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Three Easy Ways to Grow as Dancer (Even When You Have No Time)

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Three Easy Ways to Grow as Dancer (Even When You Have No Time)

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.

Three (relatively) easy ways to keep the challenge going:

(... even if you didn't participate in it)

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Rumba | Viernes con una Letra

I am hearing Ada singing right now. And Ellie doing palmas. I am seeing Margot dancing. This is all happening in my mind.

And I am smiling.

They are my nieces.

Between Christmas and New Year's Eve the four of us found moments of time here and there to prepare for our show.

I guess it has become an annual thing, 

More on that along with a rumbas letra and a video of Estrella Morente.

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Day 7: Dance As If You Were in Class with Mercedes Holiday Challenge

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Day 7: Dance As If You Were in Class with Mercedes Holiday Challenge

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.

Por ejemplo:

"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 ...

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Day 6: Dance As If You Were in Class with Mercedes Holiday Challenge

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Day 6: Dance As If You Were in Class with Mercedes Holiday Challenge

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.

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Day 4: Dance As If You Were in Class with Mercedes Holiday Challenge

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Day 4: Dance As If You Were in Class with Mercedes Holiday Challenge

I did something in anticipation of the challenge upon arriving in San Diego,

I told my family about it

You could say it was for accountability, and that may have been part of it, but mainly I was feeling excited. So excited that I had to share.

Often I'll not share these kinds of things with my family or my non-flamenco friends because really, why would they care? 

That's what I'll often think.

But I've noticed something,

They do care.

Because they care about me.

I've noticed that when I'm excited about something they tend to get excited as well. And I've noticed that their excitement about my excitement makes my excitement grow.

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Day 3: Dance As If You Were in Class with Mercedes Holiday Challenge

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Day 3: Dance As If You Were in Class with Mercedes Holiday Challenge

I want to talk about how to get more out of your "time" with Mercedes during this challenge. Because I know it can be hard to squeeze in flamenco activities right now as many of us are busy with family, holiday stuff, and what not.

But before I get to that, a brief snippet from today ~

I decided to take the challenge on the road today while hiking with the family.

So Margot and I listened to Mercedes as we walked.

As it turns out many of her reminders were just as helpful to hiking as to flamenco,

'Respira, despacio, pompi dentro...'

Take 'pompi dentro' for instance:

Making a point not to let your bottom stick out forces you to engage your core which is most helpful in maintaining stability on the rocky and sometimes slippery trail.

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Day 2: Dance As If You Were in Class with Mercedes Holiday Challenge

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Day 2: Dance As If You Were in Class with Mercedes Holiday Challenge

My niece is participating in the challenge with me. In part.

She loves flamenco and started taking regular classes this spring after taking a class with Ricardo in Santa Barbara.

“Do you want to do some of Mercedes’s exercises with me?” I asked her on Christmas Day.

She did.

She knew what to expect as she had sat through her class in Jerez a coupe of times. (My nieces spent some time with me and the group in Spain last spring, and Margot happily, patiently, and voluntarily sat through hours of class with Mercedes.)

“Are we going to do the one with the hands?” she asked me as she stretched her arms out imitating the exercise, this exercise.

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Day 1 of the Dance As If You Were in Class with Mercedes Holiday Challenge

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Day 1 of the Dance As If You Were in Class with Mercedes Holiday Challenge

Day one has arrived, and the Holiday Challenge begins!

What it consists of

Each day for the next seven days I plan to:

  1. Do a few of my favorite Mercedes body technique exercises.
  2. Run one of her choreographies.
  3. Imagine Mercedes talking, giving me feedback.

If you’ve never studied with Mercedes, sin problema. No problem. You can still participate in the challenge. Just substitute another teacher for Mercedes, and do same three tasks using material from that teacher.

Make it work for you.

Now let’s get more specific about the daily activities

There are basically two “tasks.”

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Dance As If You Were in Class with Mercedes - The Warm-up

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Dance As If You Were in Class with Mercedes - The Warm-up

Yesterday I invited you to partake in the Dance as if You Were in Class with Mercedes Challenge with me. I figured it would be a fun way to keep some flamenco in our lives during the holidays while classes are on break. So, we'll be simulating being in class with Mercedes from the comfort of our own homes for seven days beginning December 25.

Below is a short activity to help you to get you ready.

By the way, I meant to send this out earlier today, but I was traveling to visit my family, and all of a sudden it's late! So, this can definitely be done on Day 1 of the challenge instead.

Optional warm-up activity

Materials needed: sticky notes or other paper, writing utensil, possibly this post.

Time it will take: 5-10 minutes.

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Jasmine | Viernes con una Letra

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Jasmine | Viernes con una Letra

I am in Córdoba.  I like it here.

This evening we were taking a stroll, my nieces, my sister, and I.

