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The Flamenco Academy

Cover of The Flamenco Academy

The Flamenco Academy

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"Bird captures the staccato passion of flamenco in a rapturous love triangle."
--People

"The Flamenco Academy opens so boldly . . . that you have to wonder how [Sarah] Bird can sustain such high drama. But it quickly becomes apparent that she's mapped her novel's treacherous terrain and planned accordingly, building characters sturdy enough to stand firmly, even when their emotions are spinning out of control."
--The New York Times Book Review

The first commandment of flamenco is Dame la verdad--Give me the truth. But for Cyndi Rae Hrncir, a shy seventeen-year-old, the truth is too painful to share. When Rae becomes infatuated with the devastatingly handsome flamenco guitarist Tomás Montenegro, she and her best friend, Didi, immerse themselves in the exotic world of the Gypsy dance and in the spellbinding stories told by their legendary teacher, Doña Carlota, Tomás's great-aunt. Locked in a volatile triangle and driven by obsession--Didi with fame, Rae with Tomás, and Tomás with the mystery of his origin--the three sharpen their performances, while danger, longing, and betrayal pulse beneath each step. When a heartbreaking longheld secret comes to light, Rae is duty-bound to honor the laws of flamenco and finally reveal the truth.

"The stuff bestsellers are made of . . . [The Flamenco Academy is] funny and beautifully structured to create anticipation and suspense, with lush moments of romance and a surprisingly sturdy backbone."
--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Good conflict makes good fiction, and that's what gives The Flamenco Academy such irresistible energy and narrative drive. . . . A heady brew of a novel, lushly romantic at one turn, wryly and wittily observant at the next."
--Houston Chronicle

"A deft exploration of love, desire and jealousy told against the backdrop of that most complex of dances, flamenco."
--Baltimore Sun

From the Trade Paperback edition.

"Bird captures the staccato passion of flamenco in a rapturous love triangle."
--People

"The Flamenco Academy opens so boldly . . . that you have to wonder how [Sarah] Bird can sustain such high drama. But it quickly becomes apparent that she's mapped her novel's treacherous terrain and planned accordingly, building characters sturdy enough to stand firmly, even when their emotions are spinning out of control."
--The New York Times Book Review

The first commandment of flamenco is Dame la verdad--Give me the truth. But for Cyndi Rae Hrncir, a shy seventeen-year-old, the truth is too painful to share. When Rae becomes infatuated with the devastatingly handsome flamenco guitarist Tomás Montenegro, she and her best friend, Didi, immerse themselves in the exotic world of the Gypsy dance and in the spellbinding stories told by their legendary teacher, Doña Carlota, Tomás's great-aunt. Locked in a volatile triangle and driven by obsession--Didi with fame, Rae with Tomás, and Tomás with the mystery of his origin--the three sharpen their performances, while danger, longing, and betrayal pulse beneath each step. When a heartbreaking longheld secret comes to light, Rae is duty-bound to honor the laws of flamenco and finally reveal the truth.

"The stuff bestsellers are made of . . . [The Flamenco Academy is] funny and beautifully structured to create anticipation and suspense, with lush moments of romance and a surprisingly sturdy backbone."
--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Good conflict makes good fiction, and that's what gives The Flamenco Academy such irresistible energy and narrative drive. . . . A heady brew of a novel, lushly romantic at one turn, wryly and wittily observant at the next."
--Houston Chronicle

"A deft exploration of love, desire and jealousy told against the backdrop of that most complex of dances, flamenco."
--Baltimore Sun

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Excerpts-
  • Chapter One

    Flamenco has Ten Commandments. The first one is: Dame la verdad, Give me the truth. The second is: Do it en compas, in time. The third one is: Don't tell outsiders the rest of the commandments. I come here, to the edge of the continent, to honor the first commandment, to give myself the truth.

