Ever find yourself getting stuck in your head during class?
I know how you feel.
Today I will share with you four things you can do when you find yourself in this situation and I’ll show you a video you’ll LOVE of Beatríz Morales.
But first, a story.
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 ...
We’re almost done with the challenge, can you believe it? This series was born out of a longing to be back in class with Mercedes Ruíz. Because I love it there. I love how we learn in her class, the focus on technique, the repetition, watching Mercedes move.
(I’m not the only one who loves being in her class. Check out this post from Julie where she writes about her time with Mercedes and our private show on the Flamenco Tour to Jerez.)
Most of all, I love the feeling I get from dancing in her class.
And that's what today's challenge is about,
Dancing and feeling good.
Below I talk about when in the learning process we should start to dance, and I give you an activity focused on dancing. (I know, hasn’t this whole challenge been about dancing?) Yes, but read on to find out more.
Today I’ll guide you through activity for finding roundness in the arms.
we hear Mercedes Ruíz say in class.
Ricardo says it all of the time too, redondo. 'You’ll like her, she’s muy redondo,' he’s said to me so many times referring to various dancers. Round, he means, by the shapes created when someone is dancing. It doesn't matter what shape your body is, you can create roundness.
For today’s challenge we’ll focus on finding roundness in the arms.
Lately I've had bulerías on my mind . . . I've been watching bulerías, listening to bulerías, dancing bulerías (in class, at home, in my head).
Naturally, the moves I'm currently working with during the 10-Day Dance Like You're In Class With Mercedes Ruíz Home Challenge are por bulerías.
So, today I offer you some bulerías inspiration via a video of Manuel Liñan dancing and a letra that David Carpio sings to him. There's also a quick activity for you at the end of the post. (I know, I'm big on activities this week.)
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 Day 3 of the 10-Day Dance Like You're In Class With Mercedes Ruíz Home Challenge. I hope you enjoyed yesterday's exercise for keeping the shoulders down.
Let's get on with today's focus.
Mantener el mismo plié,
Mercedes says this a lot in class.
Maintain the same plié.
Or, as I like to say, don’t bounce.
In flamenco dance we must remain grounded. The upper body projects upward while the lower body connects with the floor.
Welcome to the 10-Day Dance Like You’re in Class with Mercedes Ruíz Home Challenge. I’m looking forward to the next ten days of virtual dance class with you!
Before we get into today's activity (an exercise to help you breathe better and in turn dance better), did you get a chance to think about your why? Why do you dance flamenco? How does it make you feel? Do you have performance goals or do you just like dancing in class and on your own? Do you dance professionally or for a hobby? You can share your why here.
(If you want to review how this 10-day challenge is set up, you can do that here.)
Okay, on to today's challenge.
As you most likely already know, I LOVE being in class with Mercedes Ruíz. (In fact, the way I felt in her class was a major inspiration for the Flamenco Tour to Jerez.) When I’m in home in Portland, I always miss her class, especially the technique work. Although I don’t get to dance with her again until October, I can pretend I'm doing so right now,
And that’s what this challenge is all about,
Pretending we’re in class with Mercedes and continuing to grow as if we were while having fun practicing at home.
(Want to see Mercedes do her thing? Check out the video at the end of this post...)
How will the challenge work?
Each day (for ten days) you will apply a specific idea (provided by me and inspired by the teachings of Mercedes Ruíz) to a flamenco dance move or combination of your choosing.
Below find a letra that David Lagos sang during our private show on the Flamenco Tour to Jerez.
That night David sang granaína, rondeñas, caña, fandangos por bulerías, alegrías, bulerías... I was in HEAVEN. We all were. The piece including the letra below happened like this: Santi set it up with a beautiful intro, David sang a letra por granaínas, then they immediately transitioned into rondeñas. I wish you could have been there. (You can find out more about that show and how it was the highlight of Julie's summer following the letra.)
Por momentos mis martirios
se estaban doblando
de noche y de día,
It’s the final day of the Mini-Challenge and time to step things up a bit. That's right, today things get harder. But sometimes harder can be more fun.
And I think you'll find that to be true with this final activity which is all about creation . . .
The creation of a step
Today’s exercise comes directly from our imaginary teacher of the week, David Romero.
David says coming up wtih a step is easy, You just have to do the work.
In other words, it’s not hard as long as we're willing to put forth effort.
(You can hear him talk about this six minutes thirty seconds into his video interview.)
Below, find out how to make up your very own flamenco step by following David's exact advice. (Well, along with a few additional suggestions from me.)
Today I'm going to show you how to learn from a favorite artist of your choosing. Read on to find out how.
David Romero says that we learn from all of the people we study (or work) with. That we hold onto the best bits from each person, that which we like,
Llega un momento en que naturalmente salen cosas en que tú dices, uy, esto por qué? Porque tú ya lo has vivido o la has visto o te lo han explicado.
“A time comes when things start happening naturally. You start doing things, and you say, “How did this happen?”
The process happens over time, David says. After a lot of dancing, a lot of studying, a lot of practicing, your body begins to change.
"And this is good.” he says. “It should change. Because if someone doesn’t change when dancing . . . What are we going to do? There has to be an evolution. And that comes from learning from all of the people who you study with, or all of the people who you work with, and all of the people who you admire.
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.
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,
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.