How did the slow practice go for you yesterday?
Today, on our sixth day of the challenge, I'll share with you an activity to practice using the skirt with our non-dominant arm. (You'll also find a video below of Mercedes Ruíz doing just that.)
Mercedes in huge on using your skirt in class. Not twirling the skirt around as you dance or doing a million things with it but holding it, being aware of it.
During our beginning of class exercises the back arm is almost always holding the skirt.
Yes, that back arm that we can tend to forget about.
Holding the skirt inspires us to pay attention to the placement of that arm.
It’s time to become a better flamenco dancer. And it’s time to use our imaginations to help us do that.
You may remember the Dance As If You Were in Class with Mercedes Holiday Challenge. Well, this week begins the Dancing With David Even Though We’re Not With David Mini-Challenge.
In other words, it’s time to pretend
You know how much I like to pretend.
You most likely saw last week’s video interview with David Romero. And you could probably tell by watching that he is a fabulous teacher with all kinds of wonderful information to share. So, for the next week I’ll be channeling David on a daily basis in order to learn from him from the comfort of my own home.
Care to join me?
(Check out the video at the end of this post if you'd like to see David dance.)
Why would I want to participate in this mini-challenge?
- To learn and grow as a flamenco dancer.
- Because it will be fun.
- Because it will not require a lot of time.
How will it work?
For seven days I danced as if I were in class with Mercedes Ruíz, in my own way, just as you may have done in your own way. Seven days of class without class. Seven days of "dancing" wherever we were in whatever way we could and in whatever way we wanted to.
And now that the challenge is “over,” I want to look at how it doesn’t really have to be over.
I share below three ways to easily grow as dancers on any given day and in any given place. Whether you participated in the challenge or not, you can benefit from doing these three things. After that I’ll share some gains (expected and unexpected) that I've taken away from the experience.
(... even if you didn't participate in it)
I enjoyed spending the last week of the year with you during the Dance as if You Were in Class With Mercedes Holiday Challenge. Today I share with you one small way you can keep the challenge going (along with a video of Mercedes Ruíz) ...
Great artists tell me
that they spend enormous amounts of time watching those they admire.
Studying their every move and learning by observation.
So, I invite you to enjoy some time observing one of your favorite artists this week.
And since we've been focusing on Mercedes:
As you know the challenge has involved some squeezing in this week, for me at least. But over the past seven days, I've come to see this squeezing more as taking advantage of moments of opportunity.
"Hey, we have a few minutes before going to do (thing we need to go do) Margot, do you want to do an exercise with me?"
Or, "Is my pompi dentro?" I've found myself asking myself while washing a dish.
And you already know about teeth brushing.
Stuff like that ...
I didn’t tell you this, but I decided to do something I have not done in the past with the choreography I learned from Mercedes in Jerez last fall, I decided to keep it.
You may think I keep all of the dances I learn from her, or perhaps you know me better than that.
My pattern is to let them go.
In fact, this intention I set last fall during the FlamencoTour to Jerez, to retain and polish the choreography Mercedes taught us, is part of the reason I set up the holiday challenge.
I gave myself many excuses as to why I could not do this over the holidays:
'You have other flamenco things to work on Laura.'
'It is December. It is holiday time. It is not time for flamenco discipline.'
'It won’t be the same as being in class with Mercedes. It won't be anything like it...'
I almost didn't do it.
Only two days left of the challenge? I kind of can't believe how quickly it's going by...
Squeezing it in
I mentioned yesterday that I had an idea for squeezing in an exercise when you're feeling that there is no time.
Because there is time.
Let me tell you about how I brush my teeth.
Normally I do tree pose without arms when brushing my teeth. I did yoga long before I started flamenco, and tree pose has always been a favorite of mine.
But sometimes I’ll substitute a flamenco exercise, a marcaje or something for the hips.
During the challenge I’ve been doing an exercise from Mercedes when it's time to brush my teeth.
In the morning, at night, and during any brushings in-between.
That's more than four minutes of exercise time right there.
I did something in anticipation of the challenge upon arriving in San Diego,
I told my family about it
You could say it was for accountability, and that may have been part of it, but mainly I was feeling excited. So excited that I had to share.
Often I'll not share these kinds of things with my family or my non-flamenco friends because really, why would they care?
That's what I'll often think.
But I've noticed something,
They do care.
Because they care about me.
I've noticed that when I'm excited about something they tend to get excited as well. And I've noticed that their excitement about my excitement makes my excitement grow.
I want to talk about how to get more out of your "time" with Mercedes during this challenge. Because I know it can be hard to squeeze in flamenco activities right now as many of us are busy with family, holiday stuff, and what not.
But before I get to that, a brief snippet from today ~
I decided to take the challenge on the road today while hiking with the family.
So Margot and I listened to Mercedes as we walked.
As it turns out many of her reminders were just as helpful to hiking as to flamenco,
'Respira, despacio, pompi dentro...'
Take 'pompi dentro' for instance:
Making a point not to let your bottom stick out forces you to engage your core which is most helpful in maintaining stability on the rocky and sometimes slippery trail.
My niece is participating in the challenge with me. In part.
She loves flamenco and started taking regular classes this spring after taking a class with Ricardo in Santa Barbara.
“Do you want to do some of Mercedes’s exercises with me?” I asked her on Christmas Day.
She knew what to expect as she had sat through her class in Jerez a coupe of times. (My nieces spent some time with me and the group in Spain last spring, and Margot happily, patiently, and voluntarily sat through hours of class with Mercedes.)
“Are we going to do the one with the hands?” she asked me as she stretched her arms out imitating the exercise, this exercise.
Day one has arrived, and the Holiday Challenge begins!
What it consists of
Each day for the next seven days I plan to:
- Do a few of my favorite Mercedes body technique exercises.
- Run one of her choreographies.
- Imagine Mercedes talking, giving me feedback.
If you’ve never studied with Mercedes, sin problema. No problem. You can still participate in the challenge. Just substitute another teacher for Mercedes, and do same three tasks using material from that teacher.
Make it work for you.
Now let’s get more specific about the daily activities
There are basically two “tasks.”
Yesterday I invited you to partake in the Dance as if You Were in Class with Mercedes Challenge with me. I figured it would be a fun way to keep some flamenco in our lives during the holidays while classes are on break. So, we'll be simulating being in class with Mercedes from the comfort of our own homes for seven days beginning December 25.
Below is a short activity to help you to get you ready.
By the way, I meant to send this out earlier today, but I was traveling to visit my family, and all of a sudden it's late! So, this can definitely be done on Day 1 of the challenge instead.
Optional warm-up activity
Materials needed: sticky notes or other paper, writing utensil, possibly this post.
Time it will take: 5-10 minutes.
I’ve talked before about the things from Jerez that I miss once I leave. And how one thing that I tend to miss enormously is having almost daily classes with Mercedes Ruíz.
I cannot have daily classes with Mercedes here in Portland for a very obvious reason.
The Very Obvious Reason:
Mercedes is not in Portland.
(Nor is her dance studio a mere three minute walk from where I live which is how it is in Jerez and which makes it easier than anything apart from having her in your bedroom to make it to her class.)
Although Mercedes in not in Portland and although I am not in Jerez, there is good news.
The Good News:
I can be there with her while being here without her, sort of.