Living with passion: 'I took up Flamenco and it has changed my outlook on life'

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Louise Slyth always wanted to learn to dance Flamenco and lockdown gave her the perfect excuse. Here is what she learned, alongside the steps


I am standing in my tiny Dublin garden in the Irish drizzle, dressed to kill and feeling slightly sick. I am about to take part in a flamenco flash mob as part of a concert in Seville, via Zoom.

If you had told me in February that I would be doing this, you would have heard the laughter in Kildare.

Sometimes when the universe gives you a sign, you should listen, but when it gives you a poke in the ribs, its time to act.

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Despite being born on a Tuesday, my mother has repeatedly assured me that Grace was not a virtue I was born with, and I have never had the confidence to go to a dance class. I have often sent off emails or looked at websites, but I have lived at the side-lines, too scared to fail. I’ve always had a fascination with Flamenco and every December I used to think “next year I’ll learn”. And every year so far has passed, with me no closer to my goal.

Then in May, an email materialised in my inbox from Taller Flamenco in Seville, responding to an information request I had made some time ago, offering beginners Flamenco lessons via Zoom.

Sometimes when the universe gives you a sign, you should listen, but when it gives you a poke in the ribs, its time to act. In fairness, still in lockdown, it wasn’t like my diary was bursting with other opportunities.

If I succeeded, then 2020 would not just be the year of constant low-level terror, not seeing my family, and very clean hands. This would be the year I learned to dance. And if I failed, then hell, I had bigger things to worry about. Even better…2020 was a write off, so if I failed it was 2020’s fault.

Más pasión

I embarked on my journey, with Carmen, a bone fide Flamenco dancer and teacher, who despite speaking English, kept me on my toes (excuse the pun) by speaking only in Spanish. The first few weeks I resembled a startled foal, and then gradually I gained more confidence. As a novice it was incredibly hard, trying to retain my balance whilst my hands, feet and head all did completely different things. It was a bit like learning to drive, with slightly less risk to human life.

Thankfully, Carmen possessed saint-like patience, but would often berate me “menos concentración más pasión” (less concentration more passion). She explained that I was trying so hard to get the choreography right that I looked unhappy. Flamenco is about passion and pride, so no matter whether my feet, hands and head were doing the right things, I should just look proud and enjoy it.

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If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that none of us know how many more tomorrows we have, so whether it’s a job, a course, a project, or a person, we have to go after what we want.

As I was practising the next day, I realised what a profound metaphor that was for my life, and for the lives of so many women. How many of us have spent our lives concentrating on doing the right things: box ticking and people pleasing, but not taking risks or feeling joy in their daily lives? I am the kind of woman who pays her credit card bill early and sends her Christmas cards on the first of December, but not necessarily one who has always lived life passionately and with abandon. Until now.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that none of us know how many more tomorrows we have, so whether it’s a job, a course, a project, or a person, we have to go after what we want. Now. The worst that can happen is that we don’t succeed the first time. But if we don’t even try, then our failure is assured.

The concert is over and whilst I can’t say I will be troubling Dancing with the Stars anytime soon, I think I held my own. Now that I have completed my beginners’ course, I have decided to continue my flamenco lessons and pursue more projects that bring me joy. I may never become a graceful dancer, but at least I am living con pasión.

The writer has no affiliations with Taller Flamenco and did not receive any compensation for this article.


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