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flamenco class

A Year In Flamenco: My Top Seven Flamenco Memories of the Year

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A Year In Flamenco: My Top Seven Flamenco Memories of the Year

It’s the final day of the year, so let’s take some time to reflect before ringing in the new year. What moments stood out in your flamenco life this year?

Below you can see some of my favorite flamenco memories from 2018 (in chronological order). I feel extremely grateful for the wonderful experiences this year delivered. One of the things I most love is how each event pictured below offered a new opportunity to join with flamenco lovers from across the country (and the world in some cases) to enjoy this incredible art form together.

Here are my top seven flamenco memories of the year

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How To Get The Most Out of A Flamenco Dance Workshop

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How To Get The Most Out of A Flamenco Dance Workshop

Does the thought of taking a flamenco workshop with a master artist from Spain fill you with excitement or fear? 

If you're anything like me you feel a little bit of both.

Here are some steps you can take before, during, and after a workshop to help manage any overwhelm that comes up:

Before the workshop

1. Decide what you want to get out of it

Set a workshop goal.

Do you want to master the choreography? Improve upon a specific technique? Get inspired? Become a better learner? Implement the teacher's personal styling? Simply have a fun experience?

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Why You Shouldn't Call It Quits  . . .  (My First Flamenco Dance Experience in Spain)

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Why You Shouldn't Call It Quits . . . (My First Flamenco Dance Experience in Spain)

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.

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How Old is Too Old to Begin Dancing Flamenco? (and a Must-Watch video)

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How Old is Too Old to Begin Dancing Flamenco? (and a Must-Watch video)

When is it too late to start learning flamenco? Find out below and watch a video of Mercedes Ruíz dancing as a little girl along with a bulerías clip from Carlos Saura's Flamenco Flamenco.

According to Mercedes Ruíz, "It's never too late do what you want to do." Sure, she began dancing flamenco at the age of four, but that doesn't mean the rest of us are doomed.

I began dancing flamenco at the age of twenty three, or was it twenty two? Pat began when she was sixty nine. Becky began when she was forty four. Many of the dancers I know began in their thirties, forties, fifties, and even sixties. Many danced at a young age then stopped for various reasons only to come back to it years later.

We can begin dancing flamenco at any age

And there is no 'retirement age' for flamenco dancing. We can leave it and come back. And we can continue dancing flamenco as long as we want to. This is something that I absolutely love about flamenco.

It is a dance for all ages.

Older flamenco dancers are in fact respected and honored. This is part of the flamenco culture. (See video clips below.)

A younger dancer may have different goals than an older dancer. And one's desires as a dancer may change over time, just as desires around all things in life will evolve.

But the bottom line is this,

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11 Things You Hear Regularly in Class with Mercedes

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11 Things You Hear Regularly in Class with Mercedes

If you've ever taken class with Mercedes Ruíz, you will likely recognize the words and phrases below. If you have not yet studied with her and plan to, prepare, because you are sure to hear these utterances over and over again.

If you have previously studied with her but were unsure of what she meant, read on, and find out.

If you have not studied with her and don't plan to, read anyway because the first eight are important tips to remember all of the time in your independent practice or in anybody's class.

Let's Begin

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Matilde Coral and My First Experience with a Bata de Cola (& a very important Tip)

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.

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Why She Starts Class in the Back of the Room

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Why She Starts Class in the Back of the Room

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.

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Part 2: How to Challenge Yourself When Class Feels Too Easy

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Part 2: How to Challenge Yourself When Class Feels Too Easy

Yesterday in Part 1, I told you what I do when class feels to hard, how I make it more do-able, more enjoyable.

My lazy pants

When class feels too easy it usually means I could be doing a lot more to challenge myself.  In other words, I need not leave it up to the teacher or the moves.

And as I mentioned yesterday, what we get out of class is really up to us, and we can benefit from any class.

Sometimes we get anxious ...

Why is it moving so slowly?  Come on, already!

And we wonder if we’ll ever progress at this rate.

To be perfectly honest, my freak outs generally come from feeling that class is too hard, which you likely know by now.

But when I start noticing myself spacing out, bored, or antsy in class, here are some things I do:

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Part 1: How to Make Class (& Life) Easier When You Feel Like You Have No Idea What You're Doing

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Part 1: How to Make Class (& Life) Easier When You Feel Like You Have No Idea What You're Doing

Sometimes class feels too easy.  And other times it feels too hard.

I've been in both situations.

And here's what I've discovered

When class feels too easy, it's usually because I've got my lazy pants on. No seas floja, Laura.

When class feels too difficult, it's usually because hard-on-myself me has taken over. Tranquila, Chiquilla. 

We can get a lot or a little out of class

And it's really up to us.

I mean it.

There is basically one main concept to understand to help us get the most of any class.

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Three Ways to Find Success in a Flamenco Workshop

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Three Ways to Find Success in a Flamenco Workshop

I know that workshops can seem overwhelming at times,

and hard.

Difícil.  

Ricardo López, one of my favorite guys ever, knows this too.

And yes, even though he is a professional dancer who travels the world performing with people like Rafaela Carrasco, he still enjoys studying and taking cursillos.

So I want to share with you three suggestions from Ricardo that we can use in class.  

And after that I'll talk about how his tips can help us outside of the studio as well.

