops/

Gracias!

Yours in Flamenco,

Briseyda

Let’s stop struggling and lets start dancing!

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Let’s stop struggling and let’s start dancing shall we??  Let’s use the natural resources available to us in Flamenco, by that I mean lets do what feels good in our bodies and what is already “built into” Flamenco to help us navigate our solo, lead a cuadro or just simply dance. ¡Si Señora! Let’s own what we already know in our bodies and in our hearts to be true and let’s deem it, and ourselves good enough now — not tomorrow or some day, but now. And if we only know a little let’s make a dance from it, and if you know a lot you don’t have to put it all in one dance. And if your exhausted and your body hurts that day, let’s change it so that it doesn’t. Dance the dance don’t let it dance you! And if what you know is dormant let’s awaken it, and if it’s scared to come out let’s reassure it and help it to feel safe. Let’s learn how to be brave and resourceful and milk it for all it’s worth. Life is short….so please let’s do this now.

How can you you let go and enjoy yourself a little more when you dance? 

 

 

Flamenca Born from Farm Workers.

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I come from a family of risk takers, of Mexican immigrant people brimming with dreams and courage. I grew up in Delano, Ca, in a farm working family and community where hard work, persistence, and the burning desire to succeed and overcome adversity where of the up most importance. My parents’ wish for their children when they immigrated to the United States was that we would be free to choose and to live out our dreams. I chose Flamenco.

My art is a testimony of my experiences told through the rhythmic and emotional heartbeat of Flamenco. It is a coming home of all my parts: Chicana, Woman, Artist, Flamenca, Queer, first generation American and daughter of farm working immigrants. My artistic expression is motivated by the need to tell a story that integrates my different realities and is about the personal process of mending emotional scars. It is fueled by a desire for wholeness, and a need to sensitize audiences to my way of feeling. I use Flamenco as a vehicle for hope and healing, and I coin this intentional use of it as “Flamen-Cura”, originally spelled as one word, flamencura, which means full of the flamenco spirit. I have hyphenated it to highlight the word “Cura” which means to cure, and I have identified myself as a “Flamen-Curandera”, taking the traditional Mexican/Latino word for medicine woman and fusing it with Flamenco, hence a woman that uses Flamenco as her medicine. As a survivor of sexual, physical abuse/trauma and chronic illness, Flamenco has helped me to feel safe in my body as a woman and it is how I embrace and celebrate my femininity and humanity.

Many of the rhythms and themes in flamenco are profound and dark, such as the Siguiriya which is the song/dance of mourning and death or the Soleá which is the dance of solitude and loneliness. This is due to the Gypsies experience as a discriminated and oppressed culture of people. It was their cry for freedom and how they got through difficult times. It has also been my cry for freedom. Using a flamenco rooted in the Gypsy tradition as my foundation and fusing it with my identities and similar experiences of oppression, discrimination and “otherness”, I have created an original repertoire that is specific to me and validates my experience and in doing so, the experiences of other women. My dancing flamenco creates a healing energy that I believe goes beyond me and ripples in all directions of time, to the generations of women before me and those to follow.

@copyright 2018, Briseyda Zárate FLAMENCO

Elementary School Teacher gone Flamenco Dancer: How following my dreams changed my life!

cropped-image9.jpegNot so long ago, I was an elementary school teacher working myself to a pulp to pay for things I thought I should have, and a life I thought I should have. Trying hard to make relationships work just cause I thought that’s what I was suppose to do.  Not ever experiencing the ease of what it was to have somebody love you just for you and not for what you could do for them or how they could change you to suit them. Scared to death of being alone, of letting others down, of what family would say. Letting what they thought of me and the shame, blame and guilt they would project on me control my actions. Then one day I admitted my true feelings and spoke them. I admitted my true dreams and went after them. I still remember the night as if it were yesterday, when I opened my journal and wrote, “I am a dancer, I always have been”. The next day I tendered my resignation, broke up with my boyfriend and I was out. I’ve never looked back and I’m satisfied at my choice to be a flamenco dancer.  There are many things that we do in life for money and “stability” that are really really boring, unhealthy and stressful and in all honesty it’s not for me. I prefer to choose what I want to do as I go. Some would have me believe this was a character flaw but I know that it’s my strength and that freedom is one of my core values. 

