Duende – Having a heightened state of emotion, expression and authenticity, often found in the artistry of flamenco
My childhood friends would not recognize me as an adult. Sure I look the same, minus a few wrinkles and a few extra pounds, but the spirit inside of me has emerged like an eagle in flight over the New Mexico Sandia Mountains. As a child I was quiet and insecure, and I preferred standing in the shadows where I could avoid being seen. I had learned at an early age that if I could go unnoticed, I could also avoid the relentless teasing and bullying that I had experienced from my brothers and classmates.
However, even though my introverted temperament preferred to be unseen, the spirit inside of me was a fireball. Internally, I had strong opinions about everything. I challenged authority, and I was fiercely independent, tenacious, and strong-willed. Though I never vocalized it, even as a young girl I believed women should be as empowered as men. Because of this belief, I was often bewildered at my own mother’s lack of voice within our family home. My strong and introverted mother found alternative opportunities to express her voice outside our home—in her church and at her work. I grew to be like my mother: what she and I revealed to the outside world often did not match the strength, passion, and independence of our spirits.
As I reflect on the many things that have contributed to the eventual external expression of my voice, dancing flamenco is at the top of the list. I first started dancing flamenco in my early forties, when my oldest son Francisco was leaving for college. At the time, I determined that I needed to return to some of my creative interests that had remained dormant while I was busy raising children. As a young teenager, I would watch Maria Benitez, a well-known flamenco dancer from Spain, dance flamenco at the Santa Fe Lodge. I had always hoped to learn flamenco some day. When I set foot in that dance studio, that day finally arrived.
I was immediately obsessed with the art of flamenco and began taking classes three to four days a week. I spent hours on YouTube watching flamenco, trying to decipher the anatomy of the bolero body, the percussion of the feet and the duende (attitude and spirit) of the flamenco dancers. I was determined to learn the art and attitude of flamenco.
Little did I know that learning flamenco would challenge more than my bodily coordination. It would challenge me to reveal myself to others in ways I had been resisting for years. Dancing flamenco forced me to challenge the internal voices that were holding me back from dancing and finally deal with my life-long avoidance of the limelight, which had protected me from being criticized and teased.
Here is what I eventually discovered. I could learn all of the flamenco steps, all of the arm movements, and all of the percussive elements of the music. However, I would never truly become a flamenco dancer until I also learned the following:
- I had to learn how to dance by myself in front of my peers and challenge my internal voice that told me “I am a terrible dancer” and “Everybody is quietly making fun of me right now.”
- I had to learn to dance in front of an audience and to be willing to fail in order to succeed.
- I had to turn down the volume on my “Voice of Perfectionism” and invite the “Voice of Good-Enough.”
- I had to listen to what my body was telling me, that it needed to be free and less constrained.
- I had to turn up the volume on my fiery, strong, and independent spirit to reveal the duende that was dormant inside me for far too long.
I believed I was just signing up to take a few flamenco lessons, and instead I was signing up for a “find your voice” experience as well. Learning to dance was not only a creative endeavor, but also an opportunity to express the duende that was a part of me, which had been hidden for too long. As I continued to learn flamenco and work through the hidden lessons I found through this creative endeavor, I also continued to find my voice.
Dear friends, there are many ways to find your voice. Pursuing creative opportunities can be a powerful method to help you discover what might be keeping you from turning up the volume on your voice and creating a deeper understanding of how your narrative influences your voice.
I encourage you to seek creative opportunities which could support your intention to finding your voice!
If you have found this post helpful or insightful, please share it with the women in you life.
- Has a creative activity helped you find your voice? If so, how?
- Is there a discrepancy between who you are on the inside and who you reveal to the outside world?
- Which of your voices would you need to listen to or turn the volume down on if you pursued a creative outlet?
- Do you think play can be a spiritual discipline?
I look forward to your thoughts, comments, and dialogue!