Since we moved to Santa Fe, N.M., we find ourselves immersed in its history, customs and traditions, one of which is the amazing celebration of flamenco, which combines singing, dancing and “toque” (guitar). This art has its own tradition, language and rules, not unlike those in racing.
Recently my fiancé and I were guests at a performance by La Emi. She was a protégé of renowned dancer María Benítez, and is now a powerhouse artiste in her own right. La Emi has danced and toured throughout the world, including training under Carmela Greco of Spain. La Emi has opened her own school, EmiArte Flamenco Academy, a professional company, EmiArte Flamenco, and a youth company, Flamenco Youth de Santa Fe. As I watched La Emi perform, I began realizing just how many similarities the amazing art of flamenco and the true art of racing cars have in common.
Flamenco is a style of spirited, rhythmic dance performed to flamenco music. Racing cars is a style of spirited, rhythmic movements performed to the configuration of the track.
Much like racing, there is teamwork involved. In flamenco, the entire dance troupe consisting of the lead dancer, dancers, singers, the guitarist, and musicians must practice endlessly to perform well together. Any successful race team also must gel together as one. The last thing a race team wants is a driver running perfect lap times only to pit and find a crew that is not well rehearsed.
Just like a great racecar driver, the lead flamenco dancer is someone everyone wants to emulate. As we sat in the audience, I couldn’t help but notice the faces of the other dancers on stage, all of whom were equally as amazing, and how they were mesmerized with the flawless performance of La Emi. It reminded me of the same familiar look you see on young, upcoming drivers’ faces when they are in the company of truly great drivers. To say they looked up to La Emi with the utmost regard and awe would be a gross understatement. Isn’t this what all of us as racecar drivers seek and dream of … to one day be as good as those we idolize?
While researching the history of flamenco, I learned the essence of flamenco is cante, or song, and I feel any driver or racing enthusiast who has ever seen the movie “Grand Prix” or spent time at the racetrack, will agree the sound of a well-tuned race engine at full throttle is indeed a beautiful song.
During my research, I also learned that the baile, or dance is accompanied by guitar music and a palo seco, Spanish for “dry stick,” that was beat on the floor to keep time while a dancer performs a series of choreographed steps and improvised styles. This dominant element of flamenco is never performed without accompaniment and now the other performers clap their hands. But this too can be compared to a great racecar driver, who, once he has “found his rhythm,” will find himself performing flawlessly lap after lap.
Like the beautiful flamenco dancer, the racecar driver too is all alone when on stage even though there is an audience. They can only feel their own heartbeat and know the glide of the step or the grasp of the wheel and that familiar feel of balance within the center of their body and mind.
Be it driving fast or dancing, it is ingrained into our consciousness, and in just one word, sublime in temperament in the simplest of descriptions, it’s passion.