Excerpt of The Flamenco Academy by Sarah Bird
(Page 5 of 6)
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In that moment, watching Carmen, it was still all I wanted. Even after
everything that had happened, all I wanted was one more sip of nectar.
Mi corazón, a singer wailed the start of a verse in the background
behind Carmens image fading into history, into legend. I knew the letra,
had danced to it dozens of times, and my cheeks were wet before the translation
appeared in subtitle: My heart has been broken more than the Ten Commandments.
The line sung in flamencos unearthly quaver stabbed straight into my chest
because I realized then that my own heart was not broken so much as missing
entirely and no secret, however carefully interpreted, would ever return it. I
was groping in the dark, ready to escape, when the lights unexpectedly came up.
I had missed my chance. I was scrubbing tears off my cheek when a hand grazed my
shoulder. Thank God it was Blanca, universally recognized as the least bitchy of
all the serious dancers. Wed started out together back when Doña Carlota had
taught the introductory class.
Rae, how are you doing? Blanca patted my shoulder and stared with the damp
sympathy Id dreaded.
Pretty good. I injected as much pep as I could into my answer, gesturing
toward my reddened eyes. Allergies are bothering me. All the smoke from the
forest fires. There was no smoke in the air inside the theater.
Blanca nodded. Its good to see you, Rae. Really good. She put too much
emphasis on the last good, speaking to me as if I were a patient who
doesnt know yet that shes terminal. But Blanca was nice. Id discovered far
too late that I should have put a much higher priority on nice. I should have
been friends with someone like Blanca instead of Didi.
Keep in touch, okay? she said. Her solicitous question was drowned out by the
thunder of applause that erupted when the incandescent Alma Hernandez-Luna,
director of the flamenco program, bounded onstage. Bienvenido a todos
nuestros estudiantes. Welcome, welcome, welcome to the more than two hundred
students who are with us this summer from China, Germany, England, Belarus,
Tokyo, Canada, and nearly every state in the union. We welcome you all to the
country that we will create for the next twelve days. The country of flamenco!
The applause fell briefly into compás and the audience laughed at us all
speaking the same language with our hands.
It is strange to be welcoming you. For the past fifteen years our founder, Doña
Carlota, has always opened the festival. She cannot be with us here tonight in
body, but her spirit fills this hall! We are all here because of Doña Carlota
Anaya. She created the first academic home for flamenco in the New World.
That part was true.
Alma continued, The festival is her baby. That part wasnt true. Alma
means soul, and Hernandez-Luna had been the soul of the program for years. The
festival was entirely her baby. Through her connections, she was always able to
lure la crema del mundo flamenco to our little sunblasted campus. Whoever
the reigning god or goddess of flamenco was, Alma would hunt them down and bring
them to the festival to perform and teach. I was one of only a handful of locals
on this years faculty. The night should have been a triumph for me. I knew it
wasnt going to be that, but, until the film, I had thought the festival would
be an opportunity for me. An opportunity to learn where Tomás was. To start
using my secret. The film, the image of the coveted child toddling toward the
worlds greatest dancer, had changed all that.
I hope everyone has their tickets for Eva La Yerbabuenas showa burst of
applause for the acclaimed dancer interrupted Almabecause theyre going fast.
I would like to thank our visiting documentarianthe maker of the Carmen film
stood to a hearty round of applausefor helping us to kick off this summers
festival with that astonishing film. Okay gang, the fun is over.
Excerpted from The Flamenco Academy by
Sarah Bird Copyright © 2006 by Sarah Bird. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a
division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may
be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.