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How to Improvise in Por Fiesta Flamenco Dances

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How to Improvise in Por Fiesta Flamenco Dances

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).

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Sleeping with Bulerías | Viernes con una Letra

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Sleeping with Bulerías | Viernes con una Letra

Below find a snippet of my journal from Jerez, a video of Mercedes Ruíz dancing bulerías, a letra por bulerías, and a short activity for you to do while watching the video.

October 30, 2013

I played bulerías to help me fall asleep during siesta time.

Bulerías with lots of palmas and jaleos of course.

Who does that?

Someone who is in Jerez I guess.

Someone who is in Jerez and  just can't get enoughIt's a good thing I'm going back.

I listened to one that I recorded at the peña last night.

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Tying the Knot (& How to Play Castanets for the Second Sevillanas)

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Tying the Knot (& How to Play Castanets for the Second Sevillanas)

I am often asked how to tie the knot on a pair of the castanets strings.  Because it's not just an average every day knot.  You can find out how at the end of this post.

Now raise your hand

Raise your hand if you tried to play the toque for the first sevillana, the one I posted last week

And, as promised, below is how we play castanets for the second copla.

It's written in two different ways.  The reason for that is here.

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Figure it Out ... ( figuridout )

"I'll figure it out." Ricardo hears that a lot when he comes to Portland.

Over and over again he hears it.  Namely in rehearsals.

Probably because there is always A LOT to figure out.

MUCHO.

"We'll figure it out."

He became kind of obsessed with the phrase on a past visit.  I said it many times.  Perhaps because I felt so overwhelmed.

When I wasn't saying it he'd ask me to remind him how to say it.

And then one night he asked how to spell it,

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How to Play Sevillanas with Castanets | La Primera

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How to Play Sevillanas with Castanets | La Primera

Dancing with castanets.  It's something we do on Saturdays.

Four fingers moving on one hand

One finger moving on the other

Feet forming steps

Arms trying to follow 

                                                                                      (at least we've taken out the hand movements)

This is what we do.

All the while trying to look good and stay in compás.

So far in class we've danced the first and most of the second sevillanas con castañuelas, and Pam asked if I would post the toques.

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I Went to Therapy

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I Went to Therapy

This is about getting therapy accidentally.

Accidentally and without a lot of work.

It's something you can try too.

Here's how it happened for me once...

An excerpt from something I wrote last summer:

Thursday was tough. For various unforeseen reasons. I wanted to just stay home and feel sorry for myself.

But, I didn't.

Well, I did for a bit, but then I made myself go to class with Danica.  

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Why we need to watch

Today one of my favorite videos of Rocío Molina dancing tangos and some thoughts on the importance of watching flamenco dance.

Watching is a must. We talk a lot about listening, which is importantísimo.  Absolutely essential.

But so is watching.

We are lucky.  We have YouTube.  We have Vimeo.  We have Did Somebody Say Flamenco?

We have access to all kinds of good flamenco.

In our kitchens.  In our bedrooms.  In our offices.  (Don't worry I won't tell.)

So watch.

It's pleasure.

It's study.

It's inspiration.

It's necessary.

I know you do this.  And in a minute I want to hear about a favorite video of yours.

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I am a Person Who Does Her Own Thing - Mercedes Ruíz | The Fifth Interview

Ok, so it's the final interview with Mercedes...for now that is.  And today we get into some of the nitty-gritty. Earlier Mercedes told me that she encountered a lot of problems on her way to becoming a flamenco dancer.

This got me thinking.  Wondering about those obstacles and what they were.  But more importantly, wondering about how she handled them.

Immediately I thought about the flamenco world and it can be easy to feel left out.  How it can be easy to feel like you don't belong.  For me at least...because I let myself.  I wondered if any of that went on for Mercedes.  Especially as she is from Jerez, where people have some strong opinions about flamenco.  And how it is to be done.  And who can do it.

