I grew up with flamenco in the background of my childhood. My older brother Alfonso was bit by the flamenco bug after seeing his first flamenco show passing through town; that was it for him. He went on to study with the masters in Spain and became a promising flamenco dancer. Alfonso danced with an exquisite sensitivity. I believe dance was an escape for him. He was a gay man—not an easy situation in our household. He suffered on many levels. The freedom that flamenco – that art– brings to your life; it’s a place of sanctuary.
Alfonso’s life was cut short. He succumbed to cancer at the age of 27 and died two years later. I was 16 years old. My interest was also in the arts but as an actor and singer. After his passing I suddenly wanted to study Flamenco. It was as though Alfonso wanted… needed to continue dancing and I became his vessel. All who knew him would say the love of his life was his dancing.
I became obsessed with the art form and after only six months of preparation, I packed my bags and was off to Spain to learn to dance. Or so I thought. I discovered I needed to go much further and deeper, metaphorically and literally, to the place, the source of flamenco. This took me to the deep south of Spain, to gypsy territory, a place I have called home for the last 20 years.
This journey, which I am still on, has been full of heart aching challenges and absolutely gratifying moments of triumph. From being treated as an outsider to falling in love with a gypsy and then marrying him. But drip of sweat by drip of sweat, I began winning respect through my dedication and total immersion into the culture.
The amount of emotion involved in flamenco is unparalleled. I feel the freedom of expression through the cry of the singers and the music and through the beauty of the dance. It’s euphoric! The best part is the audience’s connection with flamenco on levels unexpected to them. The response is always love, love, love! It’s all worth it.
Flamenco continues to be the source of my inspiration in life. There is a universal cry that we all can relate to — maybe we all have a gypsy spirit in us.
I aspire to inspire, until I expire.
— Maria “ChaCha” Bermudez
Forever Flamenco at the Ford Saturday, June 15 (323) 461-3673 MORE