The mysterious sounds of Spanish guitar accompanied by the toe tapping and skirt-twirling of the flamenco dancers of Andalusia now has a home in St. Jacobs.
Claudia Aguirre, and Julian Berg are a team working to promote the flamenco scene in Waterloo Region and parts of Toronto for the past six years. Their school is called CaluJules, a combination of their nicknames.
They come with years’ of professional training under famous flamenco masters and collaborations with some of the best flamenco dancers, singers and guitarists in the world. They run the annual Grand River Flamenco Fest (formerly the KW Flamenco Fest).
While they formerly offered classes at Emmanuel United Church in Waterloo, they have brought their flamenco school to St. Jacobs in conjunction with Neruda Arts. The organization is an arts space in the village that offers up all kinds of programming, including art exhibits and shows, classes, workshops, dance, music and language classes.
Aguirre and Berg offer classes in flamenco dance, song and guitar. All three work together to create true flamenco music, says Aguirre.
“One of the things that I think sets [flamenco dance] apart is that there’s still a really strong relationship with live music,” said Aguirre.
“[The dancers] conduct the music, [they] don’t just respond to it,” said Berg.
“You co-make the music, you are the conductor of the music in many cases,” added Aguirre.
“So she’ll do percussive footwork, and I’ll accompany that, matching her rhythm, speed, things like that. So she sort of decides when we go into the next phase of the dance – so the intensity of it, which intensity we’re at. And then over time, there’s like a language, which is a mix of body language and various cues that we use to follow each other,” said Berg.
“And the traditional flamenco sort of tripartite art form is the song, the dance and the guitar. So those three all work together.”
Aguirre notes that she starts people off with the basics.
As the students trickle in for the first class of the season in their new location, Aguirre begins with stretching and warming up the body and feet. She wears a long black polka-dot skirt, and black heeled shoes. The dancers wear heeled shoes and some wear long skirts, while others wear comfortable sports-wear.
Aguirre calls out the beat, she demonstrates how to place the hips, the legs, where the knee should be directed and how the students should hold their hands and arms. She also sings the lyrics of the song while she demonstrates the pieces of the particular dance. At the end, they put all the pieces together.
With CaluJules, students can learn flamenco guitar and dance, with classes for beginner and more advanced levels.
Isabel Cisterna is the founder of Neruda Arts, the organization running the space where the classes take place.
“So programming-wise, we program artists that are very diverse. Not just artists that come from other parts of the world, but also in the technique in the form… it’s always about bringing people something new, giving them the opportunity to see the traditions, the music, and the culture of other places.
“I think it makes us all grow and makes us check our own sort of ignorance sometimes and prejudice. It allows for expansion in our knowledge of people,” she said.
Anyone interested in finding out more about classes with CaluJules can sign up for a 12-week, or eight-week package, or even drop-in classes, says Aguirre. The best way to find out more is on the website, calujules.com.
“Flamenco is a dance of southern Spain. So if you can picture in your mind, stomping, clapping, ruffly dresses, people yelling, ‘olay!olay!’, guitars strumming, glasses of red wine, you’re probably thinking about flamenco. So if that is something that intrigues you, come on out, try a few classes, watch some flamenco videos. See if you like it. Give it a shot.”