    Waves, sparkling with phosphorescence in the darkness, crash on the shore just beyond my safe square of blanket. I cup my chilly hands around a mug of tea that smells of oranges and clove and search for that first streak of salmon to crack the far horizon. There might be one or two early risers, insomniacs, troubled sleepers, who will see the light of a new day before me. But not many. I am alone with my tea and my thoughts.

    The waves roll in all the way from Asia and slam against the shore. Their roar comforts me. It almost drowns out the sound of heels, a dozen, two dozen, pounding on a wooden floor, turning a dance studio into a factory manufacturing rhythm. That is the ocean I hear. It is broadcast by the surge of my own blood, pulsing en compas, in time, to a flamenco beat. My heart beats and its coded rhythms force me to remember.

    Once upon a time, I stepped into a story I thought was my own. It was not, though I became a character in it and gave the story all the years it demanded from my life. The story began long before I entered it, long before any of the living and most of the dead entered it.

    I start on the night that I saw the greatest flamenco dancer of all time perform. That night I had to decide whose story my life would be about.



    Chapter Two

    It was early summer in Albuquerque, when the city rests between the sandblasting of spring winds and the bludgeoning of serious summer heat to come. New foliage made a green lace against the sky. The tallest trees were cottonwoods and they spangled tender chartreuse leaves shaped like hearts across the clouds. It was the opening evening of the Flamenco Festival Internacional. A documentary about Carmen Amaya, the greatest flamenco dancer ever, dead now for forty years, was to be premiered at Rodey Theater on the University of New Mexico campus.

    I dawdled as I crossed the campus. The air smelled like scorched newspaper. The worst forest fires in half a century had been blazing out of control in the northern part of the state. Four firefighters had already been killed and still the fires moved south. That morning, the Archbishop of Santa Fe announced that he would start saying a novena the next morning to lead all the citizens of New Mexico in prayers for the rain needed to save the state, to save our beloved Tierra del Encanto.

    I slowed my pace even more. I wanted to reach the theater after the houselights were out so that I could see as much of Carmen Amaya and as little of "the community" as possible. I dreaded being plunged again into the hothouse world of New Mexico's flamenco scene. Tomorrow, when I started teaching, I would have no choice. Tonight was optional and only the promise of glimpsing the greatest flamenco dancer ever could have dragged me out.

    Although we, all us dancers, had studied every detail of Carmen's mythic life, although we had pored over still photos and read descriptions of her technique, none of us had ever seen her dance. Film footage of her dancing was so rare and so expensive that we'd had to content ourselves with listening to the legendary recordings she made with Sabicas. We memorized the sublime hammer of her footwork, but hearing was a poor...

Reviews-
  • The Baltimore Sun

    "More than a summer romance . . . The Flamenco Academy is a deft exploration of love, desire and jealousy told against the backdrop of that most complex of dances, flamenco."

  • bRILLIANT "A compelling story brimming with the history and rhythm of flamenco . . . Bird's tale of romance and betrayal evokes the passion of flamenco itself."
  • San Jose Mercury News "A heady brew of a novel, lushly romantic at one turn, wryly and wittily observant at the next."
  • Texas Monthly "Stunning and ambitious, a tale of obsession and, yes, gypsies . . . Bird's travelogue to the little-known universe of flamenco puro and its cantaores (singers), tocaores (guitarists), and flamencas (dancers) is enthralling."
  • The Austin American Statesman "If you want a good, solid summer romp, Sarah Bird's The Flamenco Academy ought to be way up there on your reading list."
  • The Austin Chronicle "In the monolithic culture of flamenco, Bird finds a remarkable landscape for transforming the inaccessible whims of an obsessive, lonely teenager into the epic saga of self-acceptance, loyalty and love to which no one is immune."
  • Santa Fe Reporter "Fascinating . . .A tale of friendship and betrayal with powerful glimpses into the legacy of flamenco, its mysteries and power . . . After reading The Flamenco Academy, it may be impossible to ever think of the art of flamenco in the same way."
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    Random House Publishing Group
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