ME/CFS, Flamenco Dancing and Adaptation

Now how often would you expect to see the words ME/CFS and Flamenco dancing in the same sentence? Well I’m very proud that I’ve been able to put them together! This week I went to a Sevillana dance class and 3 days later I can happily report that I’m none the worse for the experience, in fact, it’s given my spirits a real boost.  Even though the illness is quite mild now (I guess I’d put myself at about 75-80% recovered), this was only possible because of the adaptations I made. If I had approached this dance class in the same way I would have when I was healthy I’m pretty sure I would be telling a different story today, in fact I probably wouldn’t be telling the story at all because it’s very likely that I would have crashed and wouldn’t have the energy to be writing this blog!

For years, dancing has been one of the things that I’ve missed the most with this condition. I have the occasional 30 second bop on the sofa or in the kitchen just to have a little taste of the forbidden fruit. I have succumbed to the temptation to dance at a social event a couple of times when my health has been particularly good, knowing that I would have to rest for days afterwards (and I always did have to). The desire to be able to dance again is one of the things that keeps me on track with my self-help, it’s something I want to move towards enough that it motivates me to take really good care of myself in the here and now.

A few weeks ago, at our village fiesta, I watched the students of the local flamenco school perform ‘Sevillanas’ a relatively gentle form of Flamenco. It was lovely to watch and I soooooo wanted to be up there dancing with them. When Cristina, who runs the school, announced that she’d be starting a new beginners class for Sevillanas I was sorely tempted to sign up there and then, but immediately heard a voice in my head that said ‘don’t’ be stupid Julie, there’s no way you could manage that!’

However, I couldn’t get the thought out of my head. Even though I know I have to be really careful not to go beyond my energy limits I still want to be able to say yes to as much life as possible and I know I need to spend some of my energy on things that feed my spirit. So I started thinking, What if I’m really careful? If I take lots of rests and approach it with my famous relaxed effortlessness, maybe I could manage???

Flamenco la Fuente foto de follete

(download the schools leaflet here)

Then, on one of my particularly good days, I bumped into Cristina outside of the supermarket and asked her if she’d be alright if I came to the class but sat down a lot. She was very encouraging, and there it was, decision made.

On the day of the class my energy wasn’t bad but it wasn’t as good as when I’d decided I would try the class either.  I decided I’d risk the crash and treat t as an experiment. Maybe, just maybe, it would be possible to do a dance class without using up too much energy. I prepared my strategies with care!

The Adaptations:

  • The first adaptation I prepared for was telling myself to take lots of breaks and sit down. I managed to do that about 6 or 7 times mostly only for a minute or two but those little breaks made all the difference.
  • Another thing I know can be dangerous when learning anything new is the tendency to concentrate too hard. I had to give myself quite the pep talk about how much better for me it would be to be really relaxed about learning; that it’s OK to make lots of mistakes; that I didn’t’ have to get it right all the time; that I could trust myself to learn things eventually without having to try too hard. I actually think I enjoyed the class even more because I’d given myself permission to make all the mistakes I needed to, it was great to be free of the usual frustration involved in learning a new skill. (You’ll see in the video below that I wasn’t always in sync with Cristina (middle)).
  • I also checked in to my body regularly letting go of areas of tension when I found them.
  • One thing I wasn’t anticipating was the volume of the music. However as soon as it blasted out, I asked right away if it could be turned down a bit. Cristina wasn’t expecting that and asked me how it made a difference but was happy to turn it down and seemed to understand the explanation.


I knew at the end of the class that I’d succeeded in making the adaptations that I needed to, I could tell that I was still very relaxed, that I hadn’t worked too hard and I felt optimistic that I’d be repeating the experience.

And the fun has continued too. I’ve been practising the steps for a few minutes at a time a couple of times a day ever since. It is such a joy to be dancing and learning something new!

My message for this blog post is that maybe we don’t have to say no as often as we think we do. Perhaps if we’re very careful about changing the way we do things and make the appropriate adaptations there is more within our reach than we think. It might seem like the adaptations we need might be too much of nuisance to others but it’s always worth asking before we discount the idea altogether!

If you know somebody who’d be interested in a Flamenco holiday please share Christina’s leaflet. Or maybe if you’re well enough you could combine a bit of  Flamenco with a personal coaching retreat?

A small favour: I’d be very grateful if you could rate this post using the stars below the related posts.  Thank you

Thanks to Francisco for allowing me to share his video, and to Christina and Marta the other dancers in the video.

7 thoughts on “ME/CFS, Flamenco Dancing and Adaptation”

  1. Julie, I love love love this!! Might have a look for some Flamenco online…..anyway I have shared the link on my regular PainPals Blog feature Monday Magic – Inspiring Blogs for You! Claire x

  2. That’s great Julie! I’m so glad that you are able to do that. Reading this and seeing you do that is very encouraging to me. I look forward to seeing more of your dancing and with the nice costume that goes with it.

  3. What a brilliant post! Missing out on dancing (mainly salsa) is one of the hardest things about being ill for me. I’m far from being able to go to a class at the moment, but it’s so great to hear that you can, and how you’ve made it work for you ☺️ Also a great idea about having a dance break when working.
    I did Sevillanas when I was living in Spain and loved them x

  4. I also love to dance Julie, so I really relate to this. Many years ago I used to go ceroc dancing, but it is so energetic I wouldn’t last 5 mins now. But I liked this little class – may try it myself at home 🙂 and it was encouraging to hear how you approached the idea of doing it, and how you adapted so that it didn’t exhaust you. It gives hope to us all that we can still do a little of what we used to enjoy. xx


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