It was the start of an ordinary school week when an extraordinary opportunity knocked on the doors of Moncure School. A dance residency–led by four international artists from the Durham-based Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana Dance Company–had arrived!
The Performance: Where Education Meets Entertainment
The Moncure gym’s wooden floor echoed the rap-tap-tap of the dancers as they stomped and posed in front of the students in third through eighth grade.
The performers shared the art of flamenco through storytelling, delving into its rich multi-cultural history.
They offered a view into the arts of castanets, song, dance, and guitar–with audience participation, of course. Students grinned as they struck powerful poses from their seats.
The dancers used a small wooden platform to amplify the sound of their careful footwork. And they taught students some singing patterns of flamenco, including repeating the phrase, cachito de pan, meaning “little piece of bread” in Spanish.
Time allowed for questions at the end of the performance. What were students most curious about? They wanted to know when the flamenco dancers began their craft! To much surprise, almost all of the artists revealed their flamenco journey started around the age of the students in front of them.
A Dance Begins: Uniting through Flamenco
During the class workshops, fifth and seventh grade students began to learn the intricate steps and rhythms of flamenco.
Teaching artist Jorge gave clear and methodical instructions, carefully modeling and counting off the moves for students as they learned. “And, all up, 2, 3, 4, and down, 2, 3, 4…”
Students picked up the choreography with ease, often nudging their friends to get certain moves right. The students began to unite through the pride and shared joy of dance.
Fifth grade teacher Ms. Shinn couldn’t help but notice the enthusiasm and excitement bubbling among her students. “They are so into this!” she exclaimed.
As students worked over the two days to master their flamenco dance choreography, their faces lit up with pride and excitement. “Yes! Attitude! I love it,” teaching artist, Patricia, told the crowd of dancing students.
“Take up space!” encouraged teaching artist Sol, as students continued to get familiar with the choreography. “That’s why you are here.”
Confidence Blossoms: A Journey of Transformation
“It was impossible not to notice the confidence of the students increasing as they were noted on being successful with their dance moves [by the artists]. There was pride and excitement in their faces,“ shared seventh grade teacher, Ms. Shoup.
In the words of a seventh-grader, the experience was not only educational, but also “funny and energizing.” One student announced to Ms. Shoup: “I looked up Flamenco music on Spotify, made a playlist, and I practiced all night!”
The students likened their experience to dance videos on social media. “It’s, like, basically the same thing,” said one student when comparing the experience of learning TikTok dances and flamenco dance. They loved learning the choreography, step-by-step.
The flamenco instructors were impressed by the students’ innate sense of rhythm–especially the seventh graders, who took a swinging hips portion of their dance very seriously. “I loved how [the dancers] said that dancing is making music come alive,” shared one seventh grader.
One of the teaching artists encouraged: “Rhythm. You have it in your heart and in your being.” The students were discovering the soul of flamenco within themselves.
As students courageously took to the stage in pairs or alone to review and perform the choreography, they encountered a few missteps along the way.
But their resilience was stoked by a powerful reminder from the resident guitarist, Raphael: “Never give up if you mess up; always look for guidance and continue.”
This residency was sponsored by an anonymous community member. It is part of the Chatham Arts Council’s Artists-in-Schools Initiative.
Arts for Resilient Kids programming is made possible by partnerships with Chatham County Schools, Chatham County, the North Carolina Arts Council, and many individual, foundation, and business donors. If you feel inspired to help us educate kids through the arts, click here to donate.