My biggest issue with bulerías when I got to Jerez was transitions. Well, ok, that’s not really true, my biggest issue after fear. But the transitions.
It was like all of a sudden I couldn’t see them.
And I didn’t know what to do.
I've since learned how to approach difficult transitions more gracefully. (I'll tell you how in just a moment.) I'll also explain to you in detail the transition that almost gave me a nervous breakdown along with some things you might like to know about "counting" bulerías de Jerez.
But first, allow me to give you some background ...
It was my first time studying bulerías in Jerez
My first time in Ana María López’s class.
So I was dancing by myself in front of EVERYONE, which is what you do EVERY day in there, actually NUMEROUS times every day.
And you can’t hide.
You can’t escape by leaving the room because they find you. Someone calls you. You may be outside practicing or just trying to escape all of the smoke. And if you try to pretend you didn’t hear that you were called and don’t go in, someone comes to get you.
There is absolutely no way of getting out of it,* unless you physically leave the premises. I admit, I did this once but only once I promise.
Perhaps you’re wondering why I wouldn’t want to dance. That was what I was there for, right?
And I pretty much always wanted to dance.
It was the usual fear
of messing up,
of looking stupid,
that made me think I didn’t want to.
I can see that now.
I could only kind of see it then.
But anyway on this particular day,
March 30, Carmen had given me a bulerías to do.
So I learned it. Then did it with the musicians. I finished dancing, resumed breathing, and thought to myself, “Oooo, I have such a hard time with that transition.” It literally drove me crazy that transition which, please hang on, I promise I'm getting to. And what did Ani say to me as soon as I thought it? “Laura, you have trouble with the cambios.”
The cambios. The transitions.
Her comment told me five things:
1. I needed to give attention to it, to that one transition that didn’t even seem like a transition, that one that was so different from what I had always done in the past.
The larger lesson: Transitions are important and need extra attention.
2. But I didn’t need to get so hung up on this one little thing and lose sight of what was going on around me.
The larger lesson: Don’t overthink it.
3. I was expecting things to be a certain way, and when they were different, I put up a block, and it threw me off.
The larger lesson: Be open and flexible.
4. I didn’t need to look to Ani to tell me what I needed to work on, I already knew.
The larger lesson: Listen to and trust my instincts.
5. But there were people there to help me if I wanted help.
The larger lesson:Accept support.
Really it was no surprise, the issue with the cambios.
Because the transitions in flamenco have often left me wanting to scream and run,
wishing I could just get through them already and get on with things,
Much like just about any transition in my life.
But I’ve learned something about how to approach transitions.
I've come to realize that if I ...
- Give them attention
- Prepare for them
- Accept that they're necessary
- Am willing to let go
- Have patience
- Get support when needed
- Open up
they go much more smoothly and can be satisfying,
In learning how to approach the transitions in flamenco, I’ve learned a bit about approaching the changes in my life outside of flamenco as well. The big ones and the small ones.
So what was that transition that almost gave me a nervous breakdown?
It was the one to get into the llamada.
It wasn't normal (for me that is). It was completely different from what I was used to. It was in fact as if there were no transition at all. The thing that (in my mind) ALWAYS occurred right before a llamada in bulerías was not there.
How could this be? How does one transition when there is no transition? Where were the three steps back? Where was the 6, 8, 10? Everything was weird. Everything seemed messed up. I didn't have time for this! (Have patience)
I couldn't figure out how to count it. And I was too afraid and proud to ask for help, so I just agonized on my own. Besides, nobody in class counted, not past three that is. (Get Support)
Que uno que dos que tres
And those three counts were never used to explain things. Things were "counted" with sounds. According to Carmen it was simply, "dak-a-dah-dah." And ultimately, that's the only way I could get the transition that almost gave me a nervous breakdown and stay in compás, by saying, "dak-a-dah-dah" in my head as I did it. Dak-a-dah-dah saved me. (Prepare)
As you can see, I was taken waaaaaay out of my comfort zone. So far out that I put up a gigantic mental block without even realizing it. I got stuck in my head. (Open up)
I wanted to figure it out in my mind. Only then can I do it, I thought. Not realizing that this stubbornness was blocking me from getting it. My refusal to just let my body learn to feel it.(Trust)
And then I think I kind of missed the old way too. I guess I didn't want to let go. Sometimes it's hard to let go.(Let go)
Now I can count the transition that almost gave me a nervous breakdown. I can count it in 12 (which puts the llamada on the either the 7 or 1 depending), I can count it in 6, I can count it in 3, and I can even count it in sounds.) And it was insanely satisfying to figure that out. It actually wasn't that hard, once I let myself breathe and let go of the blocks.
Looking back, I'm glad nobody explained it to me, because the satisfaction of figuring it out is great. (Give them attention)
I don't want you to have a nervous breakdown if you dance bulerías in Jerez, so I teach you all about this transition and explain it in many different ways in the Understanding Bulerías Series which I'll offer again this winter and at the Flamenco Retreat at the Oregon Coast which happens in October.
A brief note on counting:
If you try to count Bulerías de Jerez in 12 it will mess you up, and it doesn't make sense to because the groove is different. You can use the 12-count as a reference, good to do, but Bulerías de Jerez is felt in sixes, or threes depending on how you think of it.
*Dancing on your own in bulerías class
You actually don't have to dance on your own in front of everyone in Ani's class. If you come with me on the FlamencoTour you can dance with the rest of the group or with a partner. So, please don't worry. And if you don't go with me and you go by yourself, you can always ask to dance with Carmen or even Ani if you really don't want to do it by yourself, so honestly, don't worry!
Do you struggle with transitions? Was this helpful? What do you do to make them easier? In flamenco? In life? Leave a comment here.
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