At its most basic level, flamenco is made up of 3 things: cante (singing), baile (dancing) and toque (guitar.) In the beginning of flamenco, there was really only cante.
As dancers, we rely on the whole package of this trinity to dance. But I’ve also discussed three other elements of flamenco- the Mind, Body & Soul of Flamenco. This is the idea that as dancers, we dance flamenco with our entirety. It’s not just a bunch of dance technique.
The Mind is all the intellectual learning of the art form, like understanding the vocabulary, the structure, the different palos (rhythms,) the compás (the beat).
The Body is all the actual physical technique like taconeo (footwork), braceo (upper arms), vueltas (turns), marcaje (marking steps), etc.
Finally, the Soul is all about the personal expression of the dancer, all the passion and release.
BUT to get there, I offer 3 keys on how to dance flamenco that we can all think about before we put on our dance shoes.
The compás is the heartbeat of flamenco. 💓 It’s the source of the movement and expression. You can dance absolutely ANYTHING whether it’s super complicated or super simple and end strongly in compás and both would be brilliant.
For new beginners, the 4 count palos (rhythms) like Tangos will be easier to understand. Then you’ll want to move onto the 12 count rhythms like Solea por Bulerías. It takes awhile (perhaps years!) to get that 12 count ingrained in the body. But once you have it, there is so much freedom in dancing!
Aire is the personal expression that comes from feeling. How do you want to feel as a dancer? I’m guessing you want to feel passionate and alive while dancing.
Step one would be to ask yourself how you want to feel while dancing and remember a time that you felt that way. Feel it in the moment now. Can you bring that same energy to your practice?
Second step is to understand the particular aire of the palo. Each palo has its own energy. Bulerías are fun and funky. Alegrías are light hearted and happy. Solea por Bulerías are sharp and aggressive. Solea is somber and intense. Guajiras is feminine and languid.
All those emotions! Understanding the particular aire or mood of the palo will help you dig in deep into your own personal expression as well.
Courage! We all need it. We love flamenco because we want to be like that dancer we see up on stage dancing with passion and abandon. But we all need the courage to ALLOW ourselves to step up and be seen. We need courage to allow ourselves to reach into our own personal recesses to find that emotion that we’re trying to release. We have to get out of our head, drop into our soul and then have the courage to fly.
SO HOW DO YOU DO ALL THIS IN CLASS OR ON STAGE?
Try this quick grounding and energizing exercise. It may seem silly and “woo woo” but I find that’s how I roll.
Standing, close your arms and imagine that your energy goes deep, deep into the Earth. You have roots that extend far and wide. Feel that grounding energy as you expand your roots, then draw that energy back up into your body. Feel it rush through your feet, your legs, your hips, your core, through your heart and all the way up to your head. Then feel the energy shoot out from the top of your head.
Open your eyes. If you’re the dance studio or back stage, then look steady into your eyes, take a deep breath in and make a connection with yourself before you begin dancing. And don’t forget to give yourself an “Olé!”
What do you think? Happy dancing!