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,
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.
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...
On the wall of her studio Mercedes has a photo of herself with Marco Flores when they were young. I wish you could see it. In the interview that follows Marco mentions how they danced together when they were starting out. They still do.
You'll also find out about how Marco grew up with flamenco in his family, how he began his career, and about his process of creation. He even shares some direct tips for us as students, though bits of advice can be found in all of his responses.
I originally posted it in 2011 and repost it today after watching snippets of his latest espectáculo from the 2014 Jerez Festival. Oh how I want to see that show! Further down you'll see a video of him dancing solo por siguiriyas.
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.
Today a video of Belén Maya and Joaquín Grilo from Carlos Saura's movie, Flamenco, along with an explanation of the two main types of flamenco.
Many of us learn and study long choreographies. They are challenging and, as I said, long. Then we learn short snippets. Which, by the way, are also challenging.
So, how to know when to dance what?
I'll get to this soon. But first...
We've been doing a lot of tangos this year. Mostly in a por fiesta setting.
And it's been fun.
Lots of dancing, lots of smiling, lots of attitude. Attitude in a good way, that is.
So last week during teoría we were talking about how the dancer responds to the cante. Well, how everyone responds to the cante, when a really good question came up.
A student wondered how everyone knew to transition in the movie Flamenco when Belén Maya came out to dance. I absolutely love that segment. And not just because my boyfriend is in it. There are so many reasons to love it
So Emilio Ochando is here in Portland.
He is here. Está aquí!
I told you I was going to ask him some more questions. And we did just that this evening. We made movies! So, click on the links in this post to see video interviews.
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.)
Find out what Marco Flores had to say in March during the 2011 Festival de Jerez about his life as a flamenco dancer. (I have a lot to thank this guy for - Aside from being a wonderfully inspiring teacher, Marco helped make it possible for me to travel to Spain this year. - ¡Muchos besos para Marco! - Were it not for his letter of recommendation, I'm not sure I would have received the RACC grant to study in Jerez. Gracias Marco por eso, por tu arte, por las buenas clases y por ser una gran inspiración y persona.
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.