My childhood and youth has been blessed with brilliant role models. Starting with my father, managers that I was lucky to work with at the beginning of my career and political activist whose intellectual sharpness influenced my thinking. Each one of these men demonstrated to me patterns of behavior that I wanted to emulate. “What does it mean to act with integrity? How to navigate a difficult situation? How to dissect a complex issue?” I gleaned my answers by observing men that I admired. There is just one nagging problem in this lovely story. My long list of role models contains no women. I never met a woman whose fierce character, intellectual prowess or heights of integrity I earnestly wished I could copy. None. Nada. Not one. Is this a character fault on my part? A weird coincidence? Or some cataclysmic eclipse in the history of human heart? I don’t know. This question bothered me like a mouth sore. Recurring. Bothersome enough without being life threatening.
One of the side effects of involvement in flamenco dance is that I get to meet many fantastic women. That is not why I am involved with flamenco, it is just one of the side benefits that I thoroughly enjoy. This flamenco thingy has many side benefits that I thoroughly enjoy, but I want to stay focused. Although flamenco dance in Spain draws both men and woman equally, the particulars of the Vancouver cultural landscape is such, that the appearance of a man in a dance class generates the same excitement as a sighting of a bald eagle along the seashore. “Wow! Look! There is a man in our dance class today! Cool!”
Some mysterious energy in flamenco draws particular kind of women. Creative. Opinionated. Action oriented. Fierce. Boundary breaking. Living outside the box. Obsessive. Dedicated. Free thinking. Annoying. In your face. Flamenco is not for the meek. If you don’t have a spine, you won’t last long.
Not all of us agree. In fact not all of us even like each other. There is such diversity of opinions, backgrounds and temperaments you would expect high friction. Yet magic happens when people communicate in dance, united by a pulsating rhythm. Opinions and thoughts peel away. Outside of words. Without logic. A garden of feminine beauty. The colorful costumes, outlandish earings and hair flowers serve as an ample metaphor. I have been reflecting about how the mouth sore seems to have mysteriously healed. I am too old to be looking for a role model. In truth, nobody in the Vancouver flamenco community is my role model. I don’t wish to be like any single one of them. Each one has her own life, challenges, and problems. Yet inside the plethora of feminine diversity I find inspiration to come into my own. I feel strengthened. It leaves me buoyant. To the Vancouver women of flamenco I say: “You leave me in awe!”
Recently a friend expressed her wish to start taking flamenco dance lessons. I gave info about where to find lessons with words of encouragement. “I don’t know if I am going to be any good at it” she replied filled with hesitation. Secretly I thought: “I hope you totally suck at it. Inside the humbling pursuit of maddening art form you can gain rewards far greater than stardom.”