Although she had grown up dancing, Carolyn Girard ’22 had her first experience with flamenco dance — the fiery folkloric dance that originates in the southern region of Andalusia — when she spent her study abroad semester in Sevilla, Spain. The Spanish and Hispanic Studies major was drawn to the emotional intensity of the dances, which feature expressive movement and rhythmic foot stamping.
“Flamenco interested me because of the passion that you can see on the dancer’s faces,” she says. “The style of dance itself is so powerful but also full of emotion.”
Girard received funding to take flamenco classes at a dance school in Sevilla through the Student International Initiative Fund (SIIF), administered through the Center for Global Education. Grantees are charged with pursuing a project abroad that springs from their own interests and helps them to have a deeper cultural or educational experience. They are expected to share the results of their project with the campus community on their return.
Girard knew that she wouldn’t become an expert in her four months in Sevilla, but she was excited to learn the basics of the style, as well as gain an understanding of the culture that has grown up around it. “It was a great way to immerse myself in the culture and be with locals, practicing my Spanish and my dancing,” she says.
It was also a great opportunity to make new friends. Although most of the other dancers were older adults, Girard was able to use her growing Spanish language skills to communicate with them. “Despite the age gap we became a little friend group, joking together in class, talking about our lives and going out to eat,” she says. “Saying goodbye to them was definitely one of the hardest parts of leaving Spain.”
A memorable moment happened near the end of the semester, when she was able to watch her instructor perform. “It was exciting to see him in the different roles of teacher and performer,” she says. “Afterward we all went out for tapas and talked for hours.”
At HWS, before the COVID-19 pandemic truncated the semester, she and her fellow student Jessica Hariprasad ’21, who also spent the semester in Sevilla and took classes with Girard, performed some of their flamenco moves at a global café, and taught those moves to the attendees.