If you ever get frustrated with flamenco, feel like you don’t belong, or feel like you’re too old to be doing this, read on for some words of wisdom from Mercedes Ruíz taken from past interviews along with a video to inspire.
(And if you’re curious to know more about this incredible woman we spend so much time dancing and learning with on the Flamenco Tour to Jerez, check out the links to all of the interviews I’ve done with her in full at the end of this post.)
When You Feel Like You Don’t Belong:
In our first interview Mercedes mentioned that she encountered a lot of problems on her way to becoming a flamenco dancer. This got me wondering, about what those obstacles were, and more importantly, how she handled them.
I thought about the flamenco world and it can be easy to feel left out or like you don't belong. (For me at least, because I let myself.) I wondered if any of that went on for Mercedes. Especially coming from Jerez, where people have some strong opinions about flamenco, how it is to be done, and who ought to do it. Prior to Mercedes, no one in her family had anything to do with flamenco. They still don't. Nor do they even like it really. So, I wondered how it must have felt for her, an outsider, to enter into this community. I learned that Mercedes, well,
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.
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.
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.)
It's Day 2 of the 10-Day Dance Like You're In Class With Mercedes Ruíz Home Challenge! How did the breathing activity go for you yesterday? Angela had an interesting realization about her breath; check out her comment here.
Below you’ll find my reflections along with a new home activity...
I applied yesterday’s challenge activity to a remate and marcaje por bulerías since I’ve been wanting to improve my bulerías.
I noticed that thinking about the breath before I started set me up to breathe more fluidly while I was dancing. While it was easier to focus on breathing during the marcaje than it was during the remate (probably because of the complicated rhythms, footwork, and body slapping) I could execute the remate with more ease when I was aware of my breathing. What about you? What did you notice?
Now for 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.
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.)
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,
People are often asking me about my how I got started with flamenco, about my first experiences. And awhile back I told you I’d tell you some stories from that first year in Spain. So I’m going to tell you a story from that time today. At the end of the story you’ll find a tip on dancing with the bata de cola, it's an essential, and you can work on it anywhere, in the bathroom, in the bedroom ...
But first, Spain
Telling you about my first year in Spain means I have to talk about Matilde Coral.
Porque es una figura.
I didn’t know it then, but my exposure to Matilde and her way of dancing would end up being kind of huge for me. Yesterday I had a big realization about the significance of her academy having been the first flamenco school I was sent to in Sevilla.
You've likely read all of the written interviews here with Mercedes Ruíz. You've probably seen the interview with her husband, Santiago Lara.
And now, here's that video interview with Mercedes Ruíz that I've been promising you
We filmed it in Jerez last spring just after the FlamencoTour.
In the video below Mercedes talks about the road to becoming a soloist, how she navigates motherhood and flamenco dance, her thoughts on teaching those of us who are not pros, and some other stuff.
Oh, and by the way, you'll probably love her even more after seeing this video, so get ready...
In the previous interview with Mercedes Ruíz we heard about her favorite dancers of today and about how she interprets the cante. In today's interview Mercedes answers more of your questions, shares her thoughts for students of all levels, lets us in on her idea of long term plans and even shares with us what she dreams about.
Last night Mercedes danced in a way that was basically unbelievable. To be expected, as it’s her usual way. We already know that she eats, sleeps, and drinks flamenco.
But last night was even more unbelievable than normal.
So today we begin with a new round of interviews with Mercedes Ruíz. In today's interview, Mercedes talks about the longest amount of time she's gone without dancing, how she interprets a letra, and shares who some of her favorite flamenco of today dancers are.
I've been in Jerez for about a month now. Kind of immersed in bulerías. They're everywhere. And I love them more and more each day. Really.
So here begins a little series. A nod to Jerez as I get ready to go. I'm leaving for Madrid in a few hours...
Un saludo a Jerez como ya me voy.
Because bulerías doesn’t exist anywhere as it does here. And if it did, it wouldn’t be what it is.
