My main obstacle to bulerías has always been fear.
It's no different from my main obstacle in life
I know indecision well.
No wonder bulerías has always been so hard for me,
Not enough trust.
In a moment I'll tell you how I've let go of a lot of my bulerías fears (and how you can do the same).
Because the truth is, now I kind of can't get enough of bulerías.
It is not that the fear has been eradicated, it's that the excitement and fun usually slide it over to the side now. (Gracias excitement and fun.)
I'll share four things you can do to ease your bulerías fears, but first, let me give you a bit of background:
I used to haaaaate bulerías (while secretly loving it)
I had long been intrigued, even before I knew what a bulería was.
Prior to my first trip to Spain, when I knew next to nothing about flamenco, apart from the fact that I had to do it, I somehow developed the idea that I would arrive, walk around in search of flamenco, and find myself among a group of gypsies singing and dancing who would quickly declare it my turn to go out and dance, BY MYSELF, in front of them. Because, after all, that's what I was going there to do, right?
I knew this wasn't a dance that I could stand in the background and do without anyone noticing.
Most likely my mind began forming this idea upon seeing the bulerías de Jerez at the beginning of Carlos Saura's movie Flamenco. I had no idea what in the world bulerías was, but Holy Moly, what these people were doing captivated me (and scared me beyond belief).
I saw the movie just before heading to Spain for the first time. It was totally different from the flamenco video I had seen two years earlier, the one that planted the flamenco seed in me. It was the first full flamenco movie I had watched. I know, clearly I could have done more homework. Instead, just days before I was set to leave for Spain, I sat wondering what in the world had I been thinking ...
So I went to Spain
To study flamenco. And to begin learning how to trust, although I wasn't aware of that part.
In one of my classes we started doing this thing called bulerías.
It was beyond difficult.
I couldn't stand it, yet I loved it.
You see, I loved watching my teacher do it.
I loved the attitude, the sassiness, the cuteness, the confidence, the rhythms, the uniqueness.
But I was BAFFLED, totalmente perpleja! And there wasn't even any cante yet.
Not only did all of the moves seem completely awkward, but the rhythm was nuts, and everything happened so fast.
It basically seemed impossible to get.
I quickly decided that this was not the dance for me
I was turned off. (From learning it that is.)
And that's why I sort of hated it.
Let's skip ahead to now
I am not so scared of bulerías anymore.
Por fín I allow myself to enjoy this palo. Actually, I almost can't not enjoy it.
Especially when I am with a lot of people, and we're all taking turns.
And especially when dancing to live cante and guitarra. There really is nothing like the feeling of putting something in that just right place and hearing a big collective olé.
What else do I like?
Feeling right there in the groove with los demás
Accompanying with palmas and jaleos
The many short puzzling letras
And long beautiful ones
Witnessing each dancer's individuality
... I love that we get to really be ourselves when dancing bulerías. We are expected to be ourselves. We kind of have to be ourselves. And really, even if we think, "Yikes! Far too scary, can't be myself," and try not to, well, we are still being ourselves. That self shines through all attempts to hide. So we might as well just BE, fully, versed? And besides, we're just being our bulerías selves anyway.
Yes, many good things
But let's face it, learning how to dance por bulerías is not easy, namely for those of us born in lands far from Spain.
There is much to consider:
When to enter, when to leave, the compás, the singing and how to follow it ...
Then, to top it all off, we're supposed to "improvise*"
Talk about scary. Ay!
Bulerías has become easier
by learning how it works,
by doing it.
by seeing it,
by giving it time.
The more experiences I have with it,
The greater my trust becomes
It's like any relationship.
The more I get to know a person, the more time I spend with that person, the more I do with that person, the more I listen to that person and hear that person's stories, the more comfortable I feel, the more I open up, the more willing I become to tell my stories,
The more I am able to trust.
So back to bulerías
I've learned to set aside my bulerías fears by
- Studying the structure,*
- Doing it and doing it and doing it,
- Observing others, and
- Listening to the cante.
1, 2, 3, 4, I’ve allowed my trust to grow
And you can do it too.
Trusting allows me to have fun with bulerías.
And that's what it's all about.
In a couple of days I'll be sharing five things that every bulerías dancer needs to know. (Five things that have further strengthened my trust in this complicated dance.) Stay tuned for that.
*A Note about Structure & Improvising (it's good news)
Although bulerías are "improvisational," there is a structure that lets us successfully dance to any letra (song verse), even one we don't know. Understanding that structure has been HUGE in making bulerías less scary for me. I'll talk more about that in another post, and we'll go into it in detail in the Understanding Bulerías Workshops coming up.
Some Spanish from the story:
perpleja - perplexed/baffled
por fín - finally
con los demás - with everyone else
verdad - truth (¿Verdad? - Right?)
And now, what about You?
Do you have an uncomfortable getting-up-in-front-of-everyone-and-doing-a-bulerías-feeling-like-I-had-no-idea-what-was-going-on story? (Because we can all relate; I have many.) Or perhaps a bulerías success story? And what are some of your obstacles to bulerías? Please share below in the comments/
p.s. This post is a much-needed reworking of this.