Reading guide for The Flamenco Academy by Sarah Bird

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The Flamenco Academy

by Sarah Bird

The Flamenco Academy
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2006, 400 pages
    Oct 2007, 400 pages

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Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. When the novel opens, Cyndi Rae and Didi are described as polar opposites who bond over the loss of their fathers. What else draws them together and drives their intense, longtime friendship? What do they get from each other?
  2. The two young women in the novel end up changing their names. What is significant about the names that they abandon, and the ones that they choose? How is Rae different from Cyndi Rae? How is Ofelia different from Didi?
  3. When Rae first meets Tomas she says: “He was brown and fully formed. His black hair, brows, the black lashes shadowing his cheeks had an etched certainty missing in the tentative pastel fuzziness of the boys I knew” (73). Why do you think she is so taken by his coloring?
  4. Tomas has clearly had his share of romantic encounters. Why does the fact that Rae is a virgin feel so important to him?
  5. Rae learns that flamenco dancing is a series of contradictions. Technically, the rhythm of flamenco is highly structured, and adherence to that rhythm is of utmost importance. But the heart and soul of flamenco is spontaneous and wild. How do Rae and Didi fit into this dichotomy? Do their roles change at all over the course of the novel?
  6. When Didi and Rae enroll at the Flamenco Academy, Do—a Carlota becomes an inspiring figure in each of their lives. How would you describe each of their relationships with this legendary dance instructor?
  7. In the novel, Sarah Bird alternates between two completely different worlds: a college campus in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and a Gypsy community in Andalusia, many years ago. What makes each of these settings so vivid?
  8. Do—a Carlota says that a true Gypsy singer’s voice “is the sound a man makes when the world tries to choke him to death at birth and he sings anyway.” When Rae auditions for Tom‡s, she says something similar: “This is what flamenco is, knowing you’re alone, you’re going to die, and dancing anyway” (267). Do you think Rae, with no Gypsy blood at all, becomes a true bailora?
  9. Why does Do—a Carlota feel compelled to tell the story of Rosa and Clementina to Rae? How is this story from long ago important to the novel?
  10. Tomas says: “I grew up like one of the Romanovs. Like I had hemophilia, something in my blood that made me special but was a curse” (367). In what ways does flamenco continue to be both a blessing and a curse to him?
  11. Tomas, Didi, and Rae are driven throughout the novel by intense obsessions, but Rae is the only one who really becomes freed from hers. What do you think gives her the power to overcome her obsession? Do Tom‡s and Didi have more in common with each other than either had with Rae?
  12. Do you think, in the end, that Rae regrets her friendship with Didi? Have you ever had an intense friendship like the one shared by Didi and Rae? If so, is it still working, or did it fade or burn out over time?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Ballantine Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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