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August 2005 issue

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Spanish and dance

Combining language learning in Spain with learning to dance is an enjoyable way of getting to know the local culture while also enhancing language skills. We profile a range of courses on offer and report on this niche sector.

Travelling to learn a language in another country is ideal for fully immersing yourself in a different culture and many language travellers seek out ways to explore other aspects of the country they are visiting, as a way to complement their language learning experience. In Spain, dance - especially flamenco - has an established role in local life and many language schools in the country say that they started offering combined Spanish and dance courses as a way to tap into their students' wider interest in the country.

"[We started offering our Spanish and flamenco courses] to introduce students to Spanish dance culture," says David Stratten from Don Quijote in Seville. "[Courses] appeal to all ages and nationalities."

Monica Capella Soler from Carmen de las Cuevas in Granada points out that the school's location made combining language courses with dance tuition a natural progression for them. "Granada is an important flamenco centre and our school is located in the Sacromonte, the old part of the city where the gypsies used to live, and flamenco is a part of the daily life," she says. "Besides, the owners of the school love this art and wanted to make it available for foreigners."

Many language schools throughout Spain offer lessons in traditional flamenco dancing as part of a regular activities programme for students on general Spanish courses, and, according to the schools that offer such courses, this is often how their specific Spanish plus dance programmes first evolved. "Since the beginning [dance classes were] offered as an optional activity for students, but for the last two years we [have offered] the possibility to book this course in advance," confirms Paola Vecchi from Colegio Maravillas in Malaga. "There has always been a high demand for these courses so we decided to offer a proper course with fixed start dates in order to give them quality lessons at fixed levels."

At Carmen de las Cuevas, flamenco dance classes have evolved from one-hour-a-day beginners level teaching to a range of classes that include beginners, intermediate and advanced lessons, as well as technique and rhythm courses, for up to three-and-a-half hours a day. Soler says that Spanish plus flamenco is the most popular of all their Spanish plus activity courses. Cristina Sainz from Gadir in Cadiz also attests to the popularity of dancing in a new language. "These courses are getting more popular every year," she says. "If we compare with other specific courses - such as Spanish history, literature etc - Flamenco plus Spanish is the most popular one."

In Jerez de la Frontera, Linguae Mundi offers three types of Spanish and dance course, from a summer package course to an option learning flamenco with other foreigners and Spaniards, or private one-to-one lessons with "one of the best professional teachers in the flamenco world", according to the school's Maria del Mar Garrido.

Both flamenco and salsa have been combined with Spanish language courses at Malaca Instituto in Malaga since 2001 and Bob Burger at the school explains that the courses "are essentially an off-season promotion. We could get more students by offering these courses in high summer but we wanted to use it as a way to attract students during the quieter periods".

He says that both courses have been developed in response to student demand. "Flamenco is absolutely part of the youth culture in Andalucia," he says. "Most local children go to dance school and learn it from the age of two. If students get invited to a party, flamenco dancing will inevitably be a part of it, so learning to dance flamenco, therefore, is a way of respecting the local culture and locals like it very much if visitors can join in with them. Latin music in general is fashionable at the moment so it made sense for us to tap into this market."

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