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A Year In Flamenco: My Top Seven Flamenco Memories of the Year

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A Year In Flamenco: My Top Seven Flamenco Memories of the Year

It’s the final day of the year, so let’s take some time to reflect before ringing in the new year. What moments stood out in your flamenco life this year?

Below you can see some of my favorite flamenco memories from 2018 (in chronological order). I feel extremely grateful for the wonderful experiences this year delivered. One of the things I most love is how each event pictured below offered a new opportunity to join with flamenco lovers from across the country (and the world in some cases) to enjoy this incredible art form together.

Here are my top seven flamenco memories of the year

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Seven Essential Flamenco Dance Lessons From Jesús Carmona

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Seven Essential Flamenco Dance Lessons From Jesús Carmona

Read on for my seven biggest takeaways from this month's workshops with flamenco maestro Jesús Carmona followed by a challenge for you.

Jesús is all about working hard, breaking things down, and holding high expectations all while having fun. A true master teacher. He sees everybody and expects maximum effort from all. He worked us HARD during the workshops in Portland. It was truly satisfying to see and feel the progress that we made in just four days. How can something be semi-torturous yet completely wonderful at the same time?

Here are seven pieces of advice from Jesús that will help you become a better flamenco dancer.

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How To Get The Most Out of A Flamenco Dance Workshop

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How To Get The Most Out of A Flamenco Dance Workshop

Does the thought of taking a flamenco workshop with a master artist from Spain fill you with excitement or fear? 

If you're anything like me you feel a little bit of both.

Here are some steps you can take before, during, and after a workshop to help manage any overwhelm that comes up:

Before the workshop

1. Decide what you want to get out of it

Set a workshop goal.

Do you want to master the choreography? Improve upon a specific technique? Get inspired? Become a better learner? Implement the teacher's personal styling? Simply have a fun experience?

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20 Ways to Spice Up Your Flamenco Dance Practice

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20 Ways to Spice Up Your Flamenco Dance Practice

Do you have a hard time finding the motivation to practice?

I hear you.

. . . And I want to help!

Here are twenty ways to bring new life to your flamenco practice

The following ideas will not only spice up your practice but will also make you a better dancer. Apply them to a full choreography, part of a dance, a combination, or even a single step.

1. Do it while singing (or humming) the melody.
OBJECTIVE: Connect the music to the dance. Move your focus away from the steps. Improve your memory. Improve your focus.

2. Do one part over and over.
OBJECTIVE: Solidify and perfect a given part.

3. Do it facing different directions in the room.
OBJECTIVE: Stop relying on the mirror. Focus. Test your knowledge of the dance. Learn to adapt to different situations. Prepare for performance.

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I Climbed The High Mountain (I Actually Did) | The Weekly Letra

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I Climbed The High Mountain (I Actually Did) | The Weekly Letra

This week's letra made me think of an experience I had years ago which has nothing to do with flamenco. It has to do with dishonesty and fear. It started with a question, which led to a lie, which in turn led to facing a fear. The facing fear part actually helped prepare me for flamenco where I'm forced to confront my fears over and over again. To my surprise, all of the practice meeting my fears in flamenco has only made it easier to do so in life outside of the dance.

More on that in a minute, but first let's take a look at the letra and watch a video of Mercedes Ruíz, our teacher on the Flamenco Tour to Jerez, dancing caña, all in red, with bata and mantón. 

Caña
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Subí a la alta montaña
buscando leña pa’ el fuego
como no la encontraba
al valle bajé de nuevo

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The Two Biggest Flamenco Hand Movement Mistakes & How To Fix Them

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The Two Biggest Flamenco Hand Movement Mistakes & How To Fix Them

Have you given any thought to what you want to get out of your flamenco experience this year? If it has to do with making your hands look better, read on, for today I'll tell you about two common mistakes I see with flamenco hand movements and how to fix them. I'll also show you a video of Mercedes Ruíz, our teacher on the Flamenco Tour to Jerez, demonstrating how to move the hands correctly.

