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An Alegrias Afternoon - an introduction to Flamenco for high school students (and one two-year old)

by Robert Abrams
November 13, 2010
La Nacional
239 West 14 Street, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10011
(212) 627-4770
I had the privilege of attending a rare afternoon Alegrias Flamenco performance organized by Jorge Navarro.

This was a special performance for a school group of high school students and their chaperones. There was a little more explanation of what was being presented than in a typical show, but otherwise the afternoon performance had all of the features of Flamenco tablao: singing, intense dancing in one or more Flamenco varieties, a Flamenco guitar solo and more dancing. A meal was served with the show, including chips and salsa, an entree and flan with whipped cream for dessert. Plus plenty of equally attractive, non-alcoholic sangrias (EANAS) to quench everyone's thirst.

As far as I could tell, the educational aspects of this performance worked. For instance, I enjoyed learning more about Flamenco guitars: they have a plastic section on the face of the guitar which provides reinforcement so that the guitar can be used in a percussive style without breaking. But I wasn't there to evaluate the show's educational potential for high school students. (Maybe we will ask the students what they thought of the show in a survey.)

I was at Alegrias this afternoon because I have a two-year old daughter who loves to dance. Some of her arm movements have been suggestive of Flamenco, so I thought she might enjoy a show. The problem is that Flamenco, like pretty much every other style of dance, mostly happens at night, which puts the start of a typical show or dance party after the bedtime of a two-year old. So when I found out about an afternoon performance, I jumped at the chance.

My daughter loved the show. Her attention was focused on the dancers for most of the hour-long performance. Not the whole time. She did wander around the back of the room for a bit in the middle, but she is only two. When she saw her stroller, she wanted to go home, but she wasn't adamant about it. We pushed through, holding her up so that she could see the stage better. We were all rewarded with more dance. After a while, she started to move with the music. At the end of the show, she said, very distinctly, "More dance." Reviews don't get any better than that.

Looking back on the experience, there were several factors that made the show a success for a toddler. We made sure she had had lunch just before the show started. We arrived at La Nacional a little early to give her time to get used to the new space. There was child friendly food available (the chips and salsa and EANAS). We brought a couple of toys for her to play with (a dinosaur doll and a puzzle). There was a tasty dessert that served both as a way of renewing her focus, and also reenforced her good behavior during the show: if you watch dance, you get rewarded with something sweet. One can also think of it as emphasizing the enjoyableness of both dance and food by experiencing them together.

So, while this afternoon show was not intended to be a show for toddlers, it demonstrated that such a show, with some minor adjustments, could work for a very young audience. Such a show would fulfill the promise of Flamenco as a family experience.

If you do take a toddler to an afternoon show at La Nacional, if you need something fun to do after the show, there is a great playground a short L train ride away at Union Square.
A full house for an Alegrias afternoon

A full house for an Alegrias afternoon

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Jorge and Leslie dance a Sevillana

Jorge and Leslie dance a Sevillana

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Jorge and Leslie dance a Sevillana

Jorge and Leslie dance a Sevillana

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams


Flan and Flamenco

Flan and Flamenco

Photo © & courtesy of Robert Abrams

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