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by Sarah Bird
The Flamenco Academy is a stunning work of fiction. Set in both modern day New Mexico and in 1920s Spain, this novel explores the passionate relationships between lovers, friends, and family. Flamenco is considered the dance of truth. You cannot hide your emotions and feelings from flamenco. It is the dance of gypsies. Didi and Rae become best friends in high school following a tragedy in Rae's family. Their friendship is tested as they attend college together and pursue the same profession, dreams, and love interests--all experienced through the veil of flamenco. Their dance instructor has an extraordinary past that weaves itself into Rae's life. You can't read this book without falling in love with flamenco.
Discussion Questions (from bookbrowse.com)
- When the novel opens, Cyndi Rae and Didi are described as polar opposites who bond over the loss of their fathers. What else draws them together and drives their intense, longtime friendship? What do they get from each other?
- The two young women in the novel end up changing their names. What is signi?cant about the names that they abandon, and the ones that they choose? How is Rae different from Cyndi Rae? How is Ofelia different from Didi?
- When Rae ?rst meets Tomas she says: “He was brown and fully formed. His black hair, brows, the black lashes shadowing his cheeks had an etched certainty missing in the tentative pastel fuzziness of the boys I knew” (73). Why do you think she is so taken by his coloring?
- Tomas has clearly had his share of romantic encounters. Why does the fact that Rae is a virgin feel so important to him?
- Rae learns that ?amenco dancing is a series of contradictions. Technically, the rhythm of ?amenco is highly structured, and adherence to that rhythm is of utmost importance. But the heart and soul of ?amenco is spontaneous and wild. How do Rae and Didi ?t into this dichotomy? Do their roles change at all over the course of the novel?
- When Didi and Rae enroll at the Flamenco Academy, Do—a Carlota becomes an inspiring ?gure in each of their lives. How would you describe each of their relationships with this legendary dance instructor?
- In the novel, Sarah Bird alternates between two completely different worlds: a college campus in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and a Gypsy community in Andalusia, many years ago. What makes each of these settings so vivid?
- Do—a Carlota says that a true Gypsy singer’s voice “is the sound a man makes when the world tries to choke him to death at birth and he sings anyway.” When Rae auditions for Tom‡s, she says something similar: “This is what ?amenco is, knowing you’re alone, you’re going to die, and dancing anyway” (267). Do you think Rae, with no Gypsy blood at all, becomes a true bailora?
- Why does Do—a Carlota feel compelled to tell the story of Rosa and Clementina to Rae? How is this story from long ago important to the novel?
- Tomas says: “I grew up like one of the Romanovs. Like I had hemophilia, something in my blood that made me special but was a curse” (367). In what ways does ?amenco continue to be both a blessing and a curse to him?
- Tomas, Didi, and Rae are driven throughout the novel by intense obsessions, but Rae is the only one who really becomes freed from hers. What do you think gives her the power to overcome her obsession? Do Tom‡s and Didi have more in common with each other than either had with Rae?
- Do you think, in the end, that Rae regrets her friendship with Didi? Have you ever had an intense friendship like the one shared by Didi and Rae? If so, is it still working, or did it fade or burn out over time?