Get Your Mojo Back: Life Lessons from Flamenco

I recently had a terrifying experience.  The organizer of a series of flamenco events (according to local media, the biggest gathering ever of local and international flamenco artists) invited me to perform.  My schedule was already packed, so I initially contemplated whether it would be masochistic to say yes.   The events were to raise funds for the work of my teacher, Oscar Nieto, a local and international flamenco legend who had recently survived a harrowing battle with cancer.  That alone made me feel I should find the time. When I looked at the copy of the event poster the obviously optimistic organizer had sent me, I saw that my name was already listed!   So I said “Sure, why not?”

The night of the event, I found out why not.  I raced from the medical clinic to the venue across town, flamenco bag packed with my red and black ruffled dress, nail-embedded Spanish dance shoes, a red rose for my hair and the requisite dangly earrings.  They’d known I’d be late, so the show was in full swing when I arrived.

I found myself at the edge of a packed room, and my eyes bulged at the spectacle of New Mexican cantaor Vicente Griego belting out a letra (he had been flown in for the event), followed by lyrics sung by another amazing cantaor, Alejandro, visiting from France.  As several guitarists strummed furiously, a local dancer, Michelle, stomped and spun passionately, each movement faster and more precise than the one previous.  The crowd was going wild, and for good reason.

I wanted to run out the door.  I don’t think I’ve ever so desperately wanted to leave a room in my entire life.

I started studying flamenco in 2003, and out of sheer determination (and fierce studies, including in Spain) had started earning income performing a year later.  I even had my own little flamenco dance company in Los Cabos, Mexico, for several years until end-2008, over time performing for thousands of people from all over the world – audiences from New York, L.A., Australia, London, Toronto.  They seemed to love the little shows I’d put together with local artists, and I even got standing ovations from time to time. But let’s face it – those shows (and I) were far from world class, and I was the first to admit it.

Now here I stood, at an event that was looking pretty darn world-class.  My beloved teacher, Kasandra La China, was sitting in the front row, and the great Oscar himself was off in the corner, watching every move.

I somehow got up there, gathering my wits and my skirts about me.  Legs shaking like never before, trying not to fall of the stage while partially blinded by an ill-placed spotlight, I got through my Solea.  Several people even told me they really liked it!

When I met with Oscar the next week for my weekly private lesson, he told me the truth.

“It wasn’t good enough,” he told me sternly.  “It lacked fuerza, presencia – where were you? What happened?”

I felt hugely disappointed, then puzzled.   I prided myself on performing passionately, if nothing else – had I lost that? When? How?

It hit me: I had lost my mojo.  Not just in flamenco, but in life.  Since moving back up North from Mexico, it (my mojo) had slowly and quietly left the building, and I hadn’t even noticed it leaving. 

Here are some revelations I have had since about flamenco and life, after further discussion with Oscar and much reflection: 

  1. Inhabit your body and your life with fuerza

Oscar reminded me that the fuerza (strength) I danced with couldn’t just inhabit the area below my solar plexus where I feel the emotion as I dance.  It has to rise up, reach up into my head, down through my feet, and out through the tips of my fingers.  That strength had to project out to the far reaches of the audience, touching every last person.

Are you living in a small way, keeping your light limited to a tiny, walled off area of your heart or daily life?  Are you standing in your full power, using your gifts and strength to bless and positively influence people far beyond the ones who are standing in front of you? 

I have stood in my full power several times in my life, especially over the last few years (my journey into this place of strength and joy became the basis for my book, Live a Life You Love).  However because of a series of setbacks and stresses in the past year, I had somehow retreated back into myself and hadn’t even realized it.

  1. Don’t make it about “just getting through”

When we put our head down and resign ourselves to getting through a challenging experience that lies ahead of us, we block our genius and block others from the blessing of our being fully present.

In focusing on getting through the dance, I’d forgotten to enjoy the dance, and hadn’t danced from my heart and soul.  In focusing on getting through the events of the past year, I’d done the same in my life.

What have you been plowing through in your life? What scenery have you been missing? How could you begin to show up as the real you, and hold your head high instead?

  1. Don’t rest on your laurels

As a performing artist, I had been resting on the laurels I’d received performing in Cabo (celebrity audiences, accolades etc.) without realizing that since moving back North I had stagnated as a dancer.  I had done the same in my professional life, relying on work I’d created previously without birthing or learning anything new.

Where in your life have you gotten comfortable?  Where might you be being left behind?  How can you put yourself in a situation where you’ll be given perspective, motivated to grow, and inspired to become all that you can be vs. what you already are?

I now have new motivation to practice and grow, and my classes with Oscar since have taken me to a new level as a dancer.  I also immediately sent out emails to local flamenco groups, in search of as many ongoing performance opportunities as possible – I already have several new gigs booked!

As I come alive again as a dancer, I have simultaneously been reviewing my life on many levels, bringing my whole self back to life in the process. 

Have you fallen asleep anywhere in your life? How do you need to wake up?  Get up and go get that mojo back! The world needs it.

Susan Biali, MD is an internationally recognized medical doctor, wellness expert, life coach, speaker and flamenco dancer.  She has performed for and taught celebrities, and speaks and dances across North America. Dr. Biali blogs for PsychologyToday.com and appears regularly in media, including Fox News ABC,CBS,NBC and CTV, Global and CITYTV networks in Canada.  Her opinions  appear in publicatins such as Cosmopolitan, Self, Fitness, Hello!, The Medical Post, Reader’s Digest Best Health, Chatelaine and The Chicago Tribune.  She is the author of the best selling book Live a Life You Love! Seven Steps to a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You (Beaufort Books, New York). To order Live a Life You Love, click on these links to Amazon.com and Amazon.ca

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