Dance the night away

This might only be the end of our second week of school, but there are already a number of weary, sleep-deprived faces on campus.

This might only be the end of our second week of school, but there are already a number of weary, sleep-deprived faces on campus. There are two good solutions to this problem: one is to spend the weekend on your couch eating ice cream, and the other is to dance away your worries … flamenco dance that is.

Madeline “Magdalena” Perlman, a renowned flamenco dancer, choreographer and teacher, is filling the latter role this weekend as she pays a visit to Portland to teach workshops on this traditional gypsy art form. For three days she will share her knowledge with musicians, dancers and any newcomers who have even the slightest interest in the dance.

Perlman, who lives in Seville, Spain, has been teaching flamenco for fifteen years. She studied under El Farruco, a Spanish dancer who has yet to be surpassed in the art. Because she had been a teacher before learning the dance, it was a natural progression to begin to teach. She quickly became involved in the flamenco scene in New York City and has been trading time between Seville and the Big Apple ever since.

When she isn’t busy teaching, performing or choreographing, Perlman takes on multiple side projects. One such project has been coaching opera singer Janara Kellerman for her role as Carmen in the New York City Opera. Additionally, Perlman is working with prizewinning filmmaker Lisa Katzman on a documentary titled, Flamenco: Here and There, which focuses on the journeys of three women from different cultures exploring the world of flamenco.

Following in her mentor’s footsteps, Perlman likes to focus on the importance of complex rhythms that accompany the dance. Her Ritmo flamenco class centers on palmas, the rhythmic hand claps that dancers use to complement Spanish guitar. Rhythm is also lent power through the use of finger cymbals and complex, tapping footwork.

“The essence of Flamenco is still based on the cante, the song,” said Perlman. “When a dancer can accompany the music and song, that’s when the audience is wowed.”

Students can expect her workshops to have a more holistic approach than most. They incorporate an understanding of Gypsy culture, which is inseparable from the dance.

“I approach things differently than a typical teacher because I’m not focused on steps,” said Perlman. “I do give a choreography, but they learn it more contextually. It’s not just removed from the culture of flamenco.”

The goal is to prepare students to be able to train in Spain, to learn flamenco at the source. But any student is welcome to attend the classes, which are divided into beginning, intermediate and advanced levels.

If you are less of a dancer and prefer to observe, Perlman is also performing this Saturday at Costello’s Travel Caffe on Northeast Broadway Avenue, where she will be joined by a number of local dancers and musicians. Costello’s is always an international experience in itself, so this night is sure to be a whirlwind of music, dance and culture.