First Introduction to Spanish Dance
Since early childhood I danced. A phonograph recording of some lively music or my mother’s piano rendition of a Chopin Waltz or any other rhythmic piece would inspire me. lt was a completely natural impulse and had no basis except perhaps a memory of seeing dance in the theater where my father played the violin and conducted. Completely spontaneous and with no idea of what l was doing it seemed natural as breathing.
My mother enrolled me in Chaliff, a fine ballet school in New York City and I recall at the age of four being in line with other young pupils older than I moving their arms to music. At that age I was too immature to be studying dance. My mother went to the piano and played some selection I usually danced to and I immediately did what I always had done instinctively expressed my delight in the music. The teachers could see the talent. but advised to bring me back when I was older. This never happened.
When I was about 8 or 9 my parents and I were living in Dallas, Texas where my father appeared as conductor of the full orchestra at a theater. I was given some dance instruction in a combination of ballet, tap, and acrobatic. lt was a brief period.
When we settled in Los Angeles, California, a school was selected for lessons in a similar curriculum of dance including diction and acting. None of this seemed to satisfy my urge to express what I felt in music.
A musician friend of my father had two daughters about my age, (14) who were studying with a ballet teacher. Although not a Spanish dancer, Brigante had some knowledge of Spanish Dance and castanet playing. He had a beautiful line and excellent body placement. He was an American of Italian background. The family invited me and my mother and father to see a class in the Spanish style. It was a revelation to me to see young girls my age doing the elegant steps and beating out the complex rhythms of this exotic music so full of nuance. Afterwards I tearfully asked to study. My mother agreed that I begin and a new world was opened. After a year of study, which included daily classes in ballet (Brigante was an excellent teacher of classical ballet) | appeared to the unschooled eye ready to perform. I learned Pasodobles, Bolero, Jota, and a number of stylized Spanish dances to music of Albeniz, Lecuona, Valverde and other popular composers of Spain. I was especially good at Garrotin.
I remained with Michael Brigante for two and a half years. When I had absorbed everything I could from him I was ready to move on.