For seven days I danced as if I were in class with Mercedes Ruíz, in my own way, just as you may have done in your own way. Seven days of class without class. Seven days of "dancing" wherever we were in whatever way we could and in whatever way we wanted to.
And now that the challenge is “over,” I want to look at how it doesn’t really have to be over.
I share below three ways to easily grow as dancers on any given day and in any given place. Whether you participated in the challenge or not, you can benefit from doing these three things. After that I’ll share some gains (expected and unexpected) that I've taken away from the experience. At the end of the post, you'll find a guide to all of the challenge activities just in case you'd like to do any of them again.
Three (relatively) easy ways to keep the challenge going:
(... even if you didn't participate in it)
1. Hearing reminders everywhere and anywhere
Keep listening to your teacher, even when she’s not there with you.
The other night I went to the kitchen to fill up the hot water bottle. Waitng at the sink I noticed my stance. “Pompi dentro,” I heard. I noticed my pompi, and I fixed it. I engaged my core. I felt stronger. I felt more aligned. I felt more aware.
It’s actually that simple. And yes, a seemingly little act such as this does make a difference. It trains us to hear the reminders. And after awhile we’ll hear them without intending to. After awhile we won’t need so many reminders. After awhile our dancing will reflect the reminders we've been hearing.
2. Slipping the dance in here or there
We can all find a minute to spare. In the kitchen while cooking. At the car waiting for our fellow passengers. In the bathroom as we brush our teeth... You get the picture. Use these moments to do an exercise or to go over a step.
(I used to do this a lot when I first met Ricardo. Not in such a conscious way but in more of an inspired, curious, dying-to-do-it-and-figure-it-out kind of way. I'd quickly explore one of his hip movements during a bathroom break when I was still teaching elementary school. I'll tell you more at another time...)
3. Dancing in your head
Run a choreography you’re working on in your mind. Preferably before going to sleep.
Reinforcement and deepening our ability to remember it.
Lying in bed I close my eyes. I do a dance or part of a dance. Normally I get to a certain point, forget the next part, then go back to the beginning and try again. Even if I get through no more than the first three steps, it’s worth it. (By the way insomniacs, if nothing else, this is a very good way to fall asleep. I call it counting flamenco sheep ...)
No I do not do this every night, but I did do it every night of the challenge. I used to feel very resistant to this idea. Ricardo has always encouraged it. "It's sleep time, not think time," I will tell myself. "I don't want to work, I want to relax." But like I said, I did it every night of the challenge. It was not so hard after all.
The challenge made me stronger.
You could say it strengthened my strength. Both mentally and physically.
My arms, my thighs, my core…
Evey added ounce of physical strengh enhanced my mental strength.
I feel this gain after every FlamencoTour to Jerez and studying almost daily with Mercedes. I feel it after an intensive wokshop here in Portland with a visiting artist like Ricardo or Oscar. More on this concept to come.
And then of course the mental strength I gained from the decsion to commit and from the commitment itself.
The challenge was just seven days long. The number of minutes dedicated to it each day was up to the individual. Add to that the idea that much of it could be done while doing other things.
Still it took commitment and follow-through.
It took a decision to dedicate some time to flamenco each day.
Dancing in small bits each day, with my body and with my head.
Bringing body awareness into my daily life.
Seeking out and finding flamenco in everyday situations.
Reporting and reflecting on it daily. (The writing about it was actually where I ended up spending most of my challenge time, something I’d not really accounted for. There always seems to be something I fail to account for. Perhaps next time I’ll add reflection ideas to the challenge.)
A sense of accomplishment
Each night for seven days I went to sleep with the satisfaction of knowing that I had done what I had set out to do. The flexibility and choice included in the challenge allowed me to meet the expectations I had set for myself.
Had the tasks of the challenge been too great, too rigid, I’m pretty positive I’d have gone to bed feeling defeated. Had the challenge not existed at all, I would have denied myself the opportunity to feel this sense of accomplishment. And to have learned all that I learned.
Something else that felt good,
The challenge facilitated connection.
Connection with my family.
Connection with the world around me.
Connection with you.
That was nice.
And so this challenge,
It offered me motivation. Connection. Fulfillment of my desires. Unanticipated and anticipated opportunities for growth. Greater strength. A sense of accomplishment. And fun.
This will definitely happen again, so please stay tuned.
A List of Challenge Activities
2. The Warm-Up
3. Day 1
4. Day 2
5. Day 3
6. Day 4
7. Day 5
8. Day 6
9. Day 7
Speaking of the connection
One of my favorite (if not my favorite) aspects of the FlamencoTour is the getting to meet people from different places. Coming together to dance and laugh and grow. Gathering in Jerez to fulfill a common desire. Care to join me in Jerez?
What about You?
I'd love to know what you took away from the challenge. Or just what you plan to do next if you did not join in the challenge. What did you learn from the challenge? What were you able to do? Which of the above ideas can you see doing now? How else might you incorporate bits of flamenco into your regular daily life? Leave a comment below.