It’s just its own thing here.
And that's that.
I'm not saying you have to be in Jerez to do bulerías or anything like that. No, no. I’ll keep dancing them in Portland, of course, because there's no way I can stop. And we have a lot of fun doing bulerías in Portland, even though it's not the same.
An interview with flamenco dancer Emilio Ochando and a video:
I can't wait to ask Emilio a million things once he gets here. I asked him some questions last year. But I have so many more! Like how did he get to be so good? And who are his favorite dancers? And what are his favorite practice techniques and strategies?
I know he has a lot to tell us.
So I warmed him up with a few quick questions the other day. And here is what he had to say.
Qué debe saber la gente que quiere aprender a bailar flamenco? Deben saber que no deja de ser un arte y que ello te lleva a emociones. Tambien le tienes que sumar la constancia y ganas.
What should people who want to learn flamenco know? They should know that it will never stop being an art and that it will bring up your emotions. Also you need to be consistent and approach it with enthusiasm.
The following post is about fear, about overwhelm, perhaps about stage fright. About Ricardo López's dancing and reaching my lack of motivation.
We've had all week to work on the show.
But I've felt FROZEN.
Congelada. I've found any excuse not to practice, not to get the help I wanted from Ricardo… At first I didn't know why. I just decided I was lazy.
I only went through things in my head. I know, I know, that's an important way of practicing.
Ricardo is sharp. He is fast. He is precise. He is intense. He sweats. He puts it all out there. I don't understand how he does this. I don't do this.
And I feel lazy.
I have this thing in me that shows up a lot, Doubt, which I guess comes from Fear. It keeps me from doing all kinds of things, or has me do things kind-of-sort-of rather than completely. It bothers and annoys me, though I suppose it might have important things to tell me, perhaps it is there for a reason. I don’t usually know why or what it has to tell me, but I’d like to start paying more attention and perhaps find out.
Ok, so getting back to bulerías... I already told you about how I happened to get hooked on bulerías. And there are many stories to go along with that. Both Happy Tales (like seeing El Torta perform in Jerez last April...in a place I wasn't supposed to be, but where I went anyway) and Horror Stories (ok, perhaps not horror stories - all of the Halloweenness appears to be affecting my language - we'll call them Crying in Bulerías Class Stories.) But those can wait for later.
Right now let's just focus on some important things to know about Bulerías de Jerez, some of the cositas I referred to the other day...
My main obstacle to bulerías has always been fear, not trusting my instincts. It's no different from my main obstacle in life. It is what makes me so indecisive. No wonder bulerías has always been so hard for me...I don't trust. Wah! This realization was profound. In a moment I'll share with you some things I've come to know about bulerías…things that have made it easier, less scary to dance. (There is also a Workshop coming up where we'll cover this in-depth...) The truth is, now I kind of can't get enough of bulerías. It is not that the fear has been eradicated completely, but the excitement and fun usually push it off to the side now. Gracias excitement and fun.
So, I used to haaaaate bulerías (while secretly loving it.)
Enjoy this interview in English and Spanish from earlier this year when Emilio Ochando was here in Portland.
February 1, 2011
Emilio when and why did you begin dancing? Well, as a little boy I was always dancing at home, dressing up and dancing in whatever way I felt. I started studying because of my sister. She was studying dance although she had to quit early due to knee problems. In Valencia I would go with my mom to pick her up from classes and watch through a little window. One day I told my mom I wanted to do it too. She asked me if I was truly serious about it, was I really willing to dedicate to it as I had seen how hard my sister had to work. I said yes and at 9 years old I began taking classes. I studied flamenco, ballet, classical Spanish dance, and modern. From the time started I was very serious about it; I knew I wanted to do do it professionally. I would go to school every day until 4:30/5pm then go to dance classes until 9:30/10pm, then go home, eat and do my homework. At the age of 16 I moved to Madrid.