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Local looks to impart love of dance to others

By Staff | Nov 25, 2011

Marty Bowen, right, demonstrates the footwork of the Dance of Seville for her students. Bowen hopes to bring in more students when she begins more Flamenco classes in the new year. (Chronicle photo by Tricia Fulks)

The first floor of the War Memorial Building is sparse. It doesn’t look like it does most evenings when events and gatherings are hosted there.

But all that Marty Bowen needs are three full length mirrors and her CD player.

The 60-year-old former NASA employee now teaches Flamenco dance lessons out of the War Memorial Building, and she hopes to start up a new set of classes and find interested students come the new year.

“The thing about Flamenco that is sort of hard to grasp that’s an academic element to it,” Bowen said. “The music is not like we listen to here.”

Bowen counts out loud and taps her fingers on the table the beat of the 12/8 timing the Spanish dance is set to.

“When I start talking about (the counts), I see my students’ eyes start glazing over,” she joked.

Bowen’s students are currently learning Sevillianas, or “The Dance of Seville” – the first dance all Flamenco dancers learn. Bowen said the dance is made up of four shorter one-minute dances.

But Bowen hasn’t always taught Flamenco. In fact, she claims she will forever be a student of the art and is only teaching because she is so desperate to dance.

When Bowen retired from NASA in the mid-1990s, she began going on archeological digs, a pasttime of hers from college. There, she and a friend began discussing finding a place where they could partake in Flamenco lessons together.

When they met a Flamenco guitar shop owner whose wife was a world-renowned dancer in the Washington area, they knew they had to try to be one of her chosen few students.

For years, Bowen studied under Ana Martinez in Arlington. When traveling to the metropolitan area from Shepherdstown proved to be too much, she discovered Lily Casa Grande in Chambersburg.

Even at age 53, when Bowen was diagnosed with breast cancer, she kept up with her study of Flamenco.

“While the chemotherapy took so much out of my life, I vowed I would keep up my footwork,” she said.

But when Casa Grande moved just a couple years ago, Bowen decided to teach the dance herself. She started out with seven students, but one by one, many of them college students, had to leave due to other commitments.

So Bowen is hoping to add to her pack of three students – a college graduate, a housewife and a cook at the Press Room – when she begins new classes in January.

“To me, Flamenco – it’s the arms that make Flamenco. If you can get that seaweed-in-the-water feeling in your arms, you can do Flamenco,” she said.

Bowen even takes her students to a street fair, or feria, in Rockville, Md., each spring to experience other parts of the culture.

“Once they go to one feria, they get so stoked,” she said. “They just want to learn.”

Bowen pays the Shepherdstown Men’s Club about $120 every two months for the space, something she can’t thank the members enough for.

For those interested in studying with Bowen, contact her at 304-876-0248 or at martha.bowen@frontiernet.net.

“It’s my goal in life to just expose everyone in West Virginia to Flamenco dance,” she said.