September 2021 Newsletter
In This Issue:
Special Feature: The Amazing Health Benefits of Dancing
Spanish Culture Feature: Architecture in Andalusia
When we move, we feel good; it’s common knowledge. Dancing bolsters physical and mental health improving posture, flexibility, lift mood and ease anxiety. It’s also a fun activity that sharpens the mind, increases aerobic power and strength, builds social bonds, and can reduce pain and stiffness.
Recent findings suggest that dance offers double the benefits of other types of physical activity, due to the sensory and motor circuits that are engaged while moving our bodies to music, which simultaneously activates our brains reward centres.
Here are some of the key benefits of dancing regularly for adults.
Dancing allows people to focus on something outside of themselves for a while, consequently, relieving pain and anxiety and reducing stress levels. Flamenco embraces the expression of positive and negative emotions, helping us channel our emotions and develop self-expression.
Janice Godin and Audrey Barber in class ©Rebecca Hartery
As you learn and develop your skills, your posture, balance, coordination and spatial awareness will gradually begin to improve, making each step easier for you to complete.
Picking up choreography can seem like a brain teaser. Interpreting which arm, which leg, which direction even, can lead to legs and arms everywhere except for the very position they should be in. Learning and executing dance steps activates different pathways in the brain that allow us to problem solve and memorize tasks in additional ways.
Dance has been found to be so beneficial in fact, that it is now being used as part of treatment for people with Parkinson’s disease and is being recommended more and more to help stave off dementia as we age. It has also been shown to improve executive function and long term memory.
The way we move and carry ourselves changes the way we feel inside. The strong presence of flamenco dancers comes from their posture and attitude. Pride and presence are characteristic of flamenco. The straight-backed posture, the open chest and pulled back shoulders along with the strong focus are all part of the flamenco spirit.
Pain Threshold Increase
Flamenco dancers are de facto hand, body and foot percussionist. Much like drumming, the active creation of rhythms elevates pain threshold and positive affect. The rhythmic energy produced as you feel the rhythm in your body and around you and enjoy yourself helps promote the production of endorphins and endogenous opiates. These are morphine-like painkillers generated by the body to help control pain, boost our immune system and assist in releasing emotional trauma.
Ease of depression and anxiety symptoms
Dance can help with symptoms of depression and anxiety by releasing certain chemicals in your brain. It also provides a way to escape repetitive negative thoughts and worries. These are thoughts that run through your mind over and over.
Dancing is a performing art, therefore performances are often considered to be highlights of a dancer’s experience each year. Though the thought of rehearsals, costumes, and dancing for a large audience may seem overwhelming at first, participation in these is an incredible opportunity that harvests a variety of benefits for both the dancers and friends. These include setting and achieving goals, building relationships with your class mates through teamwork, overcoming shyness and overall, creating beautiful memories. Student showcases and performances are optional and not mandatory, as some adults prefer not to perform.
Above dance students of Flamenco Dance School Maria Osende performing as part of the school’s annual Summer Showcase (Halifax Central Library, June 2019) © Jon James Photography
The fast pace and dynamic, explosive moves of flamenco boost heart rate and stamina. Compared to other dance styles, flamenco offers a highly rhythmic, vigorous and lively technique. According to estimates from “Fitness Magazine,” an hour of flamenco dancing burns about 290 calories. Your burn may vary based on your body weight and the intensity of your workout.
Flamenco is amongst the recommended activities for people suffering from osteoporosis. The low intensity oscillations created by the footwork and generated through the controlled tapping in the long bones, 10-60 Hz, is beneficial for bone density and bone quality.
Flamenco at an entry level, is a low impact exercise suitable for all levels of fitness and ages. Flamenco originates from the people, is a cultural expression, and thus the intensity, technique and dedication of the dance form entirely depends on on how far you want to go.
Flamenco is a wonderfully rewarding art form that requires intense concentration and an appreciation for the various complexities of flamenco musical rhythms. This helps keep the brain young and the heart exhilarated. But brain stimulation and a pumping heart aren’t the only benefits of flamenco. The repetitive footwork drills, arm elevations, the hand and torso twisting all combine to challenge muscle memory. Flamenco dance will teach you how to isolate movement and strengthen your muscles. It allows for an inner sense of our bodies that informs us how, where, and what each part of the body is doing at all times.
We are very excited to be teaching in the studio again starting next week. We also have a full roster of online/hybrid classes for those who can’t be there in person, ranging from intro level, all the way to advanced. Regular dancing training offers a whole host of mind and body benefits, as well as being very fun and rewarding too. Read more in our feature below, about the many great reasons to dance as often as possible.
