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Principal shares culture through Flamenco

Jackie Navar FlamencoWhen clapping is in order at Storm Elementary, principal Jackie Navar’s claps are always the loudest. 
Inspired not only by immense Bobcat pride, the clapping is also influenced by decades of doing palmas — the clapping that helps keep time during Flamenco dance. 


For Navar, her journey into Flamenco started as a young girl when her mother made her take dance classes through San Antonio Parks and Recreation at the original Bertha Almaguer Dance Studio near Woodlawn Lake. She learned on concrete floors.


“I took ballet, tap, Jazz, Folklorico, but Flamenco became my passion,” Navar said. “It brought a lot of culture into my life. It’s also taught me discipline, the kind of discipline I needed to get through school, memorization through counts, the language, and just the ability to dedicate myself to something, be good at it.”


She stayed with it, she said, because of her teacher, Carmen “La Chiqui” Linares, who Navar ultimately followed from the city’s classes to a private studio. 


“She talked to me about the feeling, and she said, ‘anybody can dance but not everybody can express themselves,’” Navar said. “Just having someone taking you under their wing. She was the teacher that did that.”


By the time she was 16, Navar was teaching with Parks and Recreation, an experience that helped inspire her career in education. 


“I taught little students a step and just to see their excitement through a step, I was like, ‘What would happen if I taught them their first word? Or their letters and their sounds?’” Navar said. “While it’s not the only reason I became a teacher, it had a lot of impact.”



Teaching Flamenco and public performances helped her pay for a car and her undergraduate and graduate degrees at Our Lady of the Lake University. 


She still dances professionally, primarily at Toro Kitchen and Bar and at Carmens de la Calle, a place where she has danced for more than 20 years as she grew in her career in education.


“A lot of moments happened through Flamenco for me,” Navar said. “I started at Carmens de La Calle when I was 21 years old. I grew up there. My husband and I met there.”


There’s no feeling like expressing yourself on stage, she said. 


“Whatever type of day you’ve had, you can take it out on the dance floor and leave it there,” Navar said. “It’s a feeling like no other when you’ve had a really amazing day or when you’ve had a really not-so-great day and the fact that the people can feel it while you are dancing.”


When she started teaching at Will Rogers Academy, she naturally brought dance with her. 


“Everywhere I go, I bring the art form with me,” Navar said. “When I started teaching at Will Rogers, my principal asked me to teach dance lessons, so I started a Folklorico group even though I did Flamenco. It was something I wanted to donate my time to.”


At Storm, her students learn about Flamenco through the school’s "Outside These Walls" event, where students learn and experience what their teachers and administrators do as hobbies outside of school. She also performs for students and families at family appreciation nights.


“I think the arts and education go hand in hand so I’m fortunate that I can share it with our school here,” she said. “It's two passions that come together.”


In her more than 20 years with the district, Navar has made many connections which broaden the reach of this Spanish artform. 


Last year, she performed at Hawthorne’s Christmas Around the World program, explaining the essential parts of the dance before wowing students and parents with its beauty.


“They’re all our kids so it's just spreading the wealth and letting our students know that they can dance too,” Navar said. “If they have a passion, I want to let them know that they can do it.”

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