By NINA LARAMORE / Towns Correspondent
When she was 3, Sara Zanolini saw Swan Lake and knew she wanted to be a dancer. At 7, while in Spain, she experienced a bullfight, drank Sangria, saw flamenco dancers and instantly knew the type of dancer she wanted to be.
But flamenco was not being taught in the Bay Area. She settled on ballet.
âI studied ballet for the next 10 years with the San Francisco Ballet, Zanolini says. I was committed. When I was 11, we moved to Santa Rosa, and I took the bus after school each day into the city for classes.
Zanolini performed in the Nutcracker every year, starting out as a mouse and progressing to the part of Clara. During college she took two years off to live a ânormal life, but realized she wasnât happy unless she was dancing.
Then in the 1980s, she heard the âtickety-tockâ sound she remembered in the next studio, found flamenco being taught and immediately got started. More than 20 years later, she is immersed in the energetic, staccato-style dance form, teaching classes in Petaluma at Footloose Dance Center and performing in the greater Bay Area.
Flamenco originated in southern Spain, coming from the Andalusian music, song and dance as influenced by the Romani or gypsy people.
âThe singing is the heart of flamenco,â Zanolini says. It tells of happiness but also of the pain and sorrow of a people who were outcasts. Moors, Jews and gypsies who banded together in their pain.
âThe singing is the cries and wails of pain and desperation, and then the instrumentation was added. The dance is the least important. We are reflecting what is going on with the singing and the guitar.
Even those who don’t know the Spanish language get caught up in the universal language of emotions.
Although she can sing the music, Zanolini often hires musicians for her classes so students can learn how to work with them.
You have to listen to each other. If the dance goes faster, then the musician and singer must go faster. Itâs important to learn the interplay.
The gypsies in Spain know all the parts. They can sing, play the guitar, cajon, castanets, palillos and do the palmas (clapping). Flamenco is a microcosm of the world, with music and songs passed down for generations. Read the full article about Sara Maria Flamenco on Petaluma360’s blog.