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.
This week's letra made me think of an experience I had years ago which has nothing to do with flamenco. It has to do with dishonesty and fear. It started with a question, which led to a lie, which in turn led to facing a fear. The facing fear part actually helped prepare me for flamenco where I'm forced to confront my fears over and over again. To my surprise, all of the practice meeting my fears in flamenco has only made it easier to do so in life outside of the dance.
More on that in a minute, but first let's take a look at the letra and watch a video of Mercedes Ruíz, our teacher on the Flamenco Tour to Jerez, dancing caña, all in red, with bata and mantón.
Subí a la alta montaña
buscando leña pa’ el fuego
como no la encontraba
al valle bajé de nuevo
Thinking about that first trip to Spain in 1998 has reminded me that I need to step it up in the doing things that scare the *#%~&> out of me category. Read on for a lesson around that idea and more of my story from that first trip. Also, find out why it's essential to listen to flamenco music, read a letra about Sevilla, then see a video of Juana la del Revuelo, Aurora Vargas, and Remedios Amaya ...
During my time in Sevilla I saw these women perform. During my time in Sevilla I saw these women perform live. As you'll see from the video below, it was wonderful. Their CDs were among some of the first I purchased once I accepted the fact that I needed to start listening to flamenco music. You see, in the beginning I wasn't very interested in listening to the music, especially cante, unless I was dancing, but Chris convinced me to start listening. He said I needed to do this to understand and internalize the compás.
In 1998 I traveled to Spain to study flamenco. My plan was simple (and not very well thought out): Travel around, settle somewhere in Andalucía, find flamenco classes, find work. I had no contacts in Spain, no leads on where to study or work. I didn’t even know what city I was going to live in.
I just knew that if I wanted to learn flamenco I needed to go to Spain.
Today I'll tell you about finding flamenco in Sevilla, what it taught me about perseverance, and how it can help you.
I didn't plan much before I left for Spain. In part because I wanted to get a feel for the different cities before choosing where to settle. In part because thinking it through felt too overwhelming, and the more I thought about the details, the more I thought about changing my mind and staying put. I spoke Spanish, I had a strong desire to learn, I had saved enough money to hold me over for awhile, I felt ready for an adventure, and I knew I could figure things out once I arrived.
It's September, so let's do a little first day of school, getting-to-know-eachother activity. I'm actually not kidding about that. People have been inquiring about my 'flamenco journey' so below I tell you how it began for me. (Later, why not tell me how you became interested in flamenco?)
My Introduction to Flamenco
I was a junior in college. I was struggling through Spanish class.
The professor spoke only in español which basically left me feeling like a Charlie Brown character being mwoah mwoah mwoahed at for hours upon end.
Every day we would watch this educational novela, answer questions related to the day's episode, and then "discuss" it. I rarely knew what was going on.
As you may have gathered, I did not particularly enjoy the class. While I constantly felt confused, behind, and overwhelmed, I am full of gratitude for the experience,
You see, had it not been for this class, I'm not sure I would be dancing flamenco today.
Here's what happened
I want to tell you about some things that help me to feel better when I'm in a funky place. I also want to show you a very cool video and share a flamenco verse with you. But first, some words I wrote last week
(my first week back home post Flamenco Tour)
Coming home I feel overwhelmed.
This is not new.
It is how I usually feel after a trip to Spain. Excited to be back but overwhelmed and sort of confused at the same time.
Writing saved me in Jerez, ... And then it got in the way.
Today I want to talk about how writing can become, well, detrimental in class.
I'll begin with another excerpt from my notebook:
April 19, 2011
Mercedes scolded me once again in class this morning, calling me back out onto the dance floor. Clearly I was to be dancing, not writing.
Yes, once again, Laura and her book has come up. It comes up a lot. No one else writes anything down in Jerez.
They don't get me, I know, but I totally don't get them either!
I can't imagine learning flamenco without pens and paper. I really can't.
