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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An interview with flamenco dancer Mercedes Ruíz where she talks about her beginnings, challenges she faced on the road to becoming a professional flamenco dancer, how she comes from a non-flamenco family (and how most of her family members don't even like flamenco), how motherhood has affected her dancing, what it's like working with her husband, what she loves about teaching, who some of her favorite dancers are, how she thinks it's never too late to start dancing flamenco, and the funny ritual that she must perform before going on stage.
What should you do if if you have just 15-20 minutes a day to practice?
That’s what a student asked me to find out when I interviewed Jesús Carmona last month.
Here are the five recommendations he shared along with videos to help you get started on your own at home. (Some of what he advises might surprise you.)
1. Abdominal Exercises
The first thing Jesús mentioned was the need to strengthen our abs. Don't know where to start? Try this:
What does it feel like to have been the first teacher to some of the most famous flamenco dancers from Jerez?
That's a question I asked Ana María López, one of the most influential flamenco instructors in Jerez, Spain, in the video interview you'll see below.
Sitting down with Ani . . .
In the interview Ani, as she's affectionately known, talks about how she grew up surrounded by flamenco in the San Miguel neighborhood of Jerez, began studying dance as a little girl, and later grew into one of the most well-known bulerías instructors around. She has been the primary teacher to some of the greatest flamenco dancers working today such as Mercedes Ruíz, Patricia Ibañez, and Carmen Herrera. Naturally, we study bulerías with her during the Flamenco Tour to Jerez. Watch through to the end of the video where you'll see her in the studio demonstrating how to dance bulerías with the cante and feel the joyful essence of Jerez.
Flamenco singer Manuel Moneo passed away earlier this week.
The huge mural of him that you see in the picture above was steps away from where we study bulerías on the Flamenco Tour to Jerez in the historic flamenco neighborhood of San Miguel. (You can see a video on the making of the mural below.)
Manuel was known for his siguiriyas and soleá. Here you can watch him singing martinete in Carlos Saura's movie, Flamenco.
To sing flamenco well one needs to be able to feel and to love,
~ Manuel Moneo
He talks about this concept in the video interview below where you'll not only hear some of his story but also learn about the importance of el Barrio San Miguel, La Plazuela, to flamenco.
But first, let's listen to him sing por bulerías (con mucho arte). Here is one of the letras you'll hear:
It's always fun to get a sneak peek into a flamenco dancer's life. So here's a brief video interview I did with Emilio Ochando last time he was in Portland. You'll find out what he enjoys about both teaching and performing as well as what kind of pre-performance rituals he does. Watch to the end for some outtakes. (The volume is low, and the quality is not the best, but don't worry, there are subtitles. Plus it gives you a chance to see just how gosh-darn cute this incredibly talented guy is!)
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,
In November 2013 after the Flamenco Tour to Jerez was finished, I traveled to Barcelona to study with David Romero. (And to research holding a flamenco trip there with him, which is happening in November, woot!) My friend Stefani and I had daily classes with David (our own private flamenco workshop). Often times we would meet with him before or after class to have a coffee and chat.
And one day after class, I interviewed him
The interview took place in the little restaurant by the studio where we used to meet. We had lunch. We had café. And then we got to filming.
We did some shooting inside, some outside. I filmed some, Stefani filmed some. A couple of clips cut off in strange places because, well, I guess I stopped or started shooting too early or too late. Oops. I did my best to edit out the background noise, but you will definitely hear some potatoes being fried, sirens, a few outside voices, stuff like that. You'll also see some ladies on their way to the restroom, which happened to be our backdrop during part of the interview. I guess it all adds to the ambiente, the ambiance . . .
David has been dancing since he was three years old. He grew up going to peñas and hearing flamenco. He's from Barcelona, but his family is from Andalucía. In the video David talks about how his parents, originally from Huelva in Andalucía, ended up in Barcelona, the influences of hearing flamenco in his home, how he began dancing flamenco professionally (in a tablao when he was underage, having to run and hide when the authorities came by), his teaching philosophy, how he goes about creating a choreography and even just creating a step.
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...
When we're on the FlamencoTour, we hear Santi practicing. A lot.
Santiago Lara, that is.
We're in the studio dancing. He's either in the bathroom or upstairs practicing.
When it's time to play for us Mercedes calls for him,
I can hear her saying it now.
Actually, if you listen carefully you can hear her saying it in the video below at about 1 minute 50 seconds...
I first interviewed him in the spring of 2013. Unfortunately, I lost all of that footage. I know, back up.
So, I interviewed him again last fall.
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.
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.
It's more from the interview with Perico Navarro. You can catch the previous segment here.
Today's interview, I have to warn you, gets a bit technical. But just keep reading, I think you'll be glad you did. Pedro talks about outside influences, playing with incredible artists - You'll see an great video of him playing with El Torta and Jesús Méndez in Jerez - and the beginning of his career with Mercedes Ruíz and Santiago Lara.
I've mentioned him before.
Should you ever meet him you'll see what I mean about his eyes.
And you'll see that he's nice, so nice. I mean it, súper simpatico.
I interviewed him last fall in Jerez. That's where he's from. You can read the first segment here where he shares some thoughts on bulerías.
Today we talk about how he first became interested in the cajón, how he learned to play, and when he started getting into flamenco.
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.
I mentioned that we'd hear from Perico Navarro today. He plays cajón for Mercedes, and for lots of other people too. Paco Cepero, Miguel Poveda, Jesus Mendez. He played for Moraito Chico... For some really incredible artists.
I spoke with him last week about his life as a flamenco percussionist. You can read all about that here soon...
Anyway, after the interview we started taking about, well, bulerías.
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.