I knew I was in for a treat when Alexa Miton, the flamenco teacher at Baltimore School of Dance, instructed me to wear a long, flowy skirt and heels to her Wednesday-evening class. I felt overdressed as I hustled down the Hampden street to the studio, but the feeling was fleeting—I arrived to find my (all-female) classmates draped in patterned circle skirts, some sporting flowers in their hair. (FYI: Men are most welcome.)
The women in costume were at once aware of their peculiar appearance and entirely natural in it, a duality of flamboyance and gravity that persisted. I found myself feeling alternately ridiculous and sexy, for example, as I snaked my palms and fingers into the traditional floreos—hand motions—integral to the solo dance, and Miton wove her somber demonstrations of the proud dance with fun Spanish-history trivia and inside jokes. A live flamenco guitarist in the fluorescent-lit room only added to the novel vibe.
How It Works: Miton, a seasoned flamenco performer, leads her pupils through a series of isolated motions (posture, foot position, floreos, the all-important and ever-satisfying stomps, or golpes) before combining them all into a fluid series of steps. The result is seriously impressive—and while I didn’t master the dance, it wasn’t discouragingly difficult, either.
What I Love: Flamenco is all about expressing graceful strength, and the upright postures, striking shapes and just-plain-loud golpes were empowering. Miton proclaimed at the beginning of class to “never dance like you’re sorry,” and by the end of class I felt anything but apologetic … despite my flawed form.
What I Don’t: I’ve never been a fan of performing in front of classmates. The class was uniquely uncritical, however, so perhaps it’s all part of the process. Olé!