Read on for my seven biggest takeaways from this month's workshops with flamenco maestro Jesús Carmona followed by a challenge for you.

Jesús is all about working hard, breaking things down, and holding high expectations all while having fun. A true master teacher. He sees everybody and expects maximum effort from all. Jesús challenged us, believed in us, and taught us from the heart during the workshops in Portland. It was truly satisfying to see and feel the progress that we made in just four days. How can something be semi-torturous yet completely wonderful at the same time?

Here are seven pieces of advice from Jesús that will help you become a better flamenco dancer.

1. How to take your dancing to the next level

Keep going even when you think you no longer can

“Even if we think we can’t, we can always do a bit more, so don’t throw in the towel.”

If you stop when you get to that point where you don’t feel you can possibly go on, you never break the barrier. You move to the next level by continuing at the exact moment when you’re dying to stop, when you think you no longer can. So, please, if you want to improve, don't stop, keep going!

2. How to improve your technique

Always begin an exercise slowly

Going slowly allows you time to think about what you’re doing. Not only will it help you to get the pattern down, but more importantly it allows you to focus on how you’re doing things and put the correct technique into your body.

Jesús would have us do one exercise for about fifteen minutes. He would begin very slowly imploring us to execute each movement corrrectly and integrate this technique into our bodies.  So, start slowly, focus on what you're doing and how you're doing it then (very) gradually increase the speed. 

3. How to perfect a move

Do it over and over and over again

Jesús advised us to practice a given move or technique an excessive number of times when working on our own. "Do it a bunch of times," he said, "and when you think you've done it enough, do it more." 

Repetition is key.

4. How to get a footwork sound that’s not coming out

Sing it

When a step isn’t happening for you, sing it out loud. This helps to put it into your brain. "Your brain may not remember a footstep, but it will remember a song," says Jesús. 

So practice "sound singing" when you're struggling to get something down.

5. How to stay in compás

Listen to the rhythm and try to stay slightly behind it

A typical issue flamenco students struggle with is rushing. When doing footwork, focus on and really listen to the palmas or metronome, and "aim to stay a bit behind the beat" says Jesús. This will prevent you from pusing the rhythm.

I remember when I first began practicing with the metronome. I had NO idea how much I was rushing until I did this. I would get so angry at that poor little metronome. Sometimes I would get so frustrated I would turn it off or stop practicing completely. Toshi told me to try to stay behind the beat (I would get mad at him too), but the more I practiced with the metronome the better I got, and it actually became fun trying to synch so perfectly with the beats that I couldn't even hear the metronome. I still struggle with pushing the compás. Any time I feel myself doing so (or get called out for it) I focus in on and listen to the palmas. Trying to stay behind the downbeat is one of the best pieces of advice I've ever received. 

6. How to understand compás

Listen to lots of music

The more flamenco music you listen to the better. Listen as much as you can. This is the way to begin to feel the compás inside of you.

7. How to move your body in a different way

Be a careful observer

Often times "we see what we want to see rather than reality," Jesús says.

It’s certainly easier. We see the teacher do a step, we do the step and interpret their body movements to fit what is already in the vocabulary of our body rather than truly looking to see what they are doing. So when you are learning a new step, rather than just focusing on the mechanics of it, carefully study how the teacher is doing it, and try to do the same thing with your body.

Stay tuned for my interview with Jesús where he talks about his approach to teaching.

Try It Out

Choose one of the above tips to apply this week. Let me know what you choose and how it goes in the comments below. And if you’ve studied with Jesús, please share with me your best take-away(s) from him.

See more pictures from the workshops here.

