You asked me to analyze more videos around here to better understand how flamenco dance works, so today I will deconstruct another bulerías of Pastora Galván. So here is a video (that you’re going to LOVE) followed by a breakdown of each component of the dance and when it happens:
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how to dance to the cante
You've heard many examples of different artists singing cuplés in the previous four posts. Now it's time to see how one dances to a cuplé, and I've got one of the best possible examples for you, Carmen Herrera. Following the video I'll talk about how to dance bulerías to a cuplé then share one of the songs you'll hear and its translation.
Let's begin by watching Carmen as she dances to the singing of father and sons Alfonso Carpio "Mijita," Alfonso Carpio "Mijita Hijo," and José Carpio "Mijita." They are at a juerga at Peña de la Bulería in Jerez. The video is queued to begin where Carmen starts dancing at 4 minutes 30 seconds (though I'm pretty sure you'll want to go back and watch the whole thing at some point.) Today's song begins about five minutes in. The guys share in the singing, and it's kind of impossible not to get excited watching the interplay between them.
While you watch, notice how Carmen's dancing changes as the song progresses. Notice how she reacts to her three singers and where she puts her remates. Notice when she brings the energy up ...
Bulerías is arguably one of the hardest flamenco forms to dance due to it's improvisational nature, complex rhythm, and nuanced cante. But dancing bulerías is less mysterious than you may think. Once you understand the components of the dance and how they relate to the music (the singing and the compás) you'll be well on your way to obtaining bulerías freedom.
Below l explain the basic bulerías por fiesta structure and how it relates to the cante. After that you'll find a video of Pastora Galván along with an analysis describing where she dances each component of the structure. Finally I give you an activity to help you internalize the information.
I want to share a story with you about how I messed up dancing bulerías last weekend, how it left me feeling not so happy about my dancing, eight important lessons about flamenco (and life) I learned in the process, and how those lessons served me when I applied them to a sticky situation in my life.
So last weekend I took a workshop with Alfonso Cid. He shared bunches of bulerías letras with us (you'll find one below) and gave a very informative introduction to flamenco, with a focus on cante. He had us all singing and doing palmas and even got some of us up dancing.
Yay! (and Olé).
Some people got up to dance, mess up or not mess up, and learn along the way.
I was one of those people.
And here is what I learned:
Today I'm going to talk about how the same letra can (and definitely will be) interpreted in different ways by different singers. I'll also talk about why, as dancers, we need to pay attention to this. And finally, I'll share a tangos letra with you. (Oh, and at the end of the post I give you an activity to do from the comfort of your own home.)
How the same letra can vary
Depending upon who is singing, how they like to sing a given letra, and even how they are feeling at a given moment, one letra can be interpreted in many different ways.
Let's look at some examples:
Dancing to the cante. It is what every dancer from Jerez does, professional or non.
It is the dancer conversing with the singer.
In order to dance to the cante,
You must become familiar with the letras (song verses) and engage with the singer when dancing.
To gain familiarity with the letras:
1. Listen a lot.
2. Take a cante class, and study the letras.
To engage with the singer when dancing:
1. Observe what other good dancers do. (Hint: Notice the way Carmen responds to José in the video.)
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).