I love asking flamenco artists I admire what advice they have to offer to the flamenco student. Here are thirteen suggestions from some of the best:
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Hows & Whats
Why dance flamenco?
Flamenco offers all kinds of benefits: physical, emotional, intellectual, cognitive ... It is perfect for those who never considered themselves to be dancers and for those who have done other forms of dance. And the best part? You can start learning when you're seven or when you're seventy, (no joke)!
Here are twenty five reasons to do it,
What should you do if if you have just 15-20 minutes a day to practice?
That’s what a student asked me to find out when I interviewed Jesús Carmona last month.
Here are the five recommendations he shared along with videos to help you get started on your own at home. (Some of what he advises might surprise you.)
1. Abdominal Exercises
The first thing Jesús mentioned was the need to strengthen our abs. Don't know where to start? Try this:
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
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. He worked us HARD 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.
Does the thought of taking a flamenco workshop with a master artist from Spain fill you with excitement or fear?
If you're anything like me you feel a little bit of both.
Here are some steps you can take before, during, and after a workshop to help manage any overwhelm that comes up:
Before the workshop
1. Decide what you want to get out of it
Set a workshop goal.
Do you want to master the choreography? Improve upon a specific technique? Get inspired? Become a better learner? Implement the teacher's personal styling? Simply have a fun experience?
Flamenco lover, this post is dedicated to you.
Last week I asked some students what they loved about flamenco. (I asked myself too.) Our answers became the list below. Following the list you'll find the video that inspired one reader to begin dancing flamenco along with a downloadable valentine for you.
What We Love About Flamenco:
- The challenge
- The community
- The emotion
- The elegance
- The passion
- The boldness
- The rhythm
- The beauty
- The focus
- The complexity
Do you have a hard time finding the motivation to practice?
I hear you.
. . . And I want to help!
Here are twenty ways to bring new life to your flamenco practice
The following ideas will not only spice up your practice but will also make you a better dancer. Apply them to a full choreography, part of a dance, a combination, or even a single step.
1. Do it while singing (or humming) the melody.
OBJECTIVE: Connect the music to the dance. Move your focus away from the steps. Improve your memory. Improve your focus.
2. Do one part over and over.
OBJECTIVE: Solidify and perfect a given part.
3. Do it facing different directions in the room.
OBJECTIVE: Stop relying on the mirror. Focus. Test your knowledge of the dance. Learn to adapt to different situations. Prepare for performance.
Have you given any thought to what you want to get out of your flamenco experience this year? If it has to do with making your hands look better, read on, for today I'll tell you about two common mistakes I see with flamenco hand movements and how to fix them. I'll also show you a video of Mercedes Ruíz, our teacher on the Flamenco Tour to Jerez, demonstrating how to move the hands correctly.
Sometimes we get so focused on learning the steps that we neglect details like hand movements. “I’ll get to it later,” we say. We may think we don't have time, that it’s not that important, or find it boring.
But practicing 'manos' is a must for every flamenco dancer
The good news is that there is not one right way to move the hands. Like other stylistic elements of flamenco dance, there is plenty of room for individuality in this area. Watch a few video clips of different professional dancers, and you'll see how personal hand and finger movements tend to be. Matilde Coral reminds her students to make their hands look like doves, Mercedes reminds us to open and use every finger.
While there may not be one right way to move the hands, there are wrong ways ...
Want to amp up your flamenco progress in 2018?
Here’s a two part formula to get you going:
Part One: Reflection
“The more reflective you are, the more effective you are,” Hall & Simeral
Consider the past year in flamenco, and ask yourself:
- What kind of flamenco activities did I participate in last year?
- Through which experiences did I grow the most?
- Which experiences were the most fun?
- What’s one thing that didn’t go the way I wanted it to, and what can I learn from that?
You've heard many examples of different artists singing cuplés in the previous four posts. Now it's time to see how one dances to a cuplé, and I've got one of the best possible examples for you, Carmen Herrera. Following the video I'll talk about how to dance bulerías to a cuplé then share one of the songs you'll hear and its translation.
Let's begin by watching Carmen as she dances to the singing of father and sons Alfonso Carpio "Mijita," Alfonso Carpio "Mijita Hijo," and José Carpio "Mijita." They are at a juerga at Peña de la Bulería in Jerez. The video is queued to begin where Carmen starts dancing at 4 minutes 30 seconds (though I'm pretty sure you'll want to go back and watch the whole thing at some point.) Today's song begins about five minutes in. The guys share in the singing, and it's kind of impossible not to get excited watching the interplay between them.
While you watch, notice how Carmen's dancing changes as the song progresses. Notice how she reacts to her three singers and where she puts her remates. Notice when she brings the energy up ...
In the first installment of the flamenco cuplé series I'll explain what a cuplé is and show you a video example. But let's begin by looking at this one that Ani sang one day during bulerías class on the Flamenco Tour to Jerez. It was so pretty, so I asked her to tell me the words:
¿Quién se ha llevao mi amor?
¿Quién me ha dejao sin nada?
¿Quién se ha llevao todo el sol
que entraba por mi ventana?
The moon is almost full, so I've included a lunar themed letra for you. (Though this one would make more sense on a new moon...) And since yesterday's video analysis was a hit, I decided to do another. Below you'll find a video of Beatríz Morales dancing to today's letra and giving many clear examples of what it looks like to dance to the cante along with my description of where each component of the structure occurs within her dance. Check it out, and find out what the ultimate bulerías goal is.
Esta noche la luna a mí no me acompaña
Me voy solo pa' casa
No espero al alba
La luna se ha enfadado por no llevarla
anoche a la verbena de Santa Ana
No me enfades luna, tú no me enfades.
Bulerías is arguably one of the hardest flamenco forms to dance due to it's improvisational nature, complex rhythm, and nuanced cante. But dancing bulerías is less mysterious than you may think. Once you understand the components of the dance and how they relate to the music (the singing and the compás) you'll be well on your way to obtaining bulerías freedom.
Below l explain the basic bulerías por fiesta structure and how it relates to the cante. After that you'll find a video of Pastora Galván along with an analysis describing where she dances each component of the structure. Finally I give you an activity to help you internalize the information.
The basic structure of bulerías
Bulerías, like other flamenco forms, has its own language. When we dance we are in conversation with the singer, the guitarist, and the palmeros. The structure offers a formula for clear communication, and it looks like this:
It’s pretty easy to find places to see flamenco in Madrid. The challenge is knowing where to find quality flamenco. (Yes, you can see plenty of mediocre flamenco even in Spain, and if you’re in Spain, you definitely want to see the good stuff!) So today I'll tell you about four places you can go to see quality flamenco in Madrid, show you some videos of fantastic dancers in action, and address the idea of the 'touristy' flamenco show.
The Flamenco Tablao
One of the best ways to experience flamenco in Madrid is to visit a tablao, a place where flamenco is performed. Here are four tablaos where you can (usually) count on seeing good flamenco in Madrid:
Last weekend we studied flamenco dance with Emilio Ochando. In class we were reminded that learning steps is one thing while learning how to execute them and use our bodies well is another thing. Below find eight lessons I took away from the workshops with Emilio:
Create accents with the body, the hands, the feet. This gives your dance dynamics and personality.