Lola Omar (+Video)
In 2018, after a busy work day, I dropped my eldest son off for sea cadet training, my second son for parkour practice. Then I arrived at my daughter’s ballet school. (Now she is a passionate singer.) I remember sitting in the waiting area feeling exhausted, physically and emotionally.
Our mixed Russian-Uzbek-Arab family had immigrated to Canada from Uzbekistan in 2009 to give our children a better future, but our unrecognized education and lack of “Canadian work experience” made our adaptation to Canada difficult. Eventually, this situation led to the collapse of our marriage.
I was confident of my decision to focus on my children, but I still felt frustrated because I hadn’t been able to earn back my medical degree. I felt anxious and lonely without my family of origin, my colleagues, and my friends. I was able to appreciate my children’s humour, beautiful things, good people around me, but I was unable to laugh or feel anything except numbing tiredness.
I scheduled my full-time job as a technician at an eye clinic so that I could be home for my children and volunteer at important places. I followed my old belief that a woman should have the strength to sacrifice everything for family. I did not think about having the strength to do something exciting for myself.
In the waiting area of the dance studio, there was a wall of posted announcements. I noticed an invitation to try out a free flamenco class. I went to that class just to pass the time while I was waiting for my daughter. At the dance school, street shoes must be removed, so I stood there barefoot in my work uniform, feeling slightly vulnerable. The teacher was fun and confident. Two guitarists were playing. To encourage the dancers, they periodically yelled out, “Ole!”
When I tried to repeat the teacher’s movement, my coordination was awkward. Dancing was unexpectedly difficult! I laughed from my heart. I was not good at keeping up with the rhythm, but I got hypnotized by the steps called marcaje when a dancer marks the territory of her dance. It was the first time I had consciously set boundaries, my first time marking an area where I could be free.
The posture, the eye contact, and the hand and hip movements of flamenco require control and passion. The vibration I felt in my body during the footwork gave me joy I hadn’t felt for a long, long time. I felt the connection with the guitarists, the dancers, and every cell of my body. I didn’t feel alone anymore. I forgot my foggy future and sad past and just enjoyed all my senses in the here and now. Flamenco feels right—even though I’m not on the beat when learning a complicated sequence of steps.
When the pandemic started, I suddenly stopped being busy. I realized that my teenagers wanted to be independent. There was time for me to re-evaluate. By being at home, practising the footwork and stomping on my small square of flamenco floor (which my generous teacher gave me for online dance classes), I felt the raw strength in myself to face what I was afraid of and make some important decisions. Going back to school was one of them.
I bought these shoes second hand from a professional dancer here in Calgary in 2020. They have nails on the soles and the heels. I feel the proud spirit of these shoes. Now I have a graceful tool for expressing myself freely. I realized that my career, marriage, and motherhood were just other tools of strength and self-expression. Through flamenco, my power is rooted in being present. Ole!