On paper I take notes. On paper I figure things out. On paper I put the thoughts that circle inside my head. And there's just something I like so much about the feel of the pen moving atop the paper.
I often write in little books
They helped me a lot in the beginning, in Sevilla.
They help me today.
And they helped me a lot in Jerez.
I originally posted this here just before the very first Flamenco Tour in 2012. I wanted to share it with you today on the eve of Thanksgiving. Rereading it I feel grateful. Grateful for trust.
Grateful for the trust that allows me to do certain things that I fear. Things that I really want to do. Things that make my life richer. Without trust, I would miss out on so much.
So, thank you, trust.
Some good things
have happened since my trip began. And I've already learned something very important.
On Monday I went to the Portland airport.
Ricardo is here, and I’m already disappointing him. He arrived on Tuesday, and it didn’t take long.
I’ll tell you about the desilusión and share three dance tips (Ricardo López) from his class last night. Three tips that are important to keep in mind at all times.
First, the disappointment
There’s really a lot of me feeling disappointed with myself going on.
Why didn’t I study before he came?
Why didn’t I make it a point to remember things he’d taught me in the past?
Why don’t I just pick things up quickly and do them well right away?
Why haven’t I been working on my technique more?
It started on Tuesday when he arrived.
My biggest issue with bulerías when I got to Jerez was transitions. Well, ok, that’s not really true, my biggest issue after fear. But the transitions.
It was like all of a sudden I couldn’t see them.
And I didn’t know what to do.
I've since learned how to approach difficult transitions more gracefully. (I'll tell you how in just a moment.) I'll also explain to you in detail the transition that almost gave me a nervous breakdown along with some things you might like to know about "counting" bulerías de Jerez.
But first, allow me to give you some background ...
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.
Evelyn likes being in the back of the room. In the back where she thinks she can hide.
In the back where it feels safe.
Evelyn is a student and a reader here. I wish you could meet her.
She sent us an email, Evelyn did. She wrote it in response to this.
I wanted to share it with you immediately upon reading it.
She talked about wanting to hide in the back of the class. Even wanting to leave. About feeling stupid. And about feeling afraid.
I knew these thoughts she spoke of
As a fellow fearful stay-in-the-back-of-the-classer, I knew these thoughts.
I figured you might know them too, so I asked her if I could share her words with you. And she said yes.
My main obstacle to bulerías has always been fear.
Not trusting my instincts.
It's no different from my main obstacle in life
I know indecision well.
No wonder bulerías has always been so hard for me,
Not enough trust.
In a moment I'll tell you how I've let go of a lot of my bulerías fears (and how you can do the same).
Because the truth is, now I kind of can't get enough of bulerías.
It is not that the fear has been eradicated, it's that the excitement and fun usually slide it over to the side now. Gracias excitement and fun.
But before I get into any fear eradication techniques, let me give you a bit of background:
"I want to be in class with Mercedes ALL of the time." That is what I wrote in my journal on April 13, 2011.
But let's go back in time.
I arrived in Jerez on Friday, March 25 and began investigating classes to take.
Though secretly, I did not want to go to any.
A week in Jerez by myself.
People are feeling nervous.
Nervous and anxious about the Student Showcase on Saturday.
I know this feeling. Well.
So I thought I'd repost these tips today, performance tips.
Whether you're performing in front of your friends in class,
at a show in front of the public,
or even just in your own bedroom in front of your cat,
There are things we can do to ease our nerves ...
Tengo un secreto.
I leave in a few weeks, and I’m scared
But not for the usual reasons.
I’m afraid to take people there. Even though this will be the fourth time I’ve taken a group there to study.
1. Do it anyway
2. Come back to your body
3. Respect opinions, but be yourself
4. Feel and allow
5. Notice all of the other "not thems" who are doing it alongside you
6. Remember that art is universal, and so is expression
Tengo un secreto.
I leave in a couple of days, and I’m scared
But not for the usual reasons.