When Jesús Carmona was here he recommended that every student of flamenco improvise a little bit each day. In honor of that, here's a guided exercise in improvisation along with a video and examples of how a letra can vary.

First, the letra:

In the video example the singer interprets the same bulerías letra in two different ways, which makes it great to practice to.

Version One (5 minutes in)

Dime niña hermosa
quién te peina el pelo
RESPIRO (one compás break, 12 beats)
lo peina un estudiante
te lo riza un artillerooooo... de la artillería
que con gracia y salero

con gracia y salero

Version Two (6 minutes in)

Dime niña hermosaaaaa
RESPIRO (one compás break, 12 beats)
quién te peina el pelo (holds out o)
lo peina un estudiante
te lo riza un artilleroooo... de la artillería
que con gracia y salero

con gracia y salero

You can read the translation of this letra here.

Now, the video:

And finally, The Activity

(Intention: to become better at improvising & to train the ear)

  1. Stand up and play the above video starting about five minutes in.
  2. Dance to the first version of the letra. (You may feel tempted to listen and plan out your moves, but I urge you not to. See what happens in the moment without a plan. See how your body reacts to the cante
  3. Now go forward to about 6 minutes in, and dance to the second version of the letra. 
  4. Listen to the two versions of the letra again, this time without dancing. Notice the remates, the caídas, notice the spaces, and plan out how you'd like to dance taking that into account.
  5. Get up and try again.
  6. Repeat as many times as you'd like.

This is basically the same activity from this post. In fact, once you've played around with this video and letra, I suggest you continue with the one there.

How Did It Go?

How did it feel dancing to the different versions of the letra without a plan? How did it feel once you had an idea of what you were going to do? Which way felt more comfortable? Which way was more fun? Let me know in the comments below.

By the way, Jesús shared the advice about improvising when I interviewed him earlier this month. It was part of his response to the question, What do you recommend to somebody who has just 15-20 minutes a day to practice? which came from a student. I'll share that full interview later on. In the meantime, for more advice from Jesús, check this out.

The picture you see is of Jesús dancing during his newest show, Ensayo De Una Vida, which he debuted (and created) right here in Portland. Witnessing his creation was MAGICAL. When Jesús arrived in town, I told him I had found a location where he could put on a last-minute show and would he be interested in doing this. I showed him pictures and explained that it would be a small and intimate show. Within two days he created the concept and planned out the show. He had a plan, and a playlist to go along with it, but the moves were not set. In other words, he improvised within the structure he gave himself, and it was unbelievable. As you can see, this idea is very important to him and wow, does he do it well.

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