Sometimes we get so focused on learning the steps that we neglect details like hand movements. “I’ll get to it later,” we say. We may think we don't have time, that it’s not that important, or find it boring. 

But practicing 'manos'  is a must for every flamenco dancer

The good news is that there is not one right way to move the hands. Like other stylistic elements of flamenco dance, there is plenty of room for individuality in this area. Watch a few video clips of different professional dancers, and you'll see how personal hand and finger movements tend to be. Matilde Coral reminds her students to make their hands look like doves, Mercedes reminds us to open and use every finger

While there may not be one right way to move the hands, there are wrong ways ... 

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Bulerías Made Simple [The Structure of a Bulerías Dance & How It Relates to the Cante]

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Bulerías Made Simple [The Structure of a Bulerías Dance & How It Relates to the Cante]

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.

The basic structure of bulerías

Bulerías, like other flamenco forms, has its own language. When we dance we are in conversation with the singer, the guitarist, and the palmeros. The structure offers a formula for clear communication, and it looks like this:

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One Way to Train Your Ear So That You Dance Well With the Cante | The Weekly Letra

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One Way to Train Your Ear So That You Dance Well With the Cante | The Weekly Letra

Today you'll find two videos of the same letra, one version as tangos, the other as bulerías... 

Dancing flamenco is never just about the dancing. It is a conversation between the dancer and the musicians. As dancers we need to hear where the changes and resolutions are in the music (especially the cante) so that we can respond with our dancing. Below find an activity that you can do from home to train your ear to dance with the cante.

And speaking of cante, we worked with the following letra during the Flamenco Retreat at the Oregon Coast last weekend. (See some pictures below). We looked at where the cante resolved then put in remates with palmas and later baile to reflect that. Watch María Toledo sing it por tangos and Marina García sing it por bulerías below:

Tangos (& Bulerías)
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No me pegues bocaítos
Que tú me haces cardenales
Cuando yo voy a mi casa
A mí me los nota mi madre

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How To Learn From A Mistake

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How To Learn From A Mistake

Mistakes are an inevitable part of learning and provide us with opportunities to grow. An absence of mistakes means we are not trying. However, repeating the same mistake means we are choosing not to improve.

Today we’ll look at how to learn from a mistake.

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Fifty Life Lessons from Flamenco

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Fifty Life Lessons from Flamenco

During last weekend's Flamenco Retreat at the Oregon Coast (which I'm still on a high from by the way and which you can see pictures of below) we all agreed that flamenco teaches us about life and about ourselves

So, today I share with you fifty life lessons I've gleaned from flamenco.

Fifty Lessons:

(This list is full of links in case you'd like to dive deeper into some of the lessons.)

  1. Listen to your intuition, and trust your instincts.
  2. Express your true feelings
  3. Be present.
  4. Stand beautifully in your power.
  5. Prepare. (Really prepare.)
  6. Take risks.
  7. Focus.
  8. Act with intention.
  9. The answers are in the mirror, so look.
  10. Show up.

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How I Messed Up Dancing Bulerías, What I Learned & How it Can Help You | The Weekly Letra

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How I Messed Up Dancing Bulerías, What I Learned & How it Can Help You | The Weekly Letra

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.

Toward the end of the workshop someone asked Alfonso to address how to dance bulerías por fiesta, how to dance to the cante. (As you know, this is one of my favorite things.)

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:

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Where to Study Flamenco Dance Online

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Where to Study Flamenco Dance Online

Online flamenco learning opportunities seem to be popping up all over the place. 

I find this very exciting. 

As you know, there are all kinds of flamenco instructional articles around here, but I'm talking about online video teaching.

While I do not believe one can learn flamenco dance only by online studies from home (flamenco is after all a communal art form), these resources can be wonderful for:

  • Supplemental instruction
  • An introduction to flamenco
  • Practicing from home
  • Deepening one's understanding of particular aspects of flamenco
  • Those who have difficulty making it to physical classes (many of the students who join me for workshops and trips come from what they often call, flamenco deserts, and online sources can be especially great in these instances.)
  • Encouragement & inspiration

Here are a couple of my favorites . . .

