Sunday, 14 July 2013

Sisters in Scarlet


These days I feel like I just come here to apologise for my radio silence.  Sincere apologies!  I have been offline for what seems like ages.  If I am away from the blogosphere for any extended period of time it is generally because my life gets taken over by flamenco and this has been one of them.


I have been preparing my students for two shows and it has been weeks of hours upon hours of gruelling rehearsals in the evenings and often late into the night.  There has been frantic organising of timetables, of costumes, and pulling every spare bit of energy I have in my bones to coach some fledgling flamenco dancers in this rich and complex dance form and perfect their routine to performance standard.


As a dance form flamenco demands as much blood, sweat and tears as any other and these photos are of a group of ladies who have taken on the challenge of learning to dance with the bata de cola, this magnificent, long trailing skirt.  The spectacular cascade of frills is breathtaking to behold in full flight, but its beauty belies an instrument of torture!


It requires quite a large degree of physical strength to dance with the bata.  These skirts can weigh up to five kilos and the dancer has to lift them in a ballet-like arabesque using the ballet technique of plié in order to do so.  The weight is provided not just by the frills on top of the skirt, but also by layers and layers of frills which are stitched underneath the skirt and made out of a stiff, paper-like fabric (a bit like very stiff interfacing).  Some also have a metal wire or stiff cord stitched into the hem of the skirt to give it shape and weight.


The dancer needs to develop enough skill to avoid treading on the frills which can trip her up, or to flip it over so that the underlying paper is visible - a cardinal sin! Then she needs to learn to make it fly through the air, open on landing, control it to make it stop where she needs it to and be able to pick it up - all in time and all while making it look like it is the easiest and most graceful thing in the world!


In many respects, the bata de cola is to flamenco what the symbolic red shoes are to ballet, an object of desire and obsession, because frankly, if you weren't obsessive about flamenco you would never persist with such masochism.  A flamenco dancer who had studied bata for years swore to me that the sensation was like that of dancing with another person.  One of my students refers to her bata as the beast she is always trying to tame.  Another has even branded herself with a beautiful half body tattoo of a flamenco dancer in a scarlet bata de cola.


These are the photos from the rehearsal and performance a couple of weeks ago.  It took place in the splendour of a listed ballroom in London that looks like something straight out of a film set.  Apparently it is London's last remaining ballroom from the fifties, and despite a grotty exterior, inside it is extravagantly decorated in red velvet, flock wallpaper, and lit with large crystal chandeliers, gilt candelabras and sconces, glitter balls and large red Chinese lanterns. It is in fact often used as a film set.  It was used in Tina Turner's Private Dancer video - fitting I think!  Some years ago I was also an extra on a film set here filming an initial storyboard for a San Miguel advertisement featuring flamenco dancers.


The making of this dance has been quite a journey and a really lovely camaraderie has developed amongst the class - a sisterhood of sorts has formed, borne out of a fascination with frills, strengthened after hours of frustration have turned to fruition, and united in a passion for and love of flamenco.  It has been very exciting for me to finally realise the vision of a choreography for a larger group and have it performed and received well by an audience.  I was thrilled at how it turned out and very proud of how the girls danced on the day.

 

I think the photos speak for themselves as to how much work they put into preparing for this.  More importantly, they put a lot of heart and soul on top of their technique into their performance.  I couldn't have asked for a nicer or more dedicated group of women to teach and I can honestly say that through teaching them, I've also learnt a lot from them in return about teaching and dance and what it means to be flamenco.  So thank you girls.


Our matching scarlet batas were a happy accident.  There were three black batas and five red and I arranged them in a checker board fashion on stage.  Most of the batas had been ordered from and made in Spain where that true saturated tone of red is extremely popular.


I was also fortunate enough that one of my students works as a bridal courturier by day and she is starting a bespoke flamenco costume design business on the side.  She sourced material in matching red lace and made us all matching crossover tops to tie us all together visually.  It worked a treat!


The photos were, as always, taken by the talented Mr V - who is becoming quite the flamenco dance photographer!  Since this performance we have been preparing for another - which is today at the (gulp!) Royal Festival Hall!  Wish us luck!  I expect we will have some photos to share with you of that too in the near future.


I got this red bata de cola dress while I was out in Spain a couple of months ago.  I bought it specifically because most of my students had red batas, but I had a cream one.  I figured if I was going to dance with them in a group I had better match some of them!  There is quite an interesting story about this red bata de cola I ended up buying, but that will have to be for another post...

Will be linking up to Visible Monday over at Not Yet Dead Style to say an overdue hello!

29 comments:

  1. wow wow wow WOW! these pictures, the movements, the colors, are astounding! good luck in your performance :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Totally stunning! You look so beautiful and that dress is gorgeous! x

    ReplyDelete
  3. I absolutely love this post and all the photos! Congrats to you and all your students, you all look just fabulous! Mr V is brilliant at capturing such a passionate dance form. If I had to choose one fav photo, it would have to be the one where the bata de cola dress train is off the floor in motion. Stunning!

