In this video interview flamenco dancer Karen Lugo talks about her beginnings in Guadalajara, her obsession with rhythm that drove her to move to Spain, her influences, how she uses improvisation, her creative process, what she enjoys about teaching, advice for students, how she decides what to wear on stage, and what inspires her.
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Words of Wisdom From Mercedes Ruíz for When You're Feeling Frustrated, Like You Don't Belong, or Like You're Too Old to Be Doing This
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,
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.
I know that workshops can seem overwhelming at times,
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.
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.
A video interview with Ricardo López to calm your nerves...
Sometimes we joke around in class about Ricardo
Not behind his back, don't worry. We do it both when he's here and when he's not. We pretend we're him, and we walk around with intense looks on our faces, vigilando.
Other times we just pretend he's there in the room with us, looking like he looks.
It's fun. You should try it.
The thing is, he doesn't usually have an intense look on his face
In the video below, you can see for yourself.
I ask him about getting nervous before a workshop. Because the thought of studying with an out-of-this-world amazing dancer from Spain who is used to dancing with the best of the best can feel a little bit intimidating to some of us around here.
Some good things have happened since my trip began. And I've already learned something very important. A story and a video of Manuel Liñan dancing.
On Monday I went to the Portland airport.
I befriended the woman standing behind me in the security line who, as it turns out, I already knew. We talked and I told her about my trip. She told me it was going to be great even though I was scared that everything would fall apart. She also told me I would definitely organize more...
On Tuesday I arrived in Madrid.
It was sunny and the sky was blue. I was in Spain and happy.
Now I am in Jerez. It is rainy and the sky is grey. I am still in Spain. I am still happy.
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.
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
An interview with flamenco dancer Emilio Ochando and a video:
I can't wait to ask Emilio a million things once he gets here. I asked him some questions last year. But I have so many more! Like how did he get to be so good? And who are his favorite dancers? And what are his favorite practice techniques and strategies?
I know he has a lot to tell us.
So I warmed him up with a few quick questions the other day. And here is what he had to say.
Qué debe saber la gente que quiere aprender a bailar flamenco? Deben saber que no deja de ser un arte y que ello te lleva a emociones. Tambien le tienes que sumar la constancia y ganas.
What should people who want to learn flamenco know? They should know that it will never stop being an art and that it will bring up your emotions. Also you need to be consistent and approach it with enthusiasm.
But the watching is wonderful too.
Because sure, as students we dance, (A LOT, I know, that's what we're there to do) but we are given little private performances as well. I used to consider these performances a bonus, but now I realize they are part of the deal.
Sometimes I space out. I get caught up watching and forget that I am in class and am supposed to be participating. Because there is this incredible dancer right in front of me doing the most amazing things. Giving mini-performances. Many of them. Like these...
What motivates you to continue? You, and dancers and artists like you who find the art form exciting and challenging and this in turn makes you want to improve “your art.” I guess to be fair, it’s also the art form itself. Sometimes I hate it because it can be so unforgiving, and sometimes I love it when I see beautiful dance or hear beautiful music and cante. Lots of contradictions with this art form.