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Life Lessons

I Climbed The High Mountain (I Actually Did) | The Weekly Letra

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I Climbed The High Mountain (I Actually Did) | The Weekly Letra

This week's letra made me think of an experience I had years ago which has nothing to do with flamenco. It has to do with dishonesty and fear. It started with a question, which led to a lie, which in turn led to facing a fear. The facing fear part actually helped prepare me for flamenco where I'm forced to confront my fears over and over again. To my surprise, all of the practice meeting my fears in flamenco has only made it easier to do so in life outside of the dance.

More on that in a minute, but first let's take a look at the letra and watch a video of Mercedes Ruíz, our teacher on the Flamenco Tour to Jerez, dancing caña, all in red, with bata and mantón. 

Caña
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Subí a la alta montaña
buscando leña pa’ el fuego
como no la encontraba
al valle bajé de nuevo

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Should I Put Myself Out There? (& Why Should I Listen to Flamenco Music?) | The Weekly Letra

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Should I Put Myself Out There? (& Why Should I Listen to Flamenco Music?) | The Weekly Letra

Thinking about that first trip to Spain in 1998 has reminded me that I need to step it up in the doing things that scare the *#%~&> out of me category. Read on for a lesson around that idea and more of my story from that first trip. Also, find out why it's essential to listen to flamenco music, read a letra about Sevilla, then see a video of Juana la del Revuelo, Aurora Vargas, and Remedios Amaya ...

During my time in Sevilla I saw these women perform. During my time in Sevilla I saw these women perform live. As you'll see from the video below, it was wonderful. Their CDs were among some of the first I purchased once I accepted the fact that I needed to start listening to flamenco music. You see, in the beginning I wasn't very interested in listening to the music, especially cante, unless I was dancing, but Chris convinced me to start listening. He said I needed to do this to understand and internalize the compás.

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Why You Shouldn't Call It Quits  . . .  (My First Flamenco Dance Experience in Spain)

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Why You Shouldn't Call It Quits . . . (My First Flamenco Dance Experience in Spain)

In 1998 I traveled to Spain to study flamenco. My plan was simple (and not very well thought out): Travel around, settle somewhere in Andalucía, find flamenco classes, find work. I had no contacts in Spain, no leads on where to study or work. I didn’t even know what city I was going to live in.

I just knew that if I wanted to learn flamenco I needed to go to Spain.

Today I'll tell you about finding flamenco in Sevilla, what it taught me about perseverance, and how it can help you.

I didn't plan much before I left for Spain. In part because I wanted to get a feel for the different cities before choosing where to settle. In part because thinking it through felt too overwhelming, and the more I thought about the details, the more I thought about changing my mind and staying put. I spoke Spanish, I had a strong desire to learn, I had saved enough money to hold me over for awhile, I felt ready for an adventure, and I knew I could figure things out once I arrived.

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How To Learn From A Mistake

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How To Learn From A Mistake

Mistakes are an inevitable part of learning and provide us with opportunities to grow. An absence of mistakes means we are not trying. However, repeating the same mistake means we are choosing not to improve.

Today we’ll look at how to learn from a mistake.

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Fifty Life Lessons from Flamenco

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Fifty Life Lessons from Flamenco

During last weekend's Flamenco Retreat at the Oregon Coast (which I'm still on a high from by the way and which you can see pictures of below) we all agreed that flamenco teaches us about life and about ourselves

So, today I share with you fifty life lessons I've gleaned from flamenco.

Fifty Lessons:

(This list is full of links in case you'd like to dive deeper into some of the lessons.)

  1. Listen to your intuition, and trust your instincts.
  2. Express your true feelings
  3. Be present.
  4. Stand beautifully in your power.
  5. Prepare. (Really prepare.)
  6. Take risks.
  7. Focus.
  8. Act with intention.
  9. The answers are in the mirror, so look.
  10. Show up.

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How to Turn Physical Strength Into Mental Strength

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How to Turn Physical Strength Into Mental Strength

Every time I return home from the Flamenco Tour to Jerez I feel stronger. (It’s impossible not to after all of that time in class with Mercedes Ruíz.) I've learned how to turn the physical strength gained through dancing flamenco into mental strength to help me face challenges in my life. At the end of this post, I'll lead you through an activity to help you do the same.

Let’s begin with an excerpt from my journal a few years ago upon returning home from The Flamenco Tour:

I am home, and I feel it,

The strength.

I feel it in my body, and I feel it in my being. (I always forget how this happens.)

The thing I wasn’t strong enough to do before I left. I can now do it. The thing I tried so many times to do before but couldn’t. The thing I kept trying to do but told myself I wasn’t strong enough to do.

