Love. Passion. Sensuality. These are the words that came to my mind one afternoon while I was sitting in the audience watching a show.
I was transfixed by the beautiful dances on stage. I was quite mesmerized by the graceful movements of the dancers' hands, while in contrast, their feet would energetically stomp the floor, and their hips sway in time with the music. Emotions are clearly etched on their faces. Dance partners would look into each other's eyes, seeming to exchange unspoken words that they only understand. Lady dancers without partners dance with sensual expressions meant, I supposed, for the person they are dancing for. They are dancing the Flamenco, the dance of love.
I was invited to the show by my friend, Annie Divinagracia Sartorio, artistic director of Annie Divinagracia Sartorio School of Performing Arts (ADS SPA), the only school in Iloilo City that teaches Flamenco. Annie herself teaches this very intricate dance, although she also delegates the teaching to reliable assistants when her craft brings her outside Iloilo. The performers on stage are students of ADS SPA and Kawilihan Dance Troupe, with guest dancers from Fundacion Centro Flamenco, one of the best (if not the best) Flamenco schools in the country.
I noticed that the women dancers of Fundacion Centro Flamenco are all middle-aged, some are even in their 60s. In spite of their age, they dance with admirable grace and vigor. I believe this is due to years of dancing, which is a great form of exercise.
The more senior members of the group are SeĂ±ora Emma Estrada, the president and artistic director of the school, and SeĂ±ora Cecile de Joya. SeĂ±ora Estrada's introduction to Spanish dance began when she was a college student at Universidad Complutense de Madrid in Spain during the early 1990s. SeĂ±ora de Joya, who is a founding member of the Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company started with ballet during her primary school days. Today, not only do these two continue to dance and teach Flamenco, but also persist on honing their craft. The Spanish dance keeps their body fit and supple, and their mind alert.
"Aside from being a good exercise and relief from stress, dancing promotes good health and enhances our personality through the development of our confidence and social skills," says Annie Divinagracia Sartorio when I asked her what are the usual reasons why people enroll in her Flamenco class.
It is a known fact that all forms of dancing give our hearts and lungs a good workout, which lowers our risk of heart disease, reduces blood pressure and helps with managing our weight. It is estimated that one can burn 330 calories per hour by dancing.
Since Flamenco involves a lot of foot tapping, it builds bone density more effectively than other weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, where the stress on your bones is milder. Some research shows that the more stress or intensity in your exercise workout, the more you can build your bone density. But if you have arthritis or any joint problem in the feet, this dance might not be for you.
The dance also requires a high level of muscle control and speed, making it an intense workout. Flamenco's leg lifts, hand clapping and bursts of foot tapping and stamping provide an interval workout. Fitness trainers highly recommends interval training which means alternating high intensity and low intensity exercises to speed up metabolism and burn more calories in the process.
Dancing the Flamenco will also give you a more flexible body and improve your balance. As you dance, your upper torso and arms twist and turn, your back arches, and you lift and turn your legs. All these movements stretch and balance your body.
Also, mental concentration and patience in needed to learn and master the steps. During class, it keeps your mind off other matters, hence, it helps reduce stress and improve your mood and energy. Not only that, it also helps lower the risk of developing dementia and reduce decline in memory as you get older.
If you want to grow old gracefully like SeĂ±oras Emma Estrada and Cecile de Joya, why not take up dancing? Dancing is good for the body and soul, especially if it is the dance of love.*