Not having the burden of having to fit into a mold be it cultural, material, religious….frees up a lot of space and uncovers many possibilities. I have lots of financial leeway and lots of spaciousness in my day, I can take off work for months at a time and dedicate it to my creativity and to my healing. Or I can work my butt of and dance like a fiend cause at least I’m working for myself! I can invest in myself and develop new talents like writing and singing, I can take that marketing course and become business savvy. I can afford that yoga certification in Portugal and I can put my money towards this instead of a mortgage or material possessions. 

I’m living an authentic life according to my values with space for savoring, spontaneity, inspiration, improvisation, flow and magic and this to me is what matters.

The Sweetness of the Journey.

I was tired, it had been a long day of practice. As I walked out of the studio I felt the weight of my dance bag on my shoulder. I thought about all of the work that still laid ahead of me as well as the tiredness that accompanied the long road travelled to get here. Here, to this point in my career, to Spain again, to age 42, to chronic fatigue, to fibromyalgia, to healing, etc…

It was then when I said a little prayer and asked the Universe to relieve me from my overwhelm and give me a burst of energy. I immediately received an answer: “You are going to walk home and you’re going to enjoy the journey.” And that is exactly what I did. I walked into the Plaza Encarnación and decided to basque in its lively atmosphere with all its people and quaint little bars. I then walked into Rayas, a popular ice cream shop here in Sevilla, and I got myself a double scoop of vanilla and dulce de leche. With ice cream cone in hand I began to really enjoy my evening stroll through the windy streets. Two leisurely scoops got me down the cobblestone street of calle Sol and a little closer to home. As I savored the ice cream and with each step I took, I understood like never before that the journey from point A to point B is also meant to be enjoyed. It became crystal clear that arriving at the destination meant way less than the process of getting there.

Yes there will be challenges and we will become tired which is why it’s important to also do the little things that bring you joy, that nurture you, that are fun…It’ll make arriving at your goals that much sweeter.

Yours in Flamenco,

Briseyda

How to Easily Make Time for Learning, Practice and the Things You Enjoy.

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Dedicating the time to learning or practicing something new or something you enjoy is often challenging especially if you’re spread thin, have lots of commitments or enjoy doing lots of different things. You’d think I’d have all the time in the world to practice flamenco since it is my job, but the truth is that I too have other interests (writing, singing, yoga, reiki, travel, photography) and other responsibilities that have nothing to do with actually performing flamenco (family, chronic illness, bills, web design, marketing, booking, etc…).

It’s been 5 years now that I’ve lived with a chronic illness. Learning how to manage and heal from the illness, which mainly affects my muscular-skeletal system, and maintaining a dance career has been very challenging and a valuable learning process. One of the major and most beneficial things I’ve learned is that LESS IS MORE. I do not spend hours at a time practicing as I physically cannot but I do practice everyday. Every single day for at least 5 minutes. Once a year I decide to come to Spain (where I’m at presently) and I give my undivided attention to learning, practicing and creating Flamenco because the other thing I learned is that to be able to give you have to also be able to receive and this includes giving to yourself. This time for me is SACRED, however most of the year I practice every day for at least 5 minutes. It’s an easy enough goal that I can meet everyday. It’s sustainable and creates a habit that benefits me and makes me happy.

Out of this need for simplicity I created my Online Flamenco Classes. These lessons are direct, concise, facing the mirror and camera, affordable and most importantly you can learn and practice at your own pace without the feeling that you’re “falling behind” because there’s no such thing. 5 minutes a day or three times a week or whatever you decide is do-able for you is enough. In creating these classes I’ve kept true to my mantra of “Less is More” and have made it more about content than production quality, (that will come with time). Another plus to these classes is that they allow me to fulfill 2 passions at once, traveling and teaching…So anyway you look at it, it’s a win-win.

I encourage you to give these lessons a try or just to make the time for doing something you enjoy everyday for 5 minutes! If you’d like to receive more info on this, just respond to this email and I’ll send over the details.

Yours in Flamenco, 
Briseyda Zárate

Professional Flamenco Dancer & Choreographer.
International Touring Artist & Teacher.
Director at: Briseyda Zárate FLAMENCO 

https://briseydazarateflamenco.wordpress.com