Cheryl Cook: No future in flamenco
I will be 75 years old this year. The plain truth is that I have no future as a flamenco dancer.
But following four years of studying Spanish dance, I have finally graduated to an exclusive class of ladies learning flamenco footwork.
None too soon.
I have a metal rod and six pins in my left leg, two additional pins in that ankle, and a broken wrist that sometimes sounds like merry castanets.
The neurological synapse between the brain and the feet has altered over the years. The brain is playing “Uptown Funk” and my feet are playing, “Knock, Knock. Knocking on Heavens Door.”
Planta-tacon-tacon … planta-tacon-tacon … I brush by my kitten in my morning slippers over the tie kitchen floor. I perform a rolling golpe to her food dish and empty the contents. Ole!
I end the podiatry performance so she can gobble her can of Turkey Feast in Gravy in peace. Another plain truth … she will outlive us, this sweet kitty.
Later, I go to class, the mask of Zorro strangely askew over my nose and mouth. But I try to look as fiercely flamenca as I can muster. It’s all in the attitude. The posture, the pose and the eyes looking down the nose and furtively away from my reflection in the mirror.
I remember our first performance. It was at a Spanish winery in Lodi. I overcame the stage jitters by the second day and when I let go, I had an amazing and freeing time just melting into the music.
I stomped. I twirled. I felt the music pulse through me. “Ole!” I shouted when the music ended, and we marched off swinging our long ruffled skirts. With attitude. Except that in my self-mesmerizing twirling dervish, my skirt had fallen down around my hips. I was mortified. I could have quit right then and there.
The next year, my right heel slipped and gave way under me in dance class. Now, my forearm goes east and my hand goes west, with the wrist forever negotiating a binding agreement. I could have quit right then and there.
Instead, I ordered a size L blinding blue and white polka dotted beauty of a Sevillana dress from Madrid with a ruffled skirt the circumference of the Plaza de Toros … because I wanted to tone down the sultry look for a mature lady of a certain age. Discreet. Respectful.
It worked. I look like Salvador Dali’s “Metamorphosis of a Desperate Matriarch.”
Why? Why do I do it?
I think it is because I still can. I don’t take the gift of life lightly. Too many husbands of dear friends passed away last year. Too many close friends are suffering from dementia. It’s my silly way of hanging on to life. One flamenco step at a time.
I do it in remembrance of a grandmother who walked to work with bursitis in her knees and ended up with a walker and bedridden after a debilitating stroke. I do it in memory of a mother with painful neuropathy of her feet. The brave mother who I would push in a wheelchair to radiation therapy at 92 years of age, but who would look at me and say, “I’m really strong, you know!”
“Radiation. Consternation. Fornication. Communication. Realization. Sterilization. Better than Cremation.” We would sing together on our way to the hospital. Making up as many words as we could. Just to hear her laugh.
And when it is my time to pass away, I want my children and grandchildren to remember me saying, “I’m really strong, you know.” And remember the flamenco. The faith in humanity. The belief in a more perfect union. The pickleball. The Grand Jury. The pumpkin muffins. The duck races on the NID ditch. The Easter Egg hunts in the orchard. The retirement from Child Welfare Services. The red dragonflies catching rides on our kayaks at Oregon Creek. The op-eds in The Union. And say, “She could have quit right then and there.”
But she didn’t.
Cheryl Cook lives in Penn Valley.
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