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One Thing We Need to Understand About Letras | The Weekly Letra

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One Thing We Need to Understand About Letras | The Weekly Letra

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:

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Day 1: Become a Better Dancer From Home With the Dancing With David Mini-Challenge

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Day 1: Become a Better Dancer From Home With the Dancing With David Mini-Challenge

It's time to begin the Dancing With David Even Though We're Not With David Mini-Challenge, yahoo! Read on to discover today's strategy for improving your dancing from home . . .

Now I know you may not want to, but please, look in the mirror.

Por favor.

This is essential.

Especially when you're at home with no teacher there to correct you, other than the David (for the purposes of this mini-challenge) inside your head.

You must look in the mirror

Allow the mirror to become your imaginary teacher, and listen to his corrections.

Once you’re finished reading this, I want you to get up, go the the closest mirror, do a move, and notice,

How do you look?

If something doesn’t look right, consider your basic technique,

How are you holding your elbows?

Do you need to move your arms farther away from your body, or closer perhaps?

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3 Essential Elements for Learning to Dance Por Fiesta

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3 Essential Elements for Learning to Dance Por Fiesta

This week I learned about daylilies. And as it turns out the process I went through in learning about this flower led me to a mini-formula that is perfect for learning to dance por fiesta palos like bulerías. (I'll share that with you in a moment.)

But first, my lesson on daylilies

On Monday morning Stefani and I were on a walk when we happened upon bunches and bunches of bright golden daylilies. I’ve been noticing them everywhere this summer, including in my garden. I did not know what these flowers were called, and I’d never bothered to find out. I didn’t even bother to notice that their petals and shape look very much like ‘regular’ lilies. I guess because their colors, golden, yellow, red, orange, peach . . . are so distinct.

“I have those flowers in my garden,” I said to Stefani, “I cut some and put them in a vase, and the next day they were dead.”

“Well yeah, those are daylilies,” she responded. “They only live for a day.”

And this is how I came to learn why the ones in my vase at home had lasted, well, one day.

She proceeded to tell me more about the flower, information I won’t bother sharing with you because learning about flowers is not the point of this story.

(I’m getting to the point.)

Before I became aware of their name and the whole one day of life thing, I had already decided that I was not going to go around cutting more of these flowers and putting them in vases inside my house. Before Stefani told me about their life span, I had discovered on my own through trial and error that these flowers would be better enjoyed in the garden.

For the time being at least . . .

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Three Things to Remember When Dancing Bulerías

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Three Things to Remember When Dancing Bulerías

I have some more bulerías advice from Ani for you about feeling good today. But first,

Let's talk briefly about steps

Because you learn a lot of steps in in bulerías class.

You could say they are just steps.

To play with.

To practice.

To try out.

To hold on to. (Or to let go of.)

They can even be thought of as tools for understanding how the conversation works.

But going back to the liking them thing...

One day in Jerez

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How to Keep the Challenge Going in the New Year

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How to Keep the Challenge Going in the New Year

I enjoyed spending the last week of the year with you during the Dance as if You Were in Class With Mercedes Holiday Challenge. Today I share with you one small way you can keep the challenge going (along with a video of Mercedes Ruíz) ...

Great artists tell me

that they spend enormous amounts of time watching those they admire.

Studying their every move and learning by observation.

So, I invite you to enjoy some time observing one of your favorite artists this week.

And since we've been focusing on Mercedes:

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Day 7: Dance As If You Were in Class with Mercedes Holiday Challenge

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Day 7: Dance As If You Were in Class with Mercedes Holiday Challenge

As you know the challenge has involved some squeezing in this week, for me at least. But over the past seven days, I've come to see this squeezing more as taking advantage of moments of opportunity.

Por ejemplo:

"Hey, we have a few minutes before going to do (thing we need to go do) Margot, do you want to do an exercise with me?"

Or, "Is my pompi dentro?" I've found myself asking myself while washing a dish.

And you already know about teeth brushing.

Stuff like that ...

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