    ReplyDelete
  4. WOW! This is just incredible to read about. The other part that you don't seem to mention so much is how incredibly hot it must be in those outfits! I used to do some jive (hobby, I'm no good at all) but the outfits for that are as skimpy as possible and you still sweat to death. Those dresses in the London heat must be so tough to still feel energetic in! It makes me feel exhausted just looking at them. I am so impressed with your hard work, you deserve to feel really proud of it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh goodness - my heart stopped, these pictures and the dancers in them are so gorgeous. And it is fascinating to learn how hard you train to dance in (with!) these dresses. Nice work, Ms. and Mr. V., and dancers!

    ReplyDelete
  6. What fabulous photos! I wish I had been there to see that.

    bisous
    Suzanne

    ReplyDelete
  7. Breathtaking! I appreciate the background of how much work and strength goes in to this dance. A dance of love for sure. You all look fabulous.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Amazing photographs, you look incredible! What a fantastic performance you all gave. I can well understand how heavy those stunning dresses must be to dance in, but oooh I'd love to learn the flamenco one day! I've been also dancing in my latest post, but very much as freestyle amateur!

    ReplyDelete
  9. What gorgeous dresses! Amazing photos - everyone looks so graceful. Thank you for explaining about the bata - that's so interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thrilling photos and excellent narrative on the dance and Bata. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I literally feel high with the bright colors, the incredible batas, and in imagining how the dance must have looked! These photos are wonderful, and I can see the dedication and passion in all the movements. I can almost hear the shoes on the floor, but how I wish I could have seen this in person!

    And all this glorious beauty after just reading a lovely fairy story at Emalina and the Gypsy. So much creativity, beauty and passion - I feel so lucky to read your blogs!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Oh, it's all so stunning! What amazing dedication and skill you've conveyed. I can just picture those skirts swirling and flying.

    ReplyDelete
  13. What a great post to find this morning. The bata de cola as an instrument of torture is amazing to see in such graceful action. Love the hand gestures. Thanks so much for the beautiful pictures and script!

    ReplyDelete
  14. amazing photos. Love the beauty of the swirling dresses.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Beautiful post, beautiful dresses, and just beautiful

    ReplyDelete
  16. You and your students are art in motion and I am enthralled by the beauty that you display in these photos. Thank you Mr V. You possess so many talents and I am so happy to have found you.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Congratulations on your performance! I love this sea of red frills and I can nearly see them flouncing this way and that with all your skillful flamenco moves. All the photos are so vibrantly kinetic. A good friend and dancer (who used to perform both flamenco and belly dancing -- in different establishments!) is right now on holiday in Spain. I bet she'd love to see these images. -- J xxx

    ReplyDelete
  18. This is amazing. Something I have always wanted to learn. You are officially excused from being absent from the blogosphere….best excuse ever.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Utterly gorgeous photos, well done Mr V, and well done to you and the other dancers. The dresses, and the dancing, look stunning. Hope your second performance went well. xxx

    ReplyDelete
  20. One of the best posts ever, from anyone! And certainly among the most beautiful ... and you send some beauties out to us regularly. Congratulations to you and all your students for your success. I'm so happy you shared this with us. So clearly a statement about one part of your nature, it's absolutely a "style" post and intimate, even though it's of performance. So proud I know you, even a little.
    What a year you are having! Thank you for this fascinating glimpse into a world most of us will never experience.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Oh my oh my......I love these photos. What better reason for blogger 'radio silence' than dance? And Flamenco at that. Sure do miss your blogging.....and I am guilty of the same blog neglect myself!

    ReplyDelete
  22. No hay nada mejor que enredarse en la garra del flamenco y dejarse llevar de puro arte.
    Maravillosas fotos, casi puedo verlo.
    Te abrazo
    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

    ReplyDelete
  23. I love watching flamenco, its such a work of art, and how beautiful are the flowing parts of the fabric ... layers upon layers of it, which is my favourite part. You look so stunning in your dress. x/Madison

    ReplyDelete
  24. I'm so glad the performance was a hit, you guys certainly worked hard enough at it! The photos show the whole crew looking spectacular working together with their "dance partners". Thank you for sharing the story of the bata, what an amazing costume to wear - I didn't know it was such a tricky beastie to work with! xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  25. Hi my dear! wow, what a spectacular post, it looks like you and the other ladies have been working so hard and you all look so wonderful too-fantastic photos!! xxx

    ReplyDelete
  26. Oh Veshoevious!!!! What gorgeous photos!! I wish I could hear the music and be a part of such a beautiful experience. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. Your passion for flamenco is contagious and the costumes alone are thrilling. Congratulations on a wonderful artistic moment.

    Thank you for your comment on Dross, too. Joey's dad is better and his mom is now in hospice, surrounded by friends and family. We count our blessings.

    ReplyDelete
  27. How incredibly beautiful! I've actually been to Spain and watched Flamenco dancing in it's natural habitat, as it were. I've always loved the bata because I actually had one when I was about 6 years old. It didn't have a very large or heavy train but it was just gorgeous! I couldn't dance, of course, but I would put it on and clack my castanets and feel like I was in Spain ;-)

    Alicia

    ReplyDelete

Thank you kindly for your comments! Please be aware that comment moderation is on to weed out the spammers and I can only check comments once a day, so please don't worry if you don't see your comment come up at first - it is probably there and will be up later xx

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...