Photo Credit: Granada by Jon James
Architecture in Andalusia
Andalusia is the home of Flamenco dance. It is the southernmost autonomous community in Spain; It includes many agricultural, recreational and historic areas, including the cities of Seville, Cordoba and Granada, its capital. which were the three great centres of Muslim power in Spain between 710 and 1492. The name is taken from Al-Andalus, the name of the Muslim-ruled area of the Iberian Peninsula The term is used by modern historians for the former Islamic states based in modern Portugal and Spain.
Andalusia has astonishing architecture documenting the many historic cultures that resided there, ranging in time from Roman ruins, to modern architecture. The most memorable buildings and complexes are recognized by UNESCO. There are seven UNESCO sites in Andalusia: five cultural, one natural, and one both cultural and natural.
Photo Credit: Albaicin by Rachel James
The flowering of Muslim architecture in Andalusia occurred during the Nasrid era (1238-1492), the last Moors to hold power before the Reconquista by the Catholic monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand.
These Sultans created one of the most magnificent palaces ever built: the Alhambra at Granada. Al-hambra means “the red one,” referring to the colored clay used to construct the fortress. Construction began In 1238 on the fortification, which expanded during the next 200 years. It is a vast complex of mosques, palaces, gardens, walls, towers, and residences. The complex fell into disuse and was restored after being popularized by visiting writers and artists in the 19th century. Today, the Alhambra is the most visited historical site in Spain.
Photo Credit: The Alhambra by Jon James
Photo credit: Flamenco Cave, Granada by Rachel James
Sacromonte and Flamenco Caves
Located in the historic Albaicin District is the Sacromonte Quarter. This is where the Spanish Roma hollowed out caves in the hillside to create early settlements in the 15th Century. The caves provided multiple benefits, cool in the summer, warm in the winter and a refuge against the sometimes violent intolerance and efforts to “relocate” the Roma community.Nowadays few people actually live in the caves, but there are plenty of restored flamenco caves that offer Tablaos (flamenco shows) to visitors and locals alike. There is also a dedicated Sacromonte Cave Museum that documents and preserves their history Museo Cuevas Del Sacromonte
Photo Credit: Cordoba by Rachel James
Under the Caliphate of Córdoba, 912 AD the city of Córdoba, was the largest in Europe. It became one of the leading cultural and economic centres throughout Europe, and in the Islamic world. The historic centre of the city, including the Mezquita, the great mosque/cathedral, is one of the UNESCO sites.
Begun in 785, the Great Mosque of Córdoba was lavishly and dramatically extended with its recognizable horseshoe arches and ornate decoration. Many architectural influences are visible at the Great Mosque of Córdoba, its Mihrab (ornamented prayer niche), and its Puerta del Perdón, the entrance gate built during Christian rule). In the 16th century a cathedral was built in the heart of the mosque. Part of the Islamic architecture was destroyed to make way for this cathedral with its Italianate dome.
Photo Credit: Cordoba Cathedral by Paul Dunphy
From 1091-1248 the architecture of Seville was influenced by it’s new rulers, the Almoravid and Almohad dynasties . They were Islamic fundamentalists who brought a minimal, less decorated building style, which can best be seen at La Giralda in Seville. This minaret, which has become part of the Cathedral, was completed in 1198.
Later, Muslims who stayed on after the Reconquista ( “reconquest” by Christian rulers) created a new style of architecture called Mudéjar. Many of them were employed to build the new churches and palaces in the reconquered territories.
Their architecture was a hybrid style. One of the best examples of this hybrid style, is the Salón de Embajadores in the Alcázar at Seville. It’s topped with a wood dome and flanked with double geminate windows.
Dozens of churches and palaces in Andalusia still retain Mudéjar architectural motifs. And the Mudéjar tradition lives today in pottery made in Granada and Seville that still reflects Moorish design.
Photo Credit: Paul Dunphy
INTERNATIONAL WORLD FLAMENCO DAY CELEBRATIONS
We are excited to announce two in-person World Flamenco Day events at the Paul O’Regan Hall, Halifax Central Library, 5440 Spring Garden Rd, Halifax.
Tuesday, November 16, 12pm – Flamenco World Day program
FREE 1/2 hour lunchtime dance session with Maria Osende.
Get up and dance! Join Maria for this fun dance session. No experience required. All welcome!
Followed by a presentation on Flamenco, its origins and existence today as an important art form.
Sunday, November 28, 2-4pm – Flamenco Celebration
FREE Event – Join us for some dance and musical performances by artists of the Maria Osende Flamenco Company, as well as a student showcase by Flamenco School Maria Osende. The audience will also have the opportunity to participate in some interactive sessions to learn about some ancient flamenco rhythms and how to create them.
Please consider becoming a patron of Atlantic Flamenco Productions Society. Your support is vital for the arts and we appreciate it tremendously. Donations $20 or above are tax deductible. Donations can be one time, or recurring.