Debby, one of the students on the last fall’s Flamenco Tour to Jerez sent me this summary of her experience a few days upon returning home with this note. “Thank you again for a 100% approval trip. Here is how I truly felt.” If you’re curious about what happens on the Flamenco Tour, read on:
Here is a siguiriyas letra in the style of Manuel Torre that we danced to in class with Mercedes Ruíz last weekend
It’s May, and spring is in the air! Let’s celebrate the flowers with this bulerías letra:
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 is an alegrías letra to compliment all of this month’s bulerías de Cádiz. You can watch Mercedes Ruíz dance to it in the video below.
Here’s a peek at what happened during week two of the Flamenco Tour to Jerez …
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:
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.
An interview with flamenco dancer Mercedes Ruíz where she talks about her beginnings, challenges she faced on the road to becoming a professional flamenco dancer, how she comes from a non-flamenco family (and how most of her family members don't even like flamenco), how motherhood has affected her dancing, what it's like working with her husband, what she loves about teaching, who some of her favorite dancers are, how she thinks it's never too late to start dancing flamenco, and the funny ritual that she must perform before going on stage.
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
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
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.
Subí a la alta montaña
buscando leña pa’ el fuego
como no la encontraba
al valle bajé de nuevo
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 ...
After a full week in Jerez flamenco no longer simply surrounds us; it lives inside of us. Sounds from our dances play on repeat in our heads. We unintentionally walk up the steps in compás, the rhythms from class guiding us. We find ourselves dancing bulerías in our sleep. There’s no escaping it,
We are definitely in the midst of a flamenco immersion…
That’s what life was feeling like a week into the Flamenco Tour to Jerez. I’m now back home in Portland, and Jerez feels worlds away. Here’s a summary of the second week of our trip.
Flamenco is everywhere here in Jerez, in our classes, at the peñas and bars, and, then of course there's the spontaneous and casual flamenco that is a part of every day life here in Jerez. We see it as we walk past the bars and even as people greet each other on the street with palmas and a song. Olé. We can't get away from flamenco. We hear it as we walk to our rooms; we dance it in our sleep. (I've been doing steps and hearing sounds in my dreams which I know is a good thing.) Flamenco, flamenco, and more flamenco.
We are one week in to the Fall Flamenco Tour to Jerez, and I can hardly believe it. So much has happened and there is still so much more in store! People often ask me what happens during the Flamenco Tour, so below you can read about the first week of the fall tour, see photos, and even watch a video from one of the peña shows . . .
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:
Here is a siguiriyas letra and a couple of videos for you:
en un laito de mi corazón
te tengo metido
Today's post is not a flamenco letra; it is an acrostic that was written for Mercedes Ruíz when she was about eleven years old. It is written on this photo that hangs on a wall at the Peña Los Cernícalos.
Es, Jerez de la Frontera,
Rica sal de Andalucía,
Conquistando a España entera,
Ella se llama altanera,
Dichosa, como su abuela,
Este nombre de solera
Soy niña de la Plazuela.
Today find a peteneras letra and a video of Mercedes Ruíz interpreting it.
Yo no creo ni en mi madre
Aunque de mí hable la gente
Que todo en este mundo es mentira
Madre de mi corazón
No hay más verdad que la muerte
No hay quién me lo contradiga