If someone told me last December I would have fallen in love with flamenco I would have scoffed, but here I am! The past 4 days masterclass with the talented and amazing #jesuscarmona have been nothing short of mind blowing. Testing boundaries and taking leaps of faith, and realizing there is something beautiful in my life that is so new and different. Flamenco has made me a part of a community of warm and happy people. I want this to go on forever! My heart is so full tonight! Thank you to my beloved for making this possible, and thank you Laura Onizuka for this amazing workshop!!!! Olé!!!!
— Giye Choe
4 days of flamenco with Jesus Carmona pushed me past my physical thresholds to another plane. So much to integrate and internalize into my dance practice!
Jesus also premiered a new show for an intimate audience, an autobiographical dance account of his life until now. What an honor to witness. A big thank you to Laura Onizuka for masterminding this flamenco weekend!
— Sarah Ward
My heart and spirit are full (and my body sore!) from the amazing flamenco dance intensive and magical show I attended with the inimitable artist Jesús Carmona this week. It was so fun dancing and learning from this wonderful maestro surrounded by friends and familiar faces. Thank you Laura Onizuka for all your hard work organizing the classes, show, and post-workshop paella party.
— Elena Villa
It was so sad to leave Portland tonight. 4 days / 10.5 hrs of flamenco workshops with with a world-renowned dancer from Spain, Jesus Carmona has come to an end. My body is sore, but my heart is full ❤️ What a spectacular experience right here in PNW! His intimate show last night was very special, the best show of any kind I’ve ever experienced, too. What an amazing artist, and how down to earth he is with such a warm heart. Thank you for everything you’ve given us, Jesus! And thank you so much Laura Onizuka for bringing him here and organizing everything for us!! It was so great to connect with other flamencas, too 🤗 I had an amazing time!
— Fusako Nozaka
This past week has been one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life. Flamenco dance workshops with the amazing Jesús Carmona pushed me to my personal limit and beyond. The stamina I gained and technique I learned in a mere six hours of instruction will improve my dancing from now going forward. His performance on Saturday night was transcendant...a wonderful, generous gift to all of us. We capped it off with a lovely paella feast in his honor. Thank you so much, Laura Onizuka for organizing this unforgettable flamenco experience. Gracias Maestro Carmona por su instrucción estupenda. And hugs to all my fellow flamencas/ are my people. 🌹☺🌹
— Shyla Beth
OMG I’m on cloud nine for the rest of the week ... Amazing , AMAZING workshop with the Maestro Jesús Carmona last weekend. I don’t want to forget these 4 days of inspiration and motivation he shared with us! He let us taste the heart of flamenco. We were all spellbounded by his out of the world charisma and down to earth charm😄
And the super intimate show! What a treat ❤️ It almost made me cry.
Thank you Laura for inviting him here in P town! Cant wait to have him back next year again.
— Riko Tannenbaum
Amazing workshop with Jesús Carmona Moreno in Portland! He’s not only a gifted dancer - he has the gift of being able to teach in a very accessible manner - LOVED IT!!
— Dani Serrano
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to Jesús Carmona and Laura Onizuka for a wonderful weekend. The workshop was everything I hoped for and more. I feel so energized and inspired by this amazing dancer who happens to also be a gifted teacher. The workshop was challenging, exciting and so much fun. I learned and grew more than I thought possible in 4 days. And special thanks to Stefani Miller for hosting a super fun post workshop paella party, with a special paella prepared by Chef Ricardo Segura! I met new friends and got to reconnect with old ones. I LOVE my flamenco community! My heart is full of flamenco love and gratitude!
— Julie Pacheco-Toye
Amazing four days of flamenco workshops with Jesús Carmona, learning from the best!! So grateful 🙏 Thank you Laura Onizuka for bringing him!
— Eve Salonen
Eve and I just said our goodbyes to Jesus Carmona Moreno after an amazing final workshop today and delicious paella after party in Portland! Now we are on the road heading home reflecting on our memorable weekend. Thank you Jesus Carmona Moreno for your generous heart and phenomenal artistry. And Laura Onizuka for making this all happen!
— Jackie Villegas Maclin
I’m having such an amazing workshop with Jesús Carmona right here in Portland! Each day I’ve improved and pushed myself beyond what I thought I could handle. I haven’t been dancing flamenco in months and this has been exactly the reminder that I need dance, i need this sisterhood, i need Spain...
This whole experience has revitalized me and grounded me. I’ll never forget it! He is so special...
Thank you Laura Onizuka and Jesús Carmona for these special opportunities right here in Portland! ...
Might be the wine, might be the physical fatigue, or it could be that Jesús Carmona is a special artist I’ve really had the pleasure of meeting and learning from, and much like leaving summer camp as a preteen, I cried all the way home after saying goodbye... So not ready to go back to work tomorrow.
— Seana Rizzutto Yee