The following flamenco dance tips were born out of a longing to be back in class with Mercedes Ruíz. Because I love it there. I love how we learn, the focus on technique, the repetition, watching Mercedes move.
So here are eleven tips I’ve learned studying with her over the years. Each tip includes a brief exercise to help you apply it.
Here's a signature letra sung by El Chozas. Melchora Ortega sang it to us during our private show on the Flamenco Tour to Jerez.
It’s the final day of the year, so let’s take some time to reflect before ringing in the new year. What moments stood out in your flamenco life this year?
Below you can see some of my favorite flamenco memories from 2018 (in chronological order). I feel extremely grateful for the wonderful experiences this year delivered. One of the things I most love is how each event pictured below offered a new opportunity to join with flamenco lovers from across the country (and the world in some cases) to enjoy this incredible art form together.
Here are my top seven flamenco memories of the year
Here’s a peek at what happened during week two of the Flamenco Tour to Jerez …
Here are the words to Rosa María along with a video of Rancapino Chico you do not want to miss…
Here’s a bulerías letra and a must-watch video of Pastora Galván.
Here is another bulerías de Cádiz …
Today enjoy a Bulerias de Cádiz letra along with a video of Fabiola Barba that I took during the last Flamenco Tour to Jerez.
Here’s a peek at what we’ve been up to so far on the Flamenco Tour to Jerez …
Twenty years ago when I went to Spain for the first time, I got to see Paco de Lucía perform at Teatro de la Maestranza during the Bienal de Sevilla. This happened after I had been living there for about six months at a time when I was just beginning to understand what flamenco was.
Here's a tangos estribillo that we danced to with Mercedes Ruíz during the last Flamenco Tour to Jerez. You can see a tiny snippet from that dance below along with a video of Claudia La Debla.
Y voy y voy
date la vuelta ligero
como se la da el rejoj
y voy y voy
que despacito pasaban
la manillas del rejoj
Here's one more bulerías for you. Zorri sang this to us one Flamenco Tour to Jerez during a meal we shared at José Luís and Maribel's (see pictures here). This was the perfect letra for the occasion:
Ahora sí que estoy a gusto
estoy comiendo y bebiendo
con personas de mi gusto
Often after the Flamenco Tour I travel here and there. To explore, to scout things out for future tours, to visit friends, to see more flamenco... A couple of years ago after the trip ended I headed to Prado del Rey in the Sierra de Cádiz for a few days.
I did not rent a car and instead chose a home base with plenty of trails and places to explore on foot nearby. I spent a lot of time getting lost then finding myself in unintended places. While I look forward to hiking and discovering more of the sierra in the future, I'm very happy with my decision to travel sin coche this time around.
Some people considered the overall experience I had there (and my persistence in certain situations which you'll read about below) to be quite flamenca which makes me want to share this account of my adventures there with you:
Usually about a week into the Flamenco Tour I start hearing bulerías in my head at random times. It lingers for awhile upon returning home which I guess is why I've been on such a bulerías kick ...
¿A quién le contaré yo?
yo le canto a mi niño*
que tengo la obligación
I heard today's letra a few weeks ago in Jerez during the Flamenco Tour (at the same show where I heard last week's letra). Juan Peña sang it por bulerías. Upon researching the verse, I discovered the following version por tangos sung by Flora who you'll see in the video below.
Si tuvieras tú vergüenza
como la tiene la gente
no pasaría por mi puerta
ni por la acera de enfrente
This past Flamenco Tour was the smallest on record with only three of us! We still had an amazing time. Below read highlights from week two of the Flamenco Tour to Jerez. (You can see highlights from week one here, and you can read day-by-day accounts here and here.)
Getting To Know One Another
One of my favorite aspects of the Flamenco Tour is how the group tends to turn into our own little flamenco family. People take care of each other; they even try to take care of me although I’m supposed to be taking care of them. It's so comforting to feel the support of the people you're with …
When we were in Jerez we spent a lot of time at Tabanco El Pasaje watching flamenco. You can see shows there just about every afternoon and night. Below you can see a video of Juan Loreto dancing soleá por bulerías.
Soleá por Bulerías
Qué pena tengo en el alma
se murió la madre mía
cuando se anunciaba el alba
What sorrow I feel in my soul
my mother died
when dawn came
Below you can watch Curro de Utrera singing today's letra along with a couple of clips from our private workshop with Mercedes Ruíz during the last Flamenco Tour to Jerez.
Alegrías de Córdoba
La hija de la Paula
no es de mi rango
ella tiene un cortijo
y yo voy descalzo
What does it feel like to have been the first teacher to some of the most famous flamenco dancers from Jerez?
That's a question I asked Ana María López, one of the most influential flamenco instructors in Jerez, Spain, in the video interview you'll see below.
Sitting down with Ani . . .
In the interview Ani, as she's affectionately known, talks about how she grew up surrounded by flamenco in the San Miguel neighborhood of Jerez, began studying dance as a little girl, and later grew into one of the most well-known bulerías instructors around. She has been the primary teacher to some of the greatest flamenco dancers working today such as Mercedes Ruíz, Patricia Ibañez, and Carmen Herrera. Naturally, we study bulerías with her during the Flamenco Tour to Jerez. Watch through to the end of the video where you'll see her in the studio demonstrating how to dance bulerías with the cante and feel the joyful essence of Jerez.
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 ...