Dando un paseo

That's something I like about Spain.  Families and friends taking walks around the town together.  It is normal.  It happens every day.  So many people out and about.  Together.

We walked by jasmine

Lots of jasmine hanging down the wall.

El olor.

The smell.

Ada, Margot, and I couldn't get enough of it.

And so, one of my favorite tangos, from Camarón along with a video ...

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A Magic Bridge | Viernes con una Letra

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A Magic Bridge | Viernes con una Letra

Today's letra has me dreaming. I wish it had occurred to me a couple of weeks ago while in San Diego when Margot asked to learn a new song.  Because this one feels just right for my sobrinas.

I want what it speaks of.

Un puente.  Yes, a bridge.  And I would make it a magic bridge.  A bridge that could take us over a thousand miles in mere minutes.  Oh the visits we would have!

Anyway, we can sing it together next time.

For today, I share it with you.

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I Have to See You Cry | Viernes con una Letra

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I Have to See You Cry | Viernes con una Letra

Today a tangos letra and a video of Jesús Méndez and Miguel Poveda.

You may recall last year when three little girls did fandangos.

A couple of weeks ago when I went to visit those girls Margot and Ada almost immediately started asking when we would get to do flamenco.  My spring visit there was so short that we didn't do any.  None at all.  Apparently they weren't going to let that happen again.  

Margot said she wanted to learn a new song and dance this time.  And she said she wanted it to be short since we were without a lot of time.

We did tangos.

And while I'm not really into vengeance, this letra was on my mind.  And it met Margot's requirement of being short.

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Viernes con una Letra | Sol

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Viernes con una Letra | Sol

Ok, in honor of the beautiful sun we've been seeing here in Portland this week, here's the little fandangos coletilla. I taught it to my nieces in December. They were the cutest singing it, and Margot danced to it with a fan.

Quítate de sol que te quema
quítate del sol que te pone
la carita morena
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Get out of the sun that burns you
Get out of the sun
that turns your little face brown
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Ricardo, by the way, loves fandangos. Here is a falseta he set for me a couple of years ago...  He'll be here in less than two weeks! Como siempre, comments are invited and welcomed.  You may leave one below.

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There Were Things Learned in 2011

Ok, so, I put this question up on the white board in the studio in mid-December... What can you do now that you couldn't do at the beginning of the year?  [little or BIG]

And someone said this,

"I can't even remember the beginning of the year."

So I reworded the question:

"What can you do now that you were unable to a month ago, or a week ago, or a day ago, or even a minute ago!?"

What can you do now that you couldn't do before? [little or BIG]

Anyway, there it was on the easel with sticky notes...for people to respond...and some people actually did.  Oleeeeee!  So let's celebrate, the big and the small.

Here is what they said:

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And Another Resolution

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And Another Resolution

Ok, so I mentioned that I had another resolution, apart from the first one.  This one is harder to put into words, so I'm allowing for it to be something other than a concise written statement.  After all, soy artista, used to expressing myself in a variety of ways. This resolution has to do with my business, with respecting and honoring it.  It has to do with allowing for it to evolve as it needs to evolve.  It has to do with me providing the space and time to let this happen.  It has to do with allowing myself to have doubts and fears but viewing those with curiosity rather than interpreting them as signals to give up. 

¡Dejarlo todo, No!

You see, quite regularly, I think about quitting this all and just going back to working for someone else.  It is confusing.  And it kind of terrifies me.  Maybe I am not supposed to say that here, but it is the truth, and I am saying it.  It is not that I don't want to be here or that I don't love what I'm doing.  Noooo, not at all.  In fact, I have been doing some research and have discovered it is quite the opposite:

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Viernes con una Letra | Fandangos

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Viernes con una Letra | Fandangos

A letra por fandangos.

This week I'm visiting my sister and brother-in-law and my three nieces for the holidays. When I arrived on Christmas Day Ada and Margot put on their flamenco dresses that I'd gotten for them in Spain last year. Each niece got a fan as well, that is tres abanicos for tres sobrinas. Since Ellie isn't really into the whole flamenco thing, she has been loaning us her fan this week and assisting in letra translation instead of dancing. 

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We Notice and We Practice

And we notice while practicing.  I know that in order to improve, practice is necessary, but paying attention and noticing are equally importante.  The importance of focus, something I'm not always so good at doing... So everybody is talking about New Year's resolutions right now.  I don't really remember having made any for the past several years.  Perhaps this is because I haven't followed through and have forgotten them.  Perhaps it is because I have in the past made big huge resolutions without keeping them.  Perhaps it is because I'm so busy making little resolutions all year-round.   No importa.  This year I actually decided upon a New Year's resolution back in September or October or something.  I didn't really mean to.  It just came to me.  Something I wanted to do...but didn't feel quite ready for.

Since then I have declared my resolution to certain people and have been preparing for it.  And now I feel ready to commit.

Because I've given myself some time to practice.

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