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Viernes con una Letra | a favorite from Mercedes

Having Mercedes Ruíz sing you a bulerías is not a bad way to start the weekend... That's what happened today.  It was at the end of our interview, which I'll be posting in the coming days.  I asked her to share a favorite letra with me.

She rested her chin on her hand and thought for a moment.

"Me gusta mucho la bulería de Camarón, la de... "

Then she stopped.

"Pero te la tengo que cantar?"  And she smiled.  No, no?"

Ha, no.  Just tell me how it goes.

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Do you know what just happened?

In class I'm often saying that soon the body will just know what to do, without having to think about it so much. Because it's true.

Take the hands for instance.  Las manos.

Hand movement is one of those elements of flamenco that seems to get just about everyone.  Even professionals who come to flamenco from other dance forms have told me this aspect drives them crazy.  Getting them to look good is one thing.  Then how much harder steps become when we add hands… and fingers,  Ay!  Another thing.

Still, there comes a time when they just start moving on their own.  Fluidly.  Doing things we didn't know they could or would do... It can be surprising when this first happens.

But there is a catch.

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What Three Dancers Had to Say

A couple of weeks ago we had a performance.  Abby, Julie, and Kikuyo, three members of the PFE Performance Group took part and danced fabulously, absolutely fabulously.  I was so happy to be on stage with them, dancing together, supporting one another.  I loved seeing how they each embraced their performance selves because they really truly did. As you may know, I love to interview people, so I asked these lovely dancers some questions.  And I thought you might want to hear what they said.

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Viernes con una Letra | There's more to the story

Last week you read about how his love had arranged to see someone else at la Puerta de Toledo. And here is the next copla.

Sevillanas
Tradicional

II. Me decía que iba a misa, mare, y me engañaba
Y me engañaba
Me decía que iba a misa, mare, y me engañaba
Y me engañaba
Si no llevaba rosario, ni libro
¿Como rezaba?

En el mismo sitio 
A la misma hora 
Estaba rezando  
Con otra persona 

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Viernes con una Letra | A La Puerta de Toledo

A La Puerta de Toledo
Tradicional

A la Puerta de Toledo, madre, le tengo celos
Le tengo celos
A la Puerta de Toledo, madre, le tengo celos
Le tengo celos
Porque se cita con otro 
La mujer que yo más quiero

En el mismo sitio 
A la misma hora 
Se estaba besando 
Con otra persona 

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And Then, the Smiles

In the past weeks I've noticed something.  For those of you who've been reading, you know that I am trying to make this year all about noticing.

Anyway, in class I've seen people coming in with all kinds of expressions.

Many people wearing the kind of day, or week, they've had on their faces. Class gets going, and there are concentrated looks, which is exciting.

And then, the smiles.

I've been seeing lots of smiles!  

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Guest Post – Embracing Bulerías: Challenge and Progress in Andalucía

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Guest Post – Embracing Bulerías: Challenge and Progress in Andalucía

Below Diana Welch, Oregon photographer, writer, videographer and flamenca shares one of her experiences with bulerías last Spring during her time in Jerez.  Reading her story brought back memories of practicing with her in the living room, kitchen, wherever we could make it work.  I also remember that she took a bus for about an hour to get to class, dedicada.  Enjoy… Here in her blog, Laura has been discussing her learning process with respect to bulerías.  While Laura and I are in different stages on the bulerias learning continuum, I experienced a sliver of light at the end of the tunnel in my own beginning class in Jerez last April.

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Mensajes de Músicos - Messages from Musicians

So Toshi keeps asking me to do these shows with him.  I am considering myself to be very lucky.  And I am considering the rehearsals to be like free concerts, free concerts for meeee! Then today during our rehearsal for Sunday's show at Tupai, I realized the musicians were sending me messages.  Many many messages.  Although I know they weren't meaning to send me messages nor were they aware that they were doing so. Pero los músicos me mandaban mensajes, hoy en el ensayo, muchos mensajes sin saberlo.

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