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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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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.

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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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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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When Writing Gets in the Way

Writing saved me in Jerez, ... And then it got in the way.

Today I want to talk about how writing can become, well, detrimental in class.

Yes, detrimental

I'll begin with another excerpt from my notebook:

April 19, 2011

Mercedes scolded me once again in class this morning, calling me back out onto the dance floor. Clearly I was to be dancing, not writing.

Yes, once again, Laura and her book has come up.  It comes up a lot.  No one else writes anything down in Jerez.

They don't get me, I know, but I totally don't get them either!

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How Writing Saved Me in Jerez

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How Writing Saved Me in Jerez

I can't imagine learning flamenco without pens and paper. I really can't.

On paper I take notes.  On paper I figure things out.  On paper I put the thoughts that circle inside my head.  And there's just something I like so much about the feel of the pen moving atop the paper.

I often write in little books

They helped me a lot in the beginning, in Sevilla.

They help me today.

And they helped me a lot in Jerez.

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How to Play Castanets for Sevillanas | La Tercera

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How to Play Castanets for Sevillanas | La Tercera

You've probably read the basics about sevillanas.

And you've probably seen my detailed explanation of the steps to the sevillanas I learned in Jerez, from Harumi who learned them from Ani.

But now,

What about sevillanas with castanets?

The toque for the first sevillanas is here, along with the reason why I write them out in two different ways.

And you can find the toque for the second one here.

Today I post the third one ...

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Tying the Knot (& How to Play Castanets for the Second Sevillanas)

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Tying the Knot (& How to Play Castanets for the Second Sevillanas)

I am often asked how to tie the knot on a pair of the castanets strings.  Because it's not just an average every day knot.  You can find out how at the end of this post.

Now raise your hand

Raise your hand if you tried to play the toque for the first sevillana, the one I posted last week

And, as promised, below is how we play castanets for the second copla.

It's written in two different ways.  The reason for that is here.

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How to Play Sevillanas with Castanets | La Primera

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How to Play Sevillanas with Castanets | La Primera

Dancing with castanets.  It's something we do on Saturdays.

Four fingers moving on one hand

One finger moving on the other

Feet forming steps

Arms trying to follow 

                                                                                      (at least we've taken out the hand movements)

This is what we do.

All the while trying to look good and stay in compás.

So far in class we've danced the first and most of the second sevillanas con castañuelas, and Pam asked if I would post the toques.

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How to turn the Wrong Class into the Right Class

Ok, so here's the part two to yesterday's post that I promised you.  Where I tell you how to turn any class into an ideal class for you. Because 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.

Basically there are two main concepts we need to understand, one to make class harder and another to make it easier.  But before we get to those, some specific ideas on how to make the most out of whatever class you find yourself in.

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Little books

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Little books

I can't imagine learning flamenco without pens and paper.

I really can't.

On paper I take notes. On paper I figure things out. On paper I put the thoughts from inside my head. And there's just something I like so much about the feel of the pen moving atop the paper...

I often write in little books.

They helped me a lot in the beginning, in Sevilla. They help me today. And they helped me a lot in Jerez.

An excerpt from Spain last year to help explain...

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