Today in honor of International Dance Day, I have a couple of videos to share with you that will surely make you want to move. You'll love how into it Paloma Fantova gets in the first video. After that watch Parrita sing today's letra.
¡Feliz Día Internacional de la Danza!
El Agua Más Cristalina (Chorus)
El agua más cristalina
El vaso más reluciente
El mejor mantel que tenga voy a ponerle
No viene a cenar cualquiera
Viene el señor de señores
Y el rey de reyes
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 share why we need to practice slowly and give you an activity to help you do that, but first, some reflections:
I’ve been working with the same combination throughout the challenge, and I’ve found that with each new daily focus I also revisit all of the prior days’ areas of focus. In other words, I go through each new activity and (without a conscious plan to do so) layer the skills addressed in the previous challenge activities. It actually seems to have become impossible for me not to be aware of them when in challenge mode, and I’m loving that. How about you?
Now let’s move on to today’s challenge.
As you know, Mercedes Ruíz is big on doing things slowly.
As are so many other professionals.
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.
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.
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.
When is it too late to start learning flamenco? Find out below and watch a video of Mercedes Ruíz dancing as a little girl along with a bulerías clip from Carlos Saura's Flamenco Flamenco.
According to Mercedes Ruíz, "It's never too late do what you want to do." Sure, she began dancing flamenco at the age of four, but that doesn't mean the rest of us are doomed.
I began dancing flamenco at the age of twenty three, or was it twenty two? Pat began when she was sixty nine. Becky began when she was forty four. Many of the dancers I know began in their thirties, forties, fifties, and even sixties. Many danced at a young age then stopped for various reasons only to come back to it years later.
We can begin dancing flamenco at any age
And there is no 'retirement age' for flamenco dancing. We can leave it and come back. And we can continue dancing flamenco as long as we want to. This is something that I absolutely love about flamenco.
It is a dance for all ages.
Older flamenco dancers are in fact respected and honored. This is part of the flamenco culture. (See video clips below.)
A younger dancer may have different goals than an older dancer. And one's desires as a dancer may change over time, just as desires around all things in life will evolve.
But the bottom line is this,
Dancing to the cante. It is what every dancer from Jerez does, professional or non.
It is the dancer conversing with the singer.
In order to dance to the cante,
You must become familiar with the letras (song verses) and engage with the singer when dancing.
To gain familiarity with the letras:
1. Listen a lot.
2. Take a cante class, and study the letras.
To engage with the singer when dancing:
1. Observe what other good dancers do. (Hint: Notice the way Carmen responds to José in the video.)
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,
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?
Now, no matter what your purpose,
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.
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.
I want to tell you about green bananas. Because knowing about green bananas will help you when it's time to dance bulerías. (In Jerez or anywhere really).
And so, a short story from Jerez
Tú vas a comer un plátano verde?
This is what Ani asked Ana.
Ani is Ana María López, the bulerías teacher.
Ana is a student from Russia.
Un plátano verde is a green banana.
You don’t eat a green banana
The gathering together. It lit me up at the first flamenco workshop I attended with a guest artist here in town when flamenco was still so new to me. It lit me up with the first workshop I set up with Ricardo in 2007 and with each one since. It lights me up with every Flamenco Tour to Spain.
The FlamencoTour was born of my own struggles studying flamenco in Spain by myself and at the big festivals. The drive to do it was born of my longing to be there studying in an environment that felt safe and fun to me, amongst a small group of others interested in the same thing. Many of my past learning experiences in Spain did not feel (emotionally) safe, and very often the learning did not feel fun at all.
This was a problem.
We wrap up Ida y Vuelta month with one more guajiras. Oscar was here last week, so I asked him to share a favorite guajiras for today.
That letra is below followed by a video of Concha Jareño dancing por guajiras. LOVE this dance.
Contigo me caso Indiana
si se entera tu papá y se lo dice a tu mamá
tengo una casa en la Habana destinada para tí ay!
con el techo de marfil
y el piso de plataforma para tí blanca paloma
llevo yo la flor de lis
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.