Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Flamenco and me

I was in the midst of writing about my 'attachments' for this blog when I got the horrible news from Veronica, my flamenco dance teacher:
"Words can't express what I am about to say. We have lost our beloved Harry, my husband ... my soulmate ... my partner ... father of our son Gareth. Harry will always be remembered for his kindness, compassion, his sincerity, his humour ......He was the life of everyone's party. He will be sadly missed. The school will be closed next week September 20th to 25th to mourn his sudden death."
Those of you, who know me well, know that I spend a fair bit of my time learning flamenco dancing. Okay, at 6 times per week maybe it's more like an obsession. It requires focus, physicality, passion, rhythm and pain. I can usually manage one of these, maybe two at one time. Last Friday we all got the dose of pain, in huge measure.
photo credit: Steve Switzer, Quadra Street Designs

You see, Harry was a flamenco contradiction. He had a special relationship with every student at the school. So much so that when another student mentioned this, I was actually, stupidly, surprised. I thought, "oh man, you too? I thought it was just me." We each had our own joke with Harry. The music that came out of his hands was deep, sensual, passionate, and could be quite dark. When he played, it was often with eyes closed, like some kind of somnambulant angel. But as soon as he opened his mouth, there was levity, often giggling with the students to the point of distraction. When I could, I would stand as close to Harry as possible, so that I could hear him over the clomping of our feet, but also just to hear him period. It was a double-edged sword, however. When I would make a mistake (and when you make a mistake in shoes that have a hardwood heel and nails in the heels and toes, it's obvious) I would see him wince, like I'd actually pained him in the midst of his reverie.

I don't feel comfortable describing his relationship with Veronica. It was too intimate. When we were in class, we would watch this... this, thing between them that involved a higher plain and a completely different language. She would say, "Do the dee dee dee dee duh duh one" and he would say, "But the dee dee dee dee duh duh one only works if you go boom buh duh duh duh duh." "Right do that." Jack said that when they were on stage he couldn't tell where Veronica ended and Harry began.

When he played with his son Gareth, again it was too intimate to describe. There were many moments on stage, however, when he wore an expression like any father has when he is so proud that you can hear him thinking the cliche, "That's my boy!"

The school they created, with such remarkable talent and passion, is also remarkably egoless. There isn't the prima-dona crap that can be found in some dance schools. Maybe the instructors know how vulnerable we are when we dance.
In the end, I am so grateful to have known Harry, and to be a part of the flamenco community that he helped to create here in Canada. I am grateful to know their familia flamenca, my instructors and the flamenco chicas, the other dancers, who I see all the time.

In the end, flamenco shows you to yourself. What you are, it comes out in flamenco. It limits you, expands you, and exposes you. It's better than therapy. There are no secrets that you can hide. That's why we make such close attachments. But bare souls are also deeply wounded. Maybe I should be grateful that I have a means to express this great loss.

The other attachments can wait.

photo credit: Steve Switzer, Quadra Street Designs


  1. Oh, I don't know what to say. I was a student of Veronica's with Shandi. I can't think of a world without Harry. I am so sorry.

  2. I could happily disappear into the rhythm of Harry's guitar at anytime. He will be missed, greatly.