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.
Did you set a flamenco (or any type of) resolution last January?
How’s that going?
If the goals you set feel like distant memories, read on. Today I will tell you how you can get back on track and explain why you don’t want to beat yourself up for having let things slide.
I love asking flamenco artists I admire what advice they have to offer to the flamenco student. Here are thirteen suggestions from some of the best:
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?
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.
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 ...
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.
Last weekend we studied flamenco dance with Emilio Ochando. In class we were reminded that learning steps is one thing while learning how to execute them and use our bodies well is another thing. Below find eight lessons I took away from the workshops with Emilio:
Create accents with the body, the hands, the feet. This gives your dance dynamics and personality.
Raise your hand if you want your flamenco new year's resolution to be about more than just January. Raise your hand if you want to make it stick. My hand is raised, and I'm guessing yours is too. So today I'll give you one more tool to help you follow through with your resolution. (If you've not made one yet, no problem. The energy of the new year is still upon us.)
As I've been taking action on my flamenco resolution in this new year, I've noticed something (in addition to my plan) that is really helping me to stick with it and that's an awareness of why I want it. I'll tell you more about my resolution later, but first, let's go deeper into this why stuff.
When setting your resolution, or when reflecting upon it, it's important to consider your why.
Happy New Year!
Did you know that people are more likely to follow through with a commitment to change set at the onset of the new year than at other times of the year?
In light of that, let’s talk flamenco new year’s resolutions. Below I’ll guide you through a three step process to putting a flamenco new year’s resolution into place for 2017.
But first, let’s reflect briefly on 2016.
- How has your flamenco improved during the last year? Write down or make a mental note of all of the ways you progressed over past year.
- How did you make that happen? Review your list, and consider what accounted for each improvement. What actions did you take to get better? (Remember those; you might use them in step two below.)
Now it’s time to look toward the new year and start thinking about flamenco new year’s resolutions.
Every time I return home from the Flamenco Tour to Jerez I feel stronger. (It’s impossible not to after all of that time in class with Mercedes Ruíz.) I've learned how to turn the physical strength gained through dancing flamenco into mental strength to help me face challenges in my life. At the end of this post, I'll lead you through an activity to help you do the same.
Let’s begin with an excerpt from my journal a few years ago upon returning home from The Flamenco Tour:
I am home, and I feel it,
I feel it in my body, and I feel it in my being. (I always forget how this happens.)
The thing I wasn’t strong enough to do before I left. I can now do it. The thing I tried so many times to do before but couldn’t. The thing I kept trying to do but told myself I wasn’t strong enough to do.
If you like exploring how letras can vary, if you're looking to practice bulerías to cante at a comfortable speed, or if you just want to get better at bulerías, then consider today's post a treat. You'll find a video with examples of one letra interpreted in two different ways along with a short activity to help you train your ear and get better at improvising.
First, the letra:
El sitio donde te hablé
ganas me dan de volverme
y sentarme un ratito en él
After today's letra you'll find that video I promised you of Mercedes Ruíz dancing at this year's Fiesta de la Bulería (and really getting into it) followed by an explanation of what's happening at the end between the dancer (Mercedes) and the singer (David Carpio) along with an important concept to understand that can help you when dancing bulerías por fiesta by yourself. (I've also included a short activity for you to do at the end.)
No sé por qué será
me duelen más que las mías
las penas de los demás
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,
There's going to class. And then there's going to class and getting the most out of it. Today I'm going to talk about the latter, about how to get the most out of your flamenco class (or workshop) experience.
Ricardo López is constantly giving us tips when he comes in town for workshops. Perhaps just as helpful are little phrases I hear him say over and over again in class. He doesn't really intend them as tips. They are reactions, spoken in the moment. But, oh, these little comments have a lot to tell us.
So, here you go, four comments from Ricardo and four pieces of advice gleaned from them:
I’m very excited for today’s activity not just because of how it will serve you as a flamenco dancer but for how it can benefit your life and health far beyond the studio.
But before we get to that, let's reflect.
I don’t know about you, but during the past several days I’ve had greater awareness of all of the skills we’ve covered thus far in the Dance Like You’re In Class With Mercedes Home Challenge in all of my dancing (both within and outside of the activities). In class I hear Mercedes in my head giving me little reminders . . .
'Brazos redondos,' I heard her saying during my kids’ class yesterday. 'Mantener el mismo plié,' she called during Sevillanas class last weekend. In practice it’s the same, 'Todos los deditos, Laura,' I heard her saying today.
I can’t seem to get away from the challenge, nor do I want to because receiving these little reminders without my trying is one of my desired outcomes of this experience. Woo-hoo!
So, let’s get on with 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 want to share a bulerías dancing tip with you along with a letra.
Let's start with the tip
When I'm in Jerez on the Flamenco Tours, Ani offers all kinds of quick and dirty tips.
Calidad antes que cantidad.
Quality before quantity
Sometimes it's so enticing. We're exposed to a bunch of cool steps. We can't stand to leave any of them out, so we try to squeeze them all into one pataita.
And things get sloppy.