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Anna Leon

Where are you from? 
I was born in Wandsworth in London, but my father's Spanish and my mother's Anglo-Indian, so I think I've got flamenco somewhere in my blood.  I do feel I've got it from both sides, not just from my father.  The gypsies did come form India and if you look and the dancing - Spanish dancing and Indian dancing - there's a lot of parallels.  It's just in me. 

How long have you been dancing flamenco? 
I trained in ballet and jazz dance, but having a Spanish father, I was introduced to flamenco young.  We used to go to Cordoba every year, which is where my Dad's from, and I remember as a child we'd go round to one of my Aunt's houses and people would just be clapping - nobody had a guitar - and my old Aunts would get up and dance with my cousins, so you'd get three generations of people dancing.  I was nine or ten so I didn't really analyse it or think about it, I'd just get up and dance, and it started to draw me in.  I think flamenco possesses you, actually, but I really became a woman possessed about four years ago and started seriously doing flamenco. 

Tell me about flamenco in Brighton. 
I teach a beginners' class in the Adult Education Centre in Hove.  I took over from Theresa, the other teacher, when she didn't want to do it any more.  I find it fascinating how many English it draws, people who are quite reserved.  I've been brought up in England too, so I know how repressive our culture can be, and I think it draws people because they want to unleash something, they want to express something passionately.  I feel it when I'm watching my students - they're desperate to be able to tap into that passion, that letting go, not being restrained.  I say to my students, "You've got to allow that thing that's deep within you to come out, you don't have to hide it, you don't have to restrain it."  I think that's part of what draws them.  And because it's a very unageist form.  You don't have to be a size 8 and 20 years old to do flamenco. 

Is there a particular appeal in Brighton? 
I think the thing about Brighton is it tends to attract people who interested in the alternative.  There's something about being near the sea and the hills, the mentality of people who are drawn to Brighton is different, it searches out the mysterious, and there's a lot of mysticism in flamenco.