The first time I felt duende I was in Granada watching a flamenco performance by a family of gypsies. I don’t think I had actually heard the word duende at the time. But it didn’t matter, duende is something you can only experience.
It is my favorite word for a number of reasons: it has no direct translation in English, it’s a feeling that has to be unlocked from within a person– like a secret that they have been waiting to tell their entire lives and they chose that moment with you there to let it come fighting its way out out of them; it’s the perfect metaphor for the way I want to lead my life– a tiny burst of passion demanding to be noticed in a pile of knee-deep manure pie.
Duende is why I continue to study flamenco. My mother always says that I remind her of an elephant– not because of anything to do with my physical stature (not yet, anyway), but because when I come into her house the foundation shakes– I slam doors, I brake the car too hard in the driveway, I stomp up stairs, and yell at the dinner table. I won’t let life not notice me. Flamenco gives me a more productive outlet for my inner elephant. I get to shout OLÉ, stomp my feet on the ground, and encourage others to do the same. For one hour of every week, I can demand that life hear me, and no one gets upset with me for doing so.