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,
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.
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.
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 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.
"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.
"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,
The other day I made a great discovery. (I'll tell you about it in a minute.) But first I want to talk about noticing, something I did a lot of last year. It helps me to focus. It teaches me all kinds of things. And I intend to keep it up.
At times I record the noticings in little books. At times I share them with others, like you. At times they just stay in my cabeza. Other times in my cuerpo.
Noticing is good.
It shows me stuff. Like tendencies to rush, to stop listening, to leave my body.
It tells me what I need to work on.
It points out when I’m enjoying myself and when I’m not, to what factors into that, and how certain things feel.
It teaches me about how I like to create, about environments I work best in, about how I like to dance, why I like to dance, and who I like to dance with.
Ok, so there is this one thing I've noticed that really, really, really has a BIG effect on my dancing. Is it the biggest effect? I don't know.
But it's big
I know how important it is, yet I still refuse to consistently give it the credit it deserves.
I want to remember to do it. Or no, not remember, I want to do it even if I don't want to.
You know how much I like stories, so let us begin with a story.
It was a Wednesday much like today, sunny and hot that is. I was in Jerez. It was the spring of 2011...
The rest of the story comes in the form of but another excerpt from my journal.
The following post is about fear, about overwhelm, perhaps about stage fright. About Ricardo López's dancing and reaching my lack of motivation.
We've had all week to work on the show.
But I've felt FROZEN.
Congelada. I've found any excuse not to practice, not to get the help I wanted from Ricardo… At first I didn't know why. I just decided I was lazy.
I only went through things in my head. I know, I know, that's an important way of practicing.
Ricardo is sharp. He is fast. He is precise. He is intense. He sweats. He puts it all out there. I don't understand how he does this. I don't do this.
And I feel lazy.
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.)