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Four Ways To Improve Your Flamenco Class Experience

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Four Ways To Improve Your Flamenco Class Experience

There's going to class. And then there's going to class and getting the most out of it. Today I'm going to talk about the latter, about how to get the most out of your flamenco class (or workshop) experience.

Ricardo López is constantly giving us tips when he comes in town for workshops. Perhaps just as helpful are little phrases I hear him say over and over again in class. He doesn't really intend them as tips. They are reactions, spoken in the moment. But, oh, these little comments have a lot to tell us.

So, here you go, four comments from Ricardo and four pieces of advice gleaned from them:

ONE

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Day 10 : What to do When You Think You Can't [Flamenco Home Challenge]

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Day 10 : What to do When You Think You Can't [Flamenco Home Challenge]

It’s the final day of the challenge. Olé, you made it!

How did yesterday's activity go? Did it feel good to just put the music on and dance not worrying about all of the other stuff? For me, letting go and dancing in this way is a great form of therapy. 

Let's get on with the final challenge.

Day 10

Today’s exercise is designed to help you keep the challenge going in class or in your home practice.

I remember when I first studied with Mercedes. I felt so overwhelmed with all of the classes I was taking, coming in toward the end of the year, perhaps trying to do too much. So many things felt impossibly hard. ‘I can’t,’ ‘No way,’ ‘Impossible,’ Thoughts like this were constantly running through my head. I even declared them out loud. “No puedo,” I would tell Mercedes. Or, I would just stop dancing.

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How I Messed Up Dancing Bulerías, What I Learned & How it Can Help You | The Weekly Letra

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How I Messed Up Dancing Bulerías, What I Learned & How it Can Help You | The Weekly Letra

I want to share a story with you about how I messed up dancing bulerías last weekend, how it left me feeling not so happy about my dancing, eight important lessons about flamenco (and life) I learned in the process, and how those lessons served me when I applied them to a sticky situation in my life.

So last weekend I took a workshop with Alfonso Cid. He shared bunches of bulerías letras with us (you'll find one below) and gave a very informative introduction to flamenco, with a focus on cante. He had us all singing and doing palmas and even got some of us up dancing.

Toward the end of the workshop someone asked Alfonso to address how to dance bulerías por fiesta, how to dance to the cante. (As you know, this is one of my favorite things.)

Yay! (and Olé).

Some people got up to dance, mess up or not mess up, and learn along the way. 

I was one of those people.

And here is what I learned:

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Quality Before Quantity | The Weekly Letra

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Quality Before Quantity | The Weekly Letra

Today I want to share a bulerías dancing tip with you along with a letra.

Let's start with the tip

When I'm in Jerez on the Flamenco Tours, Ani offers all kinds of quick and dirty tips.

Here's one:

Calidad antes que cantidad.

Quality before quantity

Sometimes it's so enticing. We're exposed to a bunch of cool steps. We can't stand to leave any of them out, so we try to squeeze them all into one pataita. 

And things get sloppy

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Two Take-Aways from Two Days of Class in Jerez

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Two Take-Aways from Two Days of Class in Jerez

I've got two flamenco learning tips to share with you today. One from Mercedes and one from Ani. We're on day two of Flamenco Tour classes, and the classes have been going like this:

Technique with Mercedes in the morning. Bulerías with Ani right after. Then choreography and castanets with Mercedes after lunch and siesta. 

Everybody loves Mercedes. Everybody loves Ani. All is well.

Class with Mercedes

The ladies go in and out of concentrating on the steps and being mesmerized by Mercedes and her magnificence.

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Day 3: How to Up Your Flamenco Game From the Comfort of Your Own Home

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Day 3: How to Up Your Flamenco Game From the Comfort of Your Own Home

Woo-hoo, you’ve made it to day three of the Dancing with David Even Though We’re Not With David Challenge! Today's task won't take long, so read on to find a new exercise to help you become a better dancer from home . . .

Learning by observation is one of my favorite ways to learn, and I've learned quite a bit from observing David Romero, noticing both how he dances and how he approaches dancing and teaching.

Today we're going to focus on the approach.

Presence

David gives 100% (if not more) when teaching.

He, the teacher, is there with you, the student, completely.

Which inspires you to be there with him. And to give all that you have to give during those moments.

Sooooo, when you’re in the studio,

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Day 2: Improve Your Dancing From Home With the Dancing With David Mini-Challenge

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Day 2: Improve Your Dancing From Home With the Dancing With David Mini-Challenge

Today I'm going to share with you a fun exercise (one of my personal favorites) that will help you to become a better dancer from the comfort of your own home. Yesterday we addressed the idea of looking in the mirror and how we need to look at what’s being reflected back to us in order to know what to change.

Today we’re going to go deeper,

Today we’re going micro,

Today we’re going to talk details

But before we do, I want you to take a moment to remember your why.

Got it in your cabeza?

Good.

