April 18, 2014

French graduate creates own job tutoring, teaches flamenco

KAT MYERS / The Journal 2008 graduate, Linsey Daman tutors a client in a foreign language. Daman, 23, majored in French and minored in Spanish. She also gives flamenco lessons.

Linsey Daman puts on her red and black ankle-length skirt, ties her dark hair back into a bun and begins to tap her feet, demonstrating the flamenco dance. She dances to the rhythm of the flamenco guitar, a physical representation of her love for foreign cultures.

Daman, a 23-year-old Webster alumna, has been dancing most of her life, but recently started performing the Spanish dance for clients from her company, Cultural Arts Center  St. Louis (CAC St. Louis).

“I always knew I wanted to dance and I knew I wanted (to speak a different) language, but I also wanted to know what order to put them in, and if I could have them both — that was my question,” she said.

CAC St. Louis focuses on the blend of culture and dance while also offering tutor sessions in Arabic, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian and English as a second language.

Graduating a year early from Webster in 2008, Daman majored in French with a minor in Spanish. She had no previous knowledge of the French language when she arrived at Webster. Daman became the first French female major to graduate early, learning the language in three years.

The cultural influence helped Daman with her dance technique. After graduation, Daman wanted to pursue a job that combined her linguistics and dance.

“I wanted to use the skills that I had and still be happy with everything,” she said. “I basically came to the conclusion that there’s not one job out there that I can speak French during the day, flip to Spanish when I wanted to and go do flamenco performances at night so that’s when I created my own job.”

Daman founded CAC St. Louis to follow this dream. With a skeleton crew, Daman does most of the work herself. Daman helps tutor others in French, Spanish and also performs.

Flamenco dancing was recently added to her courses as a way for her to bring the Spanish culture closer to America.

“I know it’s under the belief that Americans are closed-minded and I don’t think so,” Daman said. “It’s interesting to see how many people are willing to book flamenco (lessons) even if they don’t know what it is.”

Daman said many times she read bulletins in schools for flamenco lessons, but instead of saying, “flamenco,” it was spelled, “flamingo.”

“It’s not the bird,” Daman said. “That’s how limited their knowledge is on flamenco, but even at the university level, they ask me, ‘What is that?’ ”

To begin her flamenco performances, Daman speaks of the history and culture of flamenco before she dances.

Daman said the evolution of the flamenco dance is fascinating since its growth in America during the 1960s.

“We’ve had so many transitions even in the ’90s, so it’s extremely new in form,” Daman said. “I love being a part of that history. I want to create my own form, calling it ‘Flamenco Fusion’.”

Daman described “Flamenco Fusion” as a dance linked to other types of instruments instead of the traditional flamenco guitar to create her own style.

“Flamenco is a development; it’s a growing process and each person that performs it is completely different,” she said.

Daman’s inspiration to dance originated when she tried to imitate the dancers in the Olympics.

“I was watching Olympic ice skating and gymnastics in my living room,” she said. “My mother saw me jumping around on the couch trying to teach myself and I’m bouncing around and she said, ‘That’s it, you’re not teaching yourself. If you want to learn this, you’re going to a proper learning school’.”

Daman initially learned gymnastics at Dance Art studio, honing her craft and wanting to pursue it further.

“I said, ‘What’s next?’ ” Daman said. “I’m even saying that when I’m five.”

After going to several schools for ballet, Daman continued performing as a Webster cheerleader, returning to her original roots.

“I loved it,” Daman said. “I did consider going professional with cheerleading.”

Instead, Daman decided to focus most of her time on her studies of French and Spanish languages.

“I wanted to speak this language fluently,” Daman said. “I wanted to know the ins and outs of a romance language.”

Emily Thompson, a French professor and Daman’s former advisor, saw the dedication in Daman to pursue French learning from the beginning.

“She was very studious, very curious,” Thompson said. “She was determined to learn and finish early. Many students with this major come in with a background in it. Even to learn a language and be fluent in four years is difficult. She was part of a very small, select group.”

While she currently helps tutor students in French at Webster, Daman hopes to expand it to more students who need help.

“I would love to be able to bring back my talents that I’ve learned here from Webster to help other Webster students,” she said.

With her tutoring and flamenco dance sessions, Daman said she finds herself in a busy lifestyle and is enjoying it.

“I’m so excited about it and I’m very passionate about it,” she said. “I honestly feel that flamenco is my life now and I could not be happier.”


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