I want to share a story with you about how I messed up dancing bulerías last weekend, how it left me feeling not so happy about my dancing, eight important lessons about flamenco (and life) I learned in the process, and how those lessons served me when I applied them to a sticky situation in my life.
So last weekend I took a workshop with Alfonso Cid. He shared bunches of bulerías letras with us (you'll find one below) and gave a very informative introduction to flamenco, with a focus on cante. He had us all singing and doing palmas and even got some of us up dancing.
Yay! (and Olé).
Some people got up to dance, mess up or not mess up, and learn along the way.
I was one of those people.
And here is what I learned:
2. When I let fear take center stage it takes me out of the moment and gets in the way of what I'm doing.
3. Expecting things to go a certain way can get me into trouble.
5. I need to listen more.
6. I need to practice more.
7. Even though my mind and body know what to do they don't always do it.
8. It's always a good idea to get up and dance because this is how I get better.
(None of these lessons were new. Apparently I needed to learn them again. And actually I needed to re-learn them exactly when I did in order to apply them to that sticky situation that came up in my life soon after which I'll touch on momentarily.)
I'm not going to lie to you, I don't like messing up in front of others, but I know it is inevitable, and I also know it's really not that big of deal. I know that if I reflect on my mistakes I can find out what didn't work, and try something different the next time.
I can learn from them.
So let me tell you about what happened at the workshop,
I got nervous
Alfonso sang some letras I didn't know. (I wanted familiar, and wanting what wasn't happening was taking me out of the moment. Uh-oh.)
I kept anticipating he would sing in a certain way, resolve in a certain place, but things weren't happening as I was expecting them to.
Still, that should have been no biggie considering I know exactly what to do in this situation,
Mark, do some remates if I hear good places to do so, and wait until he finishes the letra and goes into a coletilla to resolve. I know to just dance, enjoy, listen, and wait.
But my nerves got the best of me.
Each time I did a move in a way that didn't feel so good, I would psych myself out a bit more, "That wasn't good, Laura. You should be doing better. They're judging you..." You know the drill. Intermittent thoughts like that would creep in and take me out of the moment (and the enjoyment).
The good news and the progress:
I didn't stop dancing.
Nothing was actually 'wrong,' I just could have done many things A LOT better.
I stayed in compás.
I stuck to the structure.
I took advantage of the opportunity to get up and dance, three times, even though it felt scary.
It was actually fun. I was dancing to inspiring cante and guitarra!
And, I learned.
How This Can (And Already Did) Serve Me Beyond Flamenco
I can apply the above lessons to pretty much anything in life.
Let's take a difficult conversation for example,
Dancing bulerías in front of others may always freak me out to some extent.
(Having a difficult conversation may always freak me out to some extent.)
When I let the fear take over it gets in the way of my ability to dance well.
(When I let the fear take over it gets in the way of my ability to communicate well.)
Expecting the singer to sing a certain way takes me out of the moment and sets me up to fail.
(Expecting another person to act a certain way sets me up for disappointment and disregards the other person's will.)
Although my mind and body may know what to do, they don't always do it.
(Even though I may know the best choice to make, I don't always make it.)
Don't wait for an opportunity to dance with live cante in front of others to present itself; Practice on my own.
(Don't wait for the difficult conversation; Practice good conversation skills in all conversations.)
Accept the opportunity. Get up and dance!
(Have the conversation. Address the issue. Don't ignore it.)
I used the example of a difficult conversation because I needed to have a difficult conversation the other day.
I was fretting about it, feeling very scared. Then I remembered this article which was still in draft form at the time. As you know, flamenco is one of my mentors, and often times when I encounter a challenge in my life,
I look to flamenco for answers
I began to realize how the lessons I had learned dancing in the workshop could serve me in regard to the difficult conversation that needed to happen.
I had that difficult conversation.
I used the lessons I'd learned dancing bulerías to help me. And, guess what? The difficult conversation turned out to be a lot less difficult than I had imagined it would be. And guess what else? Even though I prepared myself, I still made some mistakes during the difficult conversation. But it was okay. And the conversation led to some pretty good results that I hadn't anticipated.
So as you can see, my experience that day in the workshop really needed to happen. The discomfort was necessary so that I could grow. The discomfort put these lessons into the forefront of my mind so that I could apply them to the difficult conversation that needed to happen.
Gracias flamenco, once again.
Now, the Letra
The following verse is one that we looked at in the workshop:
Dicen que te quiero poco,
tu gente los que camelan
que yo te quisiera poco.
They say I don't love you enough.
your family who wishes
I wouldn't love you at all.
Whether you are a dancer, singer, guitar player, percussionist, or simply flamenco curious, if you get an opportunity to study or attend a lecture with Alfonso, do it!
In the meantime, definitely check out his website which is full of great information. I really enjoyed this article where Alfonso analyzes this piece interpreted by Pastora Galván. And if you want to go deeper, he discusses his findings and views on the origins of flamenco in the very comprehensive, Why Flamenco Does Not Come From India. (By the way, Alfonso, along with my amiga, Melinda Hedgecorth, and Jed Miley, was in town performing with the Peña Flamenca de Portland.)
What About You?
Tell me, have you had a similar experience when getting up to dance in front of others, either in an improvisational or performance setting? What lessons have you learned from your mistakes? Can you apply any of those lessons to your life beyond the dance? Please share in the comments below.
Ready to Learn Some Lessons?
Join me for summer workshops in Portland! Get the details here.