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.
Did you set a flamenco (or any type of) resolution last January?
How’s that going?
If the goals you set feel like distant memories, read on. Today I will tell you how you can get back on track and explain why you don’t want to beat yourself up for having let things slide.
What should you do if if you have just 15-20 minutes a day to practice?
That’s what a student asked me to find out when I interviewed Jesús Carmona last month.
Here are the five recommendations he shared along with videos to help you get started on your own at home. (Some of what he advises might surprise you.)
1. Abdominal Exercises
The first thing Jesús mentioned was the need to strengthen our abs. Don't know where to start? Try this:
Do you have a hard time finding the motivation to practice?
I hear you.
. . . And I want to help!
Here are twenty ways to bring new life to your flamenco practice
The following ideas will not only spice up your practice but will also make you a better dancer. Apply them to a full choreography, part of a dance, a combination, or even a single step.
1. Do it while singing (or humming) the melody.
OBJECTIVE: Connect the music to the dance. Move your focus away from the steps. Improve your memory. Improve your focus.
2. Do one part over and over.
OBJECTIVE: Solidify and perfect a given part.
3. Do it facing different directions in the room.
OBJECTIVE: Stop relying on the mirror. Focus. Test your knowledge of the dance. Learn to adapt to different situations. Prepare for performance.
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 ...
You've heard many examples of different artists singing cuplés in the previous four posts. Now it's time to see how one dances to a cuplé, and I've got one of the best possible examples for you, Carmen Herrera. Following the video I'll talk about how to dance bulerías to a cuplé then share one of the songs you'll hear and its translation.
Let's begin by watching Carmen as she dances to the singing of father and sons Alfonso Carpio "Mijita," Alfonso Carpio "Mijita Hijo," and José Carpio "Mijita." They are at a juerga at Peña de la Bulería in Jerez. The video is queued to begin where Carmen starts dancing at 4 minutes 30 seconds (though I'm pretty sure you'll want to go back and watch the whole thing at some point.) Today's song begins about five minutes in. The guys share in the singing, and it's kind of impossible not to get excited watching the interplay between them.
While you watch, notice how Carmen's dancing changes as the song progresses. Notice how she reacts to her three singers and where she puts her remates. Notice when she brings the energy up ...
Today a letra, a video of Rocío Molina dancing guajiras, and four things I do to prepare for a show.
Desde el tacón de la bota
hasta la raíz del pelo
tu figura es pa pintarla
con pinceles de terciopelo
porque viendo tu figura
ay hasta yo pintor me siento
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.
Last weekend we studied flamenco dance with Emilio Ochando. In class we were reminded that learning steps is one thing while learning how to execute them and use our bodies well is another thing. Below find eight lessons I took away from the workshops with Emilio:
Create accents with the body, the hands, the feet. This gives your dance dynamics and personality.
Raise your hand if you want your flamenco new year's resolution to be about more than just January. Raise your hand if you want to make it stick. My hand is raised, and I'm guessing yours is too. So today I'll give you one more tool to help you follow through with your resolution. (If you've not made one yet, no problem. The energy of the new year is still upon us.)
As I've been taking action on my flamenco resolution in this new year, I've noticed something (in addition to my plan) that is really helping me to stick with it and that's an awareness of why I want it. I'll tell you more about my resolution later, but first, let's go deeper into this why stuff.
When setting your resolution, or when reflecting upon it, it's important to consider your why.
Happy New Year!
Did you know that people are more likely to follow through with a commitment to change set at the onset of the new year than at other times of the year?
In light of that, let’s talk flamenco new year’s resolutions. Below I’ll guide you through a three step process to putting a flamenco new year’s resolution into place for 2017.
But first, let’s reflect briefly on 2016.
- How has your flamenco improved during the last year? Write down or make a mental note of all of the ways you progressed over past year.
- How did you make that happen? Review your list, and consider what accounted for each improvement. What actions did you take to get better? (Remember those; you might use them in step two below.)
Now it’s time to look toward the new year and start thinking about flamenco new year’s resolutions.
After today's letra you'll find that video I promised you of Mercedes Ruíz dancing at this year's Fiesta de la Bulería (and really getting into it) followed by an explanation of what's happening at the end between the dancer (Mercedes) and the singer (David Carpio) along with an important concept to understand that can help you when dancing bulerías por fiesta by yourself. (I've also included a short activity for you to do at the end.)
No sé por qué será
me duelen más que las mías
las penas de los demás
I’m very excited for today’s activity not just because of how it will serve you as a flamenco dancer but for how it can benefit your life and health far beyond the studio.
But before we get to that, let's reflect.
I don’t know about you, but during the past several days I’ve had greater awareness of all of the skills we’ve covered thus far in the Dance Like You’re In Class With Mercedes Home Challenge in all of my dancing (both within and outside of the activities). In class I hear Mercedes in my head giving me little reminders . . .
'Brazos redondos,' I heard her saying during my kids’ class yesterday. 'Mantener el mismo plié,' she called during Sevillanas class last weekend. In practice it’s the same, 'Todos los deditos, Laura,' I heard her saying today.
I can’t seem to get away from the challenge, nor do I want to because receiving these little reminders without my trying is one of my desired outcomes of this experience. Woo-hoo!
So, let’s get on with today’s challenge.
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.
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.
Today I'm going to talk about how the same letra can (and definitely will be) interpreted in different ways by different singers. I'll also talk about why, as dancers, we need to pay attention to this. And finally, I'll share a tangos letra with you. (Oh, and at the end of the post I give you an activity to do from the comfort of your own home.)
How the same letra can vary
Depending upon who is singing, how they like to sing a given letra, and even how they are feeling at a given moment, one letra can be interpreted in many different ways.
Let's look at some examples:
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.)
Improvisation in flamenco. It's not as tricky as you may think.
Today I explain how to improvise in fiesta style flamenco dances.
The truth is, if you follow certain principles, you can improvise no matter what your level. So if you think you're not ready to do this, think again, and read on to find out how.
Improvisation Por Fiesta
In order to 'improvise' when dancing bulerías and tangos, you must understand the structure. And in order to truly have a conversation with the singer and the other musicians, you need to do a bit of improvising. Since flamenco is a conversation between the singer, dancer, guitarist, and palmeros, improvisation is an important skill to develop.
(Plus it's fun.)
But don’t worry,
Improvising por fiesta is not making up a dance from scratch as you go.
It is not coming up with brand new moves in the moment.
It’s actually much easier than that (as long as you know the structure).