Now, no matter what your purpose,

Details matter.

Flamenco has a certain aesthetic, and although there is plenty of room for personal style and preference, we must strive to remain true to the aesthetic of this art form.

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Day 1: Become a Better Dancer From Home With the Dancing With David Mini-Challenge

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Day 1: Become a Better Dancer From Home With the Dancing With David Mini-Challenge

It's time to begin the Dancing With David Even Though We're Not With David Mini-Challenge, yahoo! Read on to discover today's strategy for improving your dancing from home . . .

Now I know you may not want to, but please, look in the mirror.

Por favor.

This is essential.

Especially when you're at home with no teacher there to correct you, other than the David (for the purposes of this mini-challenge) inside your head.

You must look in the mirror

Allow the mirror to become your imaginary teacher, and listen to his corrections.

Once you’re finished reading this, I want you to get up, go the the closest mirror, do a move, and notice,

How do you look?

If something doesn’t look right, consider your basic technique,

How are you holding your elbows?

Do you need to move your arms farther away from your body, or closer perhaps?

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3 Essential Elements for Learning to Dance Por Fiesta

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3 Essential Elements for Learning to Dance Por Fiesta

This week I learned about daylilies. And as it turns out the process I went through in learning about this flower led me to a mini-formula that is perfect for learning to dance por fiesta palos like bulerías. (I'll share that with you in a moment.)

But first, my lesson on daylilies

On Monday morning Stefani and I were on a walk when we happened upon bunches and bunches of bright golden daylilies. I’ve been noticing them everywhere this summer, including in my garden. I did not know what these flowers were called, and I’d never bothered to find out. I didn’t even bother to notice that their petals and shape look very much like ‘regular’ lilies. I guess because their colors, golden, yellow, red, orange, peach . . . are so distinct.

“I have those flowers in my garden,” I said to Stefani, “I cut some and put them in a vase, and the next day they were dead.”

“Well yeah, those are daylilies,” she responded. “They only live for a day.”

And this is how I came to learn why the ones in my vase at home had lasted, well, one day.

She proceeded to tell me more about the flower, information I won’t bother sharing with you because learning about flowers is not the point of this story.

(I’m getting to the point.)

Before I became aware of their name and the whole one day of life thing, I had already decided that I was not going to go around cutting more of these flowers and putting them in vases inside my house. Before Stefani told me about their life span, I had discovered on my own through trial and error that these flowers would be better enjoyed in the garden.

For the time being at least . . .

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Part 2: How to Simplify Your Bulerías (And Your Life)

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Part 2: How to Simplify Your Bulerías (And Your Life)

This is a story about how doing less in bulerías can serve us well. It's the follow up to the previous post on observation. Read on, and find out how to simplify your bulerías and perhaps even your life a bit too.November 2013, Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

She said she was going to show them how to dance on a losa.

Pequeña,

Y por fiesta.

Small,

And party style.

It was Ani who said that. Ana María López. She said it on a Monday morning in Jerez.

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Part 1: Four Dance Tips Learned from Monday Morning Observations

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Part 1: Four Dance Tips Learned from Monday Morning Observations

A story on the value of observation from a past Flamenco Tour (followed by four bulerías take-aways):

Sunday night I was writing

About flamenco and Jerez and what I'm doing here and what I want to learn here.

And I set some intentions for the week.

I had a few.

One was to Observe

To observe people dancing bulerías. Especially people whose dancing I liked. In class and out. Anywhere and everywhere.

To watch them, really watch them. And to notice what was happening.

To notice how they responded to the cante.

To notice how they danced with the compás.

To notice when they did what they did.

To notice the things I liked.

To notice the things that worked.

Maybe even to notice the things I didn't like.

And to notice the things that didn't work.

On Monday morning I went to bulerías class

That was the day Ani taught the ladies about dancing on a floor tile. I'll tell you about that in the next post.

It was also the day she read my mind.

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Three Things to Remember When Dancing Bulerías

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Three Things to Remember When Dancing Bulerías

I have some more bulerías advice from Ani for you about feeling good today. But first,

Let's talk briefly about steps

Because you learn a lot of steps in in bulerías class.

You could say they are just steps.

To play with.

To practice.

To try out.

To hold on to. (Or to let go of.)

They can even be thought of as tools for understanding how the conversation works.

But going back to the liking them thing...

One day in Jerez

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Sweaty Hard Work

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Sweaty Hard Work

I wrote this back in the fall of 2013 when I was in Barcelona studying with David Romero. I thought you might enjoy reading it and finding out more about him...

November 22, 2013

I told you I'd be visiting Barcelona to study with David Romero.

I told you I'd been wanting to take classes from him for years.

And here I am in Barcelona

Finalment!  

(Catalán. We are in Barcelona after all.)

Studying with David.

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