Debby, one of the students on the last fall’s Flamenco Tour to Jerez sent me this summary of her experience a few days upon returning home with this note. “Thank you again for a 100% approval trip. Here is how I truly felt.” If you’re curious about what happens on the Flamenco Tour, read on:
The following flamenco dance tips were born out of a longing to be back in class with Mercedes Ruíz. Because I love it there. I love how we learn, the focus on technique, the repetition, watching Mercedes move.
So here are eleven tips I’ve learned studying with her over the years. Each tip includes a brief exercise to help you apply it.
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.
After a full week in Jerez flamenco no longer simply surrounds us; it lives inside of us. Sounds from our dances play on repeat in our heads. We unintentionally walk up the steps in compás, the rhythms from class guiding us. We find ourselves dancing bulerías in our sleep. There’s no escaping it,
We are definitely in the midst of a flamenco immersion…
That’s what life was feeling like a week into the Flamenco Tour to Jerez. I’m now back home in Portland, and Jerez feels worlds away. Here’s a summary of the second week of our trip.
Flamenco is everywhere here in Jerez, in our classes, at the peñas and bars, and, then of course there's the spontaneous and casual flamenco that is a part of every day life here in Jerez. We see it as we walk past the bars and even as people greet each other on the street with palmas and a song. Olé. We can't get away from flamenco. We hear it as we walk to our rooms; we dance it in our sleep. (I've been doing steps and hearing sounds in my dreams which I know is a good thing.) Flamenco, flamenco, and more flamenco.
We are one week in to the Fall Flamenco Tour to Jerez, and I can hardly believe it. So much has happened and there is still so much more in store! People often ask me what happens during the Flamenco Tour, so below you can read about the first week of the fall tour, see photos, and even watch a video from one of the peña shows . . .
It's Day 2 of the 10-Day Dance Like You're In Class With Mercedes Ruíz Home Challenge! How did the breathing activity go for you yesterday? Angela had an interesting realization about her breath; check out her comment here.
Below you’ll find my reflections along with a new home activity...
I applied yesterday’s challenge activity to a remate and marcaje por bulerías since I’ve been wanting to improve my bulerías.
I noticed that thinking about the breath before I started set me up to breathe more fluidly while I was dancing. While it was easier to focus on breathing during the marcaje than it was during the remate (probably because of the complicated rhythms, footwork, and body slapping) I could execute the remate with more ease when I was aware of my breathing. What about you? What did you notice?
Now for today’s challenge,
Welcome to the 10-Day Dance Like You’re in Class with Mercedes Ruíz Home Challenge. I’m looking forward to the next ten days of virtual dance class with you!
Before we get into today's activity (an exercise to help you breathe better and in turn dance better), did you get a chance to think about your why? Why do you dance flamenco? How does it make you feel? Do you have performance goals or do you just like dancing in class and on your own? Do you dance professionally or for a hobby? You can share your why here.
(If you want to review how this 10-day challenge is set up, you can do that here.)
Okay, on to today's challenge.
Today I'm going to share with you one mom's strategy for improving her dancing from home. It's something you can employ as well. (And trust me, if this busy mom can do it, so can you.) I lay out a simple 4-step process for you at the end of this post, but first, I want to introduce you to Katerina ...
I have a new student.
Her name is Katerina. Katerina had been wanting to learn flamenco for a long time. A few weeks ago she decided it was finally time and signed up for private lessons.
During Katerina's second class I was impressed with how much she'd improved from her first session. The moves she'd been so unsure about before she now danced in sequence with no help from me.
That's when she told me about her routine...
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 . . .
It's September, so let's do a little first day of school, getting-to-know-eachother activity. I'm actually not kidding about that. People have been inquiring about my 'flamenco journey' so below I tell you how it began for me. (Later, why not tell me how you became interested in flamenco?)
My Introduction to Flamenco
I was a junior in college. I was struggling through Spanish class.
The professor spoke only in español which basically left me feeling like a Charlie Brown character being mwoah mwoah mwoahed at for hours upon end.
Every day we would watch this educational novela, answer questions related to the day's episode, and then "discuss" it. I rarely knew what was going on.
As you may have gathered, I did not particularly enjoy the class. While I constantly felt confused, behind, and overwhelmed, I am full of gratitude for the experience,
You see, had it not been for this class, I'm not sure I would be dancing flamenco today.
Here's what happened
"I want to be in class with Mercedes ALL of the time." That is what I wrote in my journal on April 13, 2011.
But let's go back in time.
I arrived in Jerez on Friday, March 25 and began investigating classes to take.
Though secretly, I did not want to go to any.
A week in Jerez by myself.
~ ¿Por qué? Muchas razónes... body mind challenge, growth, because I can, because I have to for sanity and so much more ~
To connect To challenge To remember To create To shift To celebrate"
asks me again and again to look inward. Through messing up, experimenting, and figuring out THAT step or THAT turn, I learn new things about myself. It's visceral. AND it's fun!"
what my body is capable of"
Today, find out how Ricardo López approaches a flamenco workshop.
As you know, Ricardo is coming, so I thought you might like to get his take on the student's role in a workshop. And, yes, he himself still enjoys taking workshops. And why wouldn't he?
They are incredibly fun
They provide a chance to study with someone new
And a format for learning new things
No matter your level.
I know that workshops can seem overwhelming at times...
and hard, difícil!
He knows this too.
I was a junior in college. I was studying Spanish. Class was a struggle for me to say the least. The professor spoke only in Spanish, and I usually felt like a Charlie Brown adult was mwoah mwoah mwoahing at me all of the time. I can't even remember her name, the teacher's. I just remember she was eccentric, as they say, and that we went to her house once and she made us all mole. She was not Mexican but totally and completely obsessed. The mole was good enough. Anyway every day we would watch this "educational" novela and then answer questions about and "discuss" it. I rarely knew what was going on in class or with Raquel and El Padre Hidalgo on the TV set. Just one word sticks out in my mind, excavación. The whole novela had to do with some big excavation. So, why am I telling you all of this? Because a really good thing happened on account of that class with Señora Something-or-Other...
I became interested in flamenco.
"I want to be in class with Mercedes ALL of the time." That is what I wrote in my journal on April 13. But let's go back in time.
I came back to Jerez on Friday, March 25 and began investigating classes to take.
But I secretly didn't want to go to any.
A week in Jerez by myself. Poor planning by Laura. When will I learn that it simply is not fun for me to do these things alone? A week spent looking for studios, making calls, trying to understand when and where the different classes took place, feeling relief as I kept arriving at the wrong times and missing them. There is a semi-funny reason for this, but you'll have to wait to hear about it in a future post...I would like to say that this was on account of Spanish unpredictability, but it wasn't.