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How to turn the Wrong Class into the Right Class

Ok, so here's the part two to yesterday's post that I promised you.  Where I tell you how to turn any class into an ideal class for you. Because sometimes class feels too easy.  And other times it feels too hard.

I've been in both situations.

And here's what I've discovered

When class feels too easy, it's usually because I've got my lazy pants on. No seas floja, Laura.

When class feels too difficult, it's usually because hard-on-myself me has taken over. Tranquila, chiquilla. 

We can get a lot or a little out of class

And it's really up to us.  I mean it.

Basically there are two main concepts we need to understand, one to make class harder and another to make it easier.  But before we get to those, some specific ideas on how to make the most out of whatever class you find yourself in.

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There is no such thing as a leveled class

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There is no such thing as a leveled class

Not really. It may be called Beginning.  Or Advanced.

And that name might tell me about the pace of the class.  Or about the type or amount of information and material that will be given.

But what does it really mean?

Is what I view as beginning the same as what you view as beginning?

Can I expect to find people all at the same skill level because the class is called intermediate?

Does the name of the class tell me where I belong?

No and not necessarily.

I have some thoughts on figuring out which class you "belong" in and some more thoughts about what to do should you find yourself in a class that feels like the wrong level.

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I told them it terrified me, but still they wanted to go

Another story from Jerez...

Somehow I convinced everyone to go to bulerías class with me

I told them how it terrified me.  I told them I was terrorized by it.  But they still wanted to go.

I took them there even before our first class with Mercedes.

I needed for them to see it.  I was hoping they would want to take it too.  I was worried they might think it was too much on top everything else.

Physically it is not demanding.  So, that would be no issue.

But mentally, well...

I had told them about it the night before

They were ready for certain things.

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Intención

You've heard me talk about Ani and her bulerías class and about bits of wisdom I've learned from her. I want to share another bit today.

It's one of those things she said that sent me scurrying to my notebook.  I didn't think much about it when she said it.  I just knew it was importante and that I wanted to write it down.

Concepts

In bulerías class you learn steps.

But you don't have to do them.

You can.  Or you can do your own.  Or someone else’s.

So, yes, you learn steps.

But you're really there to learn concepts.

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A Dose of Difficulty, por favor

It was November 2012, and I was in Jerez.  My exotic pets had all gone home, except for one that is.  And I kept getting messages, important messages... November 7, 2012

I started getting them about a week ago, the messages.  Or that's when I started hearing them.

They were sent on various occasions.

But always during class.

And they were all more or less the same.

Occasion #1  |  Monday morning at the peña

Things changed in bulerías this week.

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How to Survive a Flamenco Festival

As most of you know I went to Albuquerque earlier this month to Flamenco Festival Internacional.  Festivals are intense.  Intense can be good, but it can also be, well, fuerte.  Preparation can help. So...

1. Choose a festival hosting artists you want to see and learn from.

Artists I admire = inspiration and motivation.  Sure, I get a bit nervous at the thought of studying with these most amazing artists, but it usually goes away after awhile.

2. Go with a group of people.

You may know them before.  You may not.  You may travel with them.  You may meet up there.  Either way, having a small community within the bigger festival community offers support.  Plus it's just so much more fun with other people.  Think laughter, lots of laughter, therapeutic laughter.

3. Choose your learning tools.

There are many available.... An audio recording device to help you recall the sounds. A notebook for notes and reflections on class. Going over the choreography or tricky steps with another student after or before class. Getting centered and staying present.

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I Used to Hate Bulerías (While Secretly Loving It)

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.)

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And it's Fear, Yet Again

I guess you could say I was kind of consumed with fear during my time in Jerez.  I did things anyway, but I also didn't do things. Below is an excerpt (with some side notes) written during my first week alone there.  For those who are new to this blog, I had been in Jerez a couple of weeks before for the Festival.  After a brief trip to Portugal, I headed back.  I arrived on Friday the 25th and began my search for classes.

Prior to leaving for Spain I knew who I wanted to take from and had names of studios and phone numbers; I even had an idea of when some of the classes were offered.  Sí! I had done my research, I promise, as best as I could from Portland, Oregon...I had to for the RACC grant.  And during the festival I got an idea of where the studios were located.  But I had yet to figure out the class times.  Could I have done more to determine this earlier in the month?  Perhaps.  But figuring out where and when things happen in that town is not as easy as one might think…

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Festival de Jerez 2011 - Week Two

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Festival de Jerez 2011 - Week Two

March 6 Sunday There is a different energy this week compared to last week.  Is it due to the rain?  - actually closer to the way I remember spring weather in Spain -  Or perhaps it is that some of the excitement has worn off?  Or is it that I am taking classes by myself this week, without any of my compañeras from home.  I was only signed up for one festival course, so I decided to take a tangos workshop from Tatiana Ruíz, the daughter of Chiqui de Jerez.  The girl ought to be a sergeant in the US Army, though I suppose she talks too much for that.  In any case, she worked us hard today and clearly took great pleasure in doing so.  My brain quickly went into overload as I tried to execute the steps at a seemingly impossible pace while at the same time struggling to understand how in the world Tatiana moved her body as she did.  Later that afternoon I headed to my bata de cola class with Alicia Márquez.  It moved slowly, so I was able to get things, but still, how ever do I get this awkward train to cooperate and do what Alicia's does?!  As I walked down the halls of the bodega after class, I poked my head in the various rooms and fantasized that it was my home.

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