Soleá is one of many musical styles within the flamenco form. It is characterized by its slow, sustained rhythm and a sense of dignity portrayed by the dancer. Soleá is considered to be the “mother” of all flamenco forms and is one of the most difficult to perform. Internalizing its meter takes years of experience, which pairs well with the fact that a performer must have enough life experience – of grief, loss, heartbreak, depression – to have something to say within the form. I didn’t dance soleá as a solo until I was in my mid-twenties and throwing myself headfirst into the form felt like the only way to move forward after a difficult break-up. This year, I also passed the form forward, setting a solo in soleá for one of the dancers in my company. As soleá helped me to sit with grief, I realized that it could be a great entry point into community workshops that fall into the category of dance therapy. In learning the movements, movement quality, and lyrics of soleá, participants enter into a space where witnessing our own and others’ soleá can allow for personal growth, community growth, and introspection on emotions that we often hide. As part of my project for the Inbreak Residency, I worked with a group of people at Jewish Family Services (JFS) and with a group of professional flamenco dancers. Participants in both groups noted the dignity embedded in the solá form. I believe it’s this idea that allows soleá to remind us of our humanity no matter the ways we have been othered or devalued in our lives. ~ Alice Blumenfeld
Working with Jewish Family Services in Cleveland, Ohio, Alice led six workshops where participants explored flamenco music and dance and created quilt blocks around ideas of otherness and loneliness. Flamenco inherently builds resilience and community, and with the combination of visual art and creative movement, the participants accessed the expressive capacity of flamenco, sharing their stories of loneliness, of being othered, and with building community.
In sessions 1-3, the participants explored movement quality, space, and imagery. In sessions 4-5 they explored rhythm and listening exercises, and in session 6 they wrote their own flamenco letra (verse). In each session, participants decorated a quilt square. At the end of the sessions, their pieces were sewn together and each person received a personalized quilt. These quilts created an embodied way for participants to wrap themselves in the community they helped to shape, offering comfort even after the project wrapped and the group no longer met weekly.
Take an inside look at Alice's workshops, poetry, and tips for writing your own letra below.