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A heart that ‘beats with Flamenco’

From L.A. to Spain to SCV, local instructor follows dance

Posted: September 3, 2013 1:01 p.m.
Updated: September 3, 2013 1:01 p.m.

Linda Andrade, local dance teacher, demonstrates Flamenco at New World Dance in Canyon Country. Photo by Dan Watson

 

Decades ago, 7-year-old Linda Andrade walked the stalls of Olvera Street in Los Angeles with her mom, immersed in a flood of music, color and the aromas of Mexican food.

Drawn by the familiar notes of Flamenco guitar and song, Andrade turned and stared in awe, letting a fork fall from her hand. The utensil clattered on the pavement, lost in the street’s vibrant sounds.

Abandoning her cheese enchilada, Andrade was captivated by the impassioned street dancers twisting to the beat of Flamenco.

And she wanted to try it herself.

From early on, a series of childhood experiences led Andrade’s heart, soul and feet to follow Flamenco dance around the world, taking her to Spain and eventually guiding her back to the Los Angeles region and the Santa Clarita Valley.

Since her return from Spain, Andrade has been teaching regionally at the Los Angeles Music Center and locally at New World Dance studio in Canyon Country. She is also the artistic director in her dance company, Sakai Flamenco, performing in a dynamic ensemble of some of the finest traditional Flamenco dancers and musicians in the United States.

Previously, she has taught locally at College of the Canyons and Mountainview Elementary School.

A “transcendent experience,” true Flamenco dance uses the body as a vehicle for a person’s most authentic emotion, Andrade said.

And Andrade has been both physically and emotionally moved by the dance her entire life, she said.

But Andrade’s love for the dance has a simple beginning, she said.

 

A journey through dance

“When I was a girl, we lived with a Hungarian family that played Czardas — gypsy violin music,” Andrade said. “I would wear a skirt and dance, and they would get in a circle around me and throw coins.”

Throughout her childhood, Andrade recalls her grandfather playing cassette tapes of Flamenco singing, which she described as a intense, passionate form of sung poetry and “not for everyone.”

“But I cried — I was so profoundly moved,” Andrade said.

With an immediate affinity for dancing and passion for powerful music, Andrade began dance classes that she would continue her entire life.

And it was among the colors, flavors and music of Olvera Street that Andrade first encountered live Flamenco dance.

Andrade was drawn to the dance because Flamenco encompasses performers of any age, ethnic persuasion, size or body type, she said.

“The dance is a conversation — a way to express your most authentic self,” Andrade said.

Marked by her childhood experiences, Andrade continued dance education into college, when a conversation with a roommate led her to recommit herself to Flamenco.

“We dared each other to follow our childhood dreams,” she said. While the challenge led Andrade’s roommate to consider marine biology, Andrade decided to explore the roots of Flamenco.

“My heart beats with Flamenco, and I went to Spain to pursue it,” she said.

Once in Spain, Andrade studied for about six months under a prestigious teacher, then she abandoned it all to live with local gypsy dancers.

“I met these gypsies on the street corner, and my life changed,” Andrade said. “They wanted to show me real Flamenco, not the Vegas-style, curls-and-ruffles kind. So I left with them.”

Touring through the South of Spain, she said, the women became her family.

On the streets of Spain in the 1980s, Andrade mimicked the bull’s lines as it danced with its matador, earning herself the nickname “La Matadora.” She learned Flamenco Puro, the purest form of the dance, from humble people in small towns who possessed incredible talent and passion for the dance and music.

Those months were a string of little adventures, she said.

Andrade equated learning Flamenco Puro in the provincial South of Spain to learning blues music on the Mississippi Delta.

“We watched how the Spanish people argued, how they drank their wine. We watched the women fan themselves, how they gossiped in the streets as they washed their clothes,” she said. “They taught me Flamenco is a way of life, not a dance.”

 

Bringing it home

Returning to the United States, Andrade found ways to teach and perform what she had learned abroad.

Andrade fondly recalled the years she taught Flamenco at College of the Canyons, recruiting dedicated students who took on the dance to become talented performers in their own right.

Catering to a younger audience, Andrade also taught the dance, culture and history of Flamenco to Mountainview Elementary students.

“We would make connections to math with the footwork, count beats and learn history and geography,” Andrade said, citing the dance’s journey across continents over time.

Currently, Andrade live in a home in Tujunga and teaches Flamenco in Castaic. She has helped to regroup local and regional dancers for an upcoming performance at Rancho Camulos’ annual Ramona Days fundraising event Sept. 7.

“We will perform three times,” Andrade said, “to help the Rancho Camulos Museum.”

Rehearsals for the performance have been promising and packed with emotion, Andrade said. “Last night we had goose bumps from being able to work together as a community to bring something special and unique to SCV,” Andrade said Tuesday.

The performers aim to reach deep and express authentic emotion, rather than just put on a show, she said.

Even now, the gypsy dancers’ lessons echo in Andrade’s ears and manifest in her teachings.

“All these years later, my heart is still over there on that little street corner in Spain,” Andrade said.

kirsten@signalscv.com
661-287-5593

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