Teo Morca: the language of flamenco

Becoming the Dance, Flamenco Spirit, by Teo Morca

Originally published in Tempo (The Taos News)

The polished wood floor of the Taos Academy of Dance Arts resonates under the rhythmic tap of the dancers’ feet. Their colorful skirts move like giant butterflies. Daniel Swayne plays the guitar and music fills the room, accompanied by the bailaoras’ hand clapping.

This is one of Teo Morca’s week-long All Flamenco Workshops. There are students fromWashington State,Colorado,Utah,KansasandTexas, and they all seem to be enjoying themselves while learning new techniques.

A master teacher, choreographer, lecturer and dancer, Teo Morca is a living legend. In 1974 he offered the very first All Flamenco Workshop Festival in theUnited States. Today, at seventy-six years of age, he continues to give the most comprehensive flamenco workshops all over the country.

“I teach techniques, like in a ballet class,” he said. “The purpose of this workshop is to teach the students structures as well as an understanding of the art of flamenco.” Feeling is the essence of flamenco and Morca brings it out in his students naturally.

“I only teach what works,” he said. “I show my students the magic of ‘becoming the dance.’”

His very personal technique is based on four points: feel flamenco, look flamenco, move flamenco and understand flamenco. “Learning flamenco is like learning a new language, a different vocabulary,” he said. “There are only 26 letters in the alphabet but you can combine them in thousands of words. In flamenco we have a number of steps that can also be combined in endless different ways. When you learn flamenco, you are learning the vocabulary of steps.”

While Morca teaches advanced and intermediate levels, Adair Landborn is in charge of the beginners’ class. “The Teo Morca All Flamenco Workshops are amazing annual events,” Landborn said. “I participated as a student in several of his past workshops, and I always came away enriched and inspired.”

Landborn has just moved toTaospermanently to teach at the Taos Academy of Dance Arts. “I’m committed to the idea that dance is a birthright of all people,” she said. “Regardless of age or ability, everyone should have opportunities to explore movement and find personal enjoyment through dance.”

The bailaoras

April Goltz has been studying with Morca for six years. “I checked out his book “Becoming the Dance” Flamenco Spirit at the library and fell in love with his work,” she said. “Now I live and work inAlbuquerque and also study at the National Institute of Flamenco Arts.” For Goltz, flamenco is a form of rhythmic trance. “I am fascinated by the geometry of it and by the way your body interprets the rhythm and makes it its own, personalizing the dance.”

Teresa Tellechea, a medical and cultural anthropologist who teaches at theUniversityofNorthern Colorado, is originally fromSpainbut she began to dance flamenco in theUnited States. “I discovered flamenco in this country,” she said. “At some point, it meant a connection with my culture, with my Spanish roots, in a foreign land. Teo Morca has helped me express my true self, my individual self, through dance.”

A classical musician who plays in a symphony orchestra and teaches classical clarinet to children, Ashley Cook, fromOlympia,Washington, has already taken three workshops with Morca. “But they are different every year,” she said. “This one is even more different because, instead of teaching us a set choreography, he decided to focus on the steps as a new ‘vocabulary’ that we can use in order to improvise within the structure of the bulería, which is the flamenco form that we are learning now.”

For Cook, studying flamenco is worlds apart from the culture of classical music she comes from, and from her own upbringing. “In our American culture people don’t express themselves physically,” she said. “Flamenco forces me, as an American, to be constantly outside my comfort zone.”

Marisela Fleites-Lear, a native ofHavana,Cuba, has been dancing flamenco for more than twenty-five years. She lives now inTacoma,Washington, where she teaches Latin American literature atGreen RiverCollege. “I have dreamed of taking classes with Teo since I arrived in the Northwest of theUnited States, 19 years ago, because he was the founder of the greatest flamenco school in the area, inBellingham,” she said. “His way of teaching, that combines so much information about the history of flamenco with the technique and the understanding of the complexity of this art form, is unique. Most teachers give you just choreography, but don’t have that wealth of information about where everything comes from that Teo has.”

Teo Morca has authored several books, among them Dance Touring, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Countless One Night Stands, “Becoming the Dance,” Flamenco Spirit and Words of the Spirit.

August 27th is TADA’s Registration Day, an all-day festival to introduce its line up of new dance classes for the Fall Season. Starting at 10 a.m. there will be free classes for people of all ages in Ballet, Hip Hop, Fun with Flamenco Rhythms, Yoga, Creative Dance Improvisation and Afro-Haitian Folkloric Dance (with live drumming). There will be live music, fun and refreshments. The event will culminate with a book signing by Maestro Teo Morca and wine tasting with La Chiripada Winery.

To learn more about Teo Morca or to register for his workshops visit


or call 575-779-2016

Visit the Taos Academy of Dance Arts website at www.dancetaos.com for information on current or upcoming dance classes or performance events.

Marisela Fleites

Marisela Fleites-Lear