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    Walk down Frankfort Avenue on any given evening, and you’re likely to hear stomping feet, the singing of Spanish poetry and the fast-paced strumming of a guitar - Flamenco. You might have the same reaction that I did when I heard about

    Flamenco Louisville

    (flamenco here?), but despite the surprising pairing Diana Dinicola and her group are alive, well, and getting ready to celebrate ten years of spicing up Louisville’s dance scene.

    The evening that I sat in there were five dancers, an instructor who was also singing, and a guitarist. They danced a Tangos por Fiesta, or a party-style tango, where each dancer took turns in the center of the group improvising and trying to use all the steps they learned earlier in that night’s lesson. I was struck by the live music and singing - was this the norm for the group, and did all flamenco dancing feature a singer? “Absolutely,” Dinicola told me. “A lot of people think flamenco is a dance style, but nothing could be further from the truth.”

    Rather than flamenco being just the dance, she told me, it’s all about the three-part combination (called the Quadro) of the singer, dancer, and guitarist. “Really, flamenco is more akin to American-style improvisational jazz. just with a dancer and vocalist as fundamental parts,” Dinicolo says. There isn’t any one dominant element, and in fact all three parts are playing off each other.

    Think of how a jazz guitarist and bassist might inform each other as to what part is coming next, just so the singer, dancer, and guitarist work together to control the tempo, intensity, and course of a flamenco song. If a singer is slowing down the piece and the dancer comes to a point where they wish to bring the energy level up, they perform a llamada (think of a bridge in a song), signaling the other part to follow her just as she followed them before. “People think flamenco is all about dance because it’s so flashy,” Dinicola told me, “but nothing is further from the truth.”

    Live music is a staple of Flamenco Louisville as well - “we here at Flamenco Louisville really think that if you aren’t performing with live music and vocals then you really aren’t doing flamenco,” Dinicola told me - and rightfully so. If Flamenco is all about the relationship between the three parts, then performing against a recording wouldn’t allow for any of the interplay that should be happening to make it real. You can’t improvise with a recording, after all.

    As for the level of improvisation in flamenco, Dinicola describes it as lego bricks. “You take bricks of a prescribed size and shape and plug them together to make a finished piece,” she told me, “those bricks are each a sequence of steps, so the dancer has a lot of liberty to use what suits the mood of the music.” And that mood is intense, no matter how slow the music seems. Flamenco uses the dancer’s whole body, and I could see the workout that everyone was getting as they practiced. But the reward is great - soon nine students, along with Dinicola and her husband, Paul (the guitarist) will be travelling to Seville, Spain for

    La Bienal

    - a huge, month-long flamenco festival. They’ll be learning from some of the best in the world, and Dinicola will be reuniting with her Spanish teachers that she’s been studying with since 2005.

    Flamenco Louisville stays busy here in town as well - not only do the put on multiple performances a year, but they also regularly do community outreach at assisted living facilities, retirement homes, and schools. Dinicola herself is a teaching artist with the Kentucky Arts Council, and she does workshops, assemblies and residencies at schools all around the area.

    If you’re interested in seeing Flamenco Louisville perform, they’ll be at the

    World Fest

    this weekend, and they will also be performing at

    Cafe Classico

    on September 13th - tickets for that event are $10, which includes a glass of wine. If getting in on the dancing is more your thing, they’ll be starting a new beginners class for teens and adults on Saturday, September 6th (1 p.m. - 2 p.m.) for $15. Since flamenco dancing can be so challenging, Dinicola says that they like to keep a group of learners together.

    Photo courtesy of Flamenco Louisville

    Brandon Vigliarolo's picture

    About Brandon Vigliarolo

    Brandon is a Michigan transplant, and has been working as a freelance writer since he arrived. He lives with his Girlfriend Hannah, Pico and Marionette the cats, and Marley the awkward greyhound.

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