Flamenco is an art form that can contribute, in a fun way, to healthy aging. Get the facts about colourful Flamenco culture.
Flamenco–dance, music, and song–is a living art form originating in Southern Spain. Celebrating the amalgamation of people from diverse cultures, creeds, and stages of life, flamenco is an art form that nurtures the mind, body, and soul. One needs merely the courage and the desire to explore.
As a dance artist, teacher, and former therapist, I have gained an appreciation for the many and varied benefits of the flamenco art form. Whether one chooses to dance, play guitar, or sing, flamenco demands a body trained to move, a mind trained to concentrate, and a soul trained to navigate its emotional content.
Flamenco is expressed through the triple vehicles of dance, music, and song and offers physical, cognitive, and emotional benefits.
Dance A series of repetitive exercises such as footwork drills, arm elevations, and hand- and torso-twisting combine to challenge gross and fine motor skills and muscle memory.
One learns to isolate movement, strengthening each part of the body while refining proprioception, an inner sense of our bodies that informs us to know how, where, and what each part of the body is doing at all times.
Guitar While learning to play flamenco guitar involves mainly fine motor activity, it offers many of the same benefits as flamenco dance. Neuroscience research is beginning to show that the brain can continue to grow throughout life. However, it needs to be challenged to do so. Flamenco is an art form that can contribute, in a fun way, to healthy aging.
Psychologically speaking, cognition refers to the way in which we process information. In flamenco, one must be able to maintain concentration and be able to divide attention to learn and remember movement sequences and chord progressions.
Song When dancers and musicians progress to a stage where interpretation of the song is required, a whole new set of skills begins to develop and the doorto culture and tradition opens.
Songs originated from poets and dynasties within different regions of Andalusia. One must research, view performances, and listen to the music in order to learn about the culture of flamenco song, and become familiar with the differences in order to interpret them.
Once in motion, dancers always need to know where they are within the song. They must keep track of the tercios (divisible sections of the song) and listen closely to the caida del cante (fall of the song) to know when to “punctuatewith movement.”
Dancers intellectually navigate, organize, and interpret song information. They associate physiological responses that must accompany the reaction to the song. The same holds true for the flamenco guitarist. Furthermore, this needs to become an automatic response so that one’s soul comes into play and colours the physical sights and sounds with emotion.
I coach and encourage my students and fellow artists to continually work on many levels of consciousness. One part of the brain is alert to the actual physical environment (the floor, the ability to physically endure the dance, and knowing when to rest or move explosively).
Another part of the brain–memory–needs to keep track of the music, while yet another controls endurance in a way that permits dancers to sink into the body and access their emotional world.
For some, flamenco is a way of life; for others, it is a temporary escape from the norm. For all, it is an expressive art form that feeds the mind, body, and soul, and fills the world with beauty.
Serious Fun for Adults
Adults and seniors can equally experience benefits from all that flamenco has to offer:
- Relieves stress, thanks to the concentration needed for repetitive movement
- Improves balance–known to universally deteriorate with age
- Wards off memory loss in older adults by continually challenging their brains through learning about new cultures, new dances, and new songs
For children and adolescents, getting to know their bodies through dance enables them to understand and navigate the world around them:
- Helps to build self-esteem
- Prepares them academically, as movement has foundations in math, science, language, and social studies
- Teaches them about feelings–to be able to enjoy happiness and tolerate sadness