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Come on in, the Flamenco's fine

British dancer urges others to dance a mile in her shoes...

HAVE you ever wondered about taking up Flamenco dancing, but been too nervous to join in? Don’t be, says one former dance teacher living in southwest France.
Jan West has been involved in a Flamenco dancing group in the Pyrénées-Orientales for the past seventeen years. She loves would encourage anyone, even if they have never danced before, to enrol in a local club.
“It is liberating. I get to wear frilly frocks, shoes that make noise, flowers in my hair, gorgeous shawls and have a party.”
Mrs West, 67, was a dance teacher back in the UK. She says their is no age limit to learning Flamenco. “You have to work hard, but you will be able to get real pleasure from it and have great fun.”
She is vice-president of the Coeur de Jasmin ( in Saint-Laurent-de-la-Salanque, one of the first Flamenco associations to be formed in France.
The town is near the Spanish border, where many first- and second-generation Spaniards are behind a resurgence of interest in their culture.
“I have learned so much from getting involved in Flamenco. You might think it is fluid and improvised but there is a very rigid discipline. I used to teach tap-dancing it is not the same and I have had to concentrate hard to get it right. I now know how to play castanets, and I’ve made my brain ache, remembering the step series.
“I’ve learned that clapping, palmas, is an art and a skill of its own. I’ve learned that music can give me goose bumps and move me to tears and the next moment it makes me laugh and want to dance with joy.
“The Spanish community here has embraced its culture and I am delighted to be able to share in a tiny part of it.”
It costs €150 a year to to follow one class for a year. On September 11, the Coeur de Jasmin will put on a demonstration at 4.30pm at the Forum des Associations de Saint-Laurent-de-la-Salanque.

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