“Julia, izquierda!” As the pace of the music increased, I tried to not let the words of Dona Lola, my profesora de baile, which were currently being heard in my head, mess up my dancing. All semester long at my bi-weekly Sevillanas dance class (Sevillanas being a flamenco-style dance in Spain), I was constantly being admonished by Profesora Lola for the starting the dance with the incorrect foot (izquierda is the word for left in Spanish). Although I never thought of myself as someone with bad coordination (I had after all taken ballet for six years), apparently when I put away my ballet shoes, my coordination got put away too.
The funny thing about Profesora Lola was that she really wasn’t an intimidating person, either in look or demeanor. In fact, her reprimands were more comical than anything else, due to her especially pronounced Andalusian accent. She didn’t patrol the dance floor like a Russian ballet madam during class. Rather, she always kindly and gently corrected an out of place arm or leg. My problem was that when she corrected people, it was always in front of the whole class, and it was almost always me being the one corrected.
When I had gone about selecting my courses the previous semester, I thought (at the time) that learning a regional folk dance and earning a college credit for it would be fantastic. Although the first class had gone well enough, since the steps we were taught were very basic and invovled a lot of repeating, as the weeks progressed, they became more elaborate and advanced.
The night before the official start of the Feria holiday (an elaborate fair held annually in Seville two weeks after Easter Holy Week), the center where I was studying hosted a fiesta for its students and their intercambios (language exchange partners). Although I normally skipped the fiestas, I decided to go. It seemed that most of the students were going, namely because many of us were traveling somewhere for the holiday. While in Spain I had two weeks of vacation, one for Easter week, the other for Feria. I myself would be headed to Madrid the following day, where I would then fly to Italy for the week.
At the start of the party, I stayed more on the sidelines, preferring to snack on some of the tapas that had been laid out along with a customary glass of Manzanilla, a type of fine sherry. Although people began dancing right away, I remained rooted to my seat for fear of embarrassing myself out on the courtyard’s dance floor.
When Nick, my ever fun loving and gregarious amigo, offered his hand, and said “Julia, vamos,” yo fui (I went). If there was one person I needn’t have been embarrassed with, it was Nick. He and I were also in the same dance class so we had danced together (or I had attempted to) on many occassions before. As the music began, I stood anxiously waiting for the vocals to start, which would signal the start of the dancing (and scary footwork).
Although of course there were some goof ups (mostly on my part) and I still felt that my dance moves were greatly inferior to those of some of my companeros, I had fun that night, some of the most fun I would have the entire semester. I came to the realization while stomping my feet and twirling my legs, that dancing is a lot like language learning. Both can be difficult but both can be extremely rewarding if you stop caring about possibly messing up and just enjoy yourself. Fluidity will come when speaking a foreign language or dancing an exotic dance if you stop being inhibited and simply just be. And the best reward of all was when, on my way out of the center that night after the party, I even garnered a “bien hecho” (well done) from Profesora Lola herself.