Improvisation in flamenco. It's not as tricky as you may think.
Today I explain how to improvise in fiesta style flamenco dances.
The truth is, if you follow certain principles, you can improvise no matter what your level. So if you think you're not ready to do this, think again, and read on to find out how.
Improvisation Por Fiesta
In order to 'improvise' when dancing bulerías and tangos, you must understand the structure. And in order to truly have a conversation with the singer and the other musicians, you need to do a bit of improvising. Since flamenco is a conversation between the singer, dancer, guitarist, and palmeros, improvisation is an important skill to develop.
(Plus it's fun.)
But don’t worry,
Improvising por fiesta is not making up a dance from scratch as you go.
It is not coming up with brand new moves in the moment.
It’s actually much easier than that (as long as you know the structure).
When you understand the structure, even if you rely on a choreography, you can still do some improvising.
You might follow a choreography and change one small part based on what you hear in the cante in a given moment. Perhaps you do a marcaje (marking step) a couple of extra times in order to do an enganche (connecting step) with the caída (change)of the cante.
You can think of improvising por bulerías and tangos as adapting your moves to the cante in a way that feels good to you.
Let's discuss the different levels of improvisation
You don’t have to wait until you feel like a master flamenco dancer to start playing around with the idea of improvising because there are different levels of improvisation.
Below find the levels explained from least difficult to most difficult.
Follow a choreography that someone taught you, (one that is aligned with the correct structure) and adapt it in the moment based on the cante.
Follow a choreography that you created yourself, (one that is aligned with the correct structure and made up of moves learned from others &/or created by you) and adapt it in the moment based on the cante.
In both levels one and two you improvise within a set piece by adapting parts of that choreography. You can do this by:
- adding steps
- subtracting steps
- making a step longer
- making a step shorter
Follow a partial plan.
Have in mind some moves (learned from others &/or created on your own) that you intend to do during certain parts of your dance, and allow for other moves to show up in the moment during the other parts.
Example: Decide which salida and final you’re going to do, and leave the rest open.
In order to dance at this level. you need a strong por fiesta dance vocabulary.
Have no 'plans' at all.
Just get up and do it trusting that the moves will surface.
In order to dance at this level, you need to feel very very very very comfortable with the structure, and you need to have a lot of default moves in your tangos and bulerías dance vocabulary.
If levels three and four seem scary and far-fetched, don’t worry! If you stick with por fiesta flamenco, you’ll get there.
In the meantime, there is nothing wrong with hanging out at level one or two for as long as you like. You'll have plenty of fun there, I promise. And, by spending lots of time dancing at levels one and two, you'll eventually end up in level three without even meaning to.
But in order for this to happen, you need to dance,
If you can do it in a class, fabulous.
If you can do it at a juerga, amazing.
If you can do it while your friend plays palmas, phenomenal.
If you can do it on your own at home while listening to music, spectacular.
So, go to it,
And, please, let me know how it goes
Can you relate to any of the above levels? Do you enjoy improvising por fiesta? Does it scare you perhaps? What has happened when you've tried to improvise in the past? What questions remain? Let me know in the comments below.
Stay tuned for more on this topic!
If you'd like to explore these concepts further then the bulerías and tangos workshops are the thing for you. In the upcoming bulerías and tangos weekend intensives we'll break down the structure and have many opportunities to practice. You also get e-books full of detailed information.
There are still spots available for the Flamenco Tour, so why not join me to dance (and learn) bulerías in Jerez?