‘A lot of people don’t know, but the Bay Area has quite an extensive following of flamenco,” says veteran performer and educator Andrea La Canela. “In the United States, it’s one of the centers where a lot of guitarists and dancers and singers are. We’re really lucky that way.”
Raised in Santa Cruz with a background in ballet and modern dance, La Canela began studying flamenco more than 30 years ago. Now based in Marin, she regularly performs and teaches classes locally, though her flamenco career has taken her across the globe, including a two-year sailing journey to Spain in 2006.
“We took off for Spain and performed wherever we went,” says La Canela, who embarked on the trip with her musical partner at the time. The pair sailed down to Mexico and Costa Rica, crossed over to the Atlantic and made their way back up the eastern seaboard to New York, then shot across the Atlantic Ocean on a 19-day sail before seeing land again. Eventually, they settled in Rota, Spain, and immersed themselves in flamenco culture for over a year.
“Music is a wonderful way to travel,” La Canela says. “Everybody relates to music, if you don’t speak the same language.”
Describing the music of flamenco as both haunting and beautiful, La Canela brought her passion and lifetime of experiences with her when she returned to the Bay Area in 2008.
“Flamenco is very ancient, and it deals with all the emotional scale that a human being has. It’s the blues of Spain,” she says. “You don’t need a stage to do flamenco. This is a lifestyle, and you can do it in the living room. It’s so accessible.”
In addition to performing at parties and wineries throughout the North Bay, La Canela hosts a regular flamenco show at the Sausalito Seahorse on the third Thursday of the month, and teaches dance classes at venues like Marin Ballet in San Rafael and Knights of Columbus Hall in San Anselmo, on her own and through Marin County’s Parks and Recreation department. Her next session of kids classes begins
“The teaching has really started to take off,” she says. “Right now, I’m teaching Sevillana, a folk dance that has all the elements of flamenco in it. You can’t get past junior high school in Spain without dancing Sevillana. It’s a great beginner dance.”