We all know that flamenco is an emotional dance form and that we, the flamenco-addicted, do it because we MUST. But we also know that flamenco is very physically demanding.
My students ask me all the time how they can get better. We joke around that all flamenco singers need to do become better singers is to drink whiskey and smoke cigarettes for that raspy voice.
Would this apply for dancers as well? Um. no. And not even for singers. (Sorry for misleading you with the cigarette-smoking dancer in the image. LOL.)
My advice? Practice. Listen to flamenco music. Work out. All this lets the flamenco beast out.
How to practice, you ask? If you can go to the studio and pound on the floor whatever you learned in class IN COMPAS with a solo compás recording, that’s the ideal. If not, get a piece of plywood from the home improvement stores, put a clear coat on it and you’re ready at any time to practice IN COMPAS at home. Can’t use a piece of board? Then, dance barefoot in your kitchen IN COMPAS! No excuse to not dance!! (Need help developing an at home flamenco practice? Then come dance with me at my Online Flamenco Studio.)
Besides just being glorious and inspiring, listening to flamenco fine tunes your ears. Try to identify the palo (flamenco rhythm) that you’re listening to. Try playing palmas (hand clapping) along with it. Try to figure out if you can dance to the “cante” or is the song just for listening.
So, practicing and listening to flamenco make sense. They apply directly to your flamenco education. But working out?
Yes! You can’t always go to the dance studio and you may not be able to disturb your neighbors with footwork on your makeshift practice floor. You need to work your body to become stronger and more mobile for flamenco. But you also have to get your head in the right space to build your inner fire. That just means building confidence, allowing yourself to show your inner vulnerability with confidence and strength.
So, here are my top 5 exercises to improve your flamenco dancing.
1. SPRINTS or HIIT
If you’re a jogger, just throw in a couple of sprints for 20-30 seconds, then continue jogging. If you’re not a jogger, you want to do some sort of high intensity training that gets your heart rate up high rather quickly for short bursts. This could include walking hills quickly, kettle bell swings, good old-fashioned jumping jacks, or even lifting heavy weights. Do a search for HIIT workouts for beginners on YouTube and you’ll find one that’s just right for you. I also like the 12 Minute Athlete app.
I’m telling you, do this high intensity stuff and you’ll be better at powering through your escobilla.
Any kind of yoga will help you because you gain strength and mobility. However, the best part is you learn to be IN THE MOMENT with yoga and to breathe through the difficult poses. This will help your concentration in class and keep you breathing through those physically (and emotionally) intense moments of dancing. Check out Yoga with Adriene for lovely practices for all levels and different lengths of time.
3. CORE WORK
Having a strong core (abs and back) is essential to dancing flamenco. If you regularly practice yoga or pilates, you’re already working on having a strong core. Other exercises you can do are planks and side plank, as well as banana and superman.
Another exercise is to stand on a step with your heels off and just balance. You have to use your WHOLE body to keep stable. Remember that feeling when you’re dancing something like Solea where you have to just stand there but be dancing at the same time.
OK, so the first three make sense about getting stronger as a dancer. Right? Now, the next two are going to take you to the next level by giving you more confidence at a dancer.
You can have as much technique under your belt as possible, but it won’t mean ANYTHING unless you have aire. Literally, aire is air. But in flamenco, when someone says a dancer has tons of aire, it means that she has that special flamenco attitude, full of bravado.
The aire comes from having confidence, being in your body and believing that you have something to share and allowing yourself to be seen! So, do these next two!!
What? Yes, sing loud! Something about singing loudly helps you release and let loose. Why do you love flamenco so much? It’s the passion, right? Are you too inhibited to let loose? Sing! Or even just exhale really loudly so you can FEEL THE VIBRATION. If you’re a yogi, then do the lion’s breath– hilarious to look at, but, really, it’s freeing! Even better, learn to sing one flamenco letra (verse) of your favorite palo (rhythm).
How do you learn to sing flamenco? Start with finding your favorite piece of Tangos music that has the lyrics written out. Listen, hum, sing along with the lyrics in front of you. Practice. Practice.
5. LOOK AT YOURSELF IN THE MIRROR
I constantly tell my students to look at themselves in the mirror in class- not the floor, not the ceiling. I know we want to look at our bodies to make sure we’re doing the move correctly. But if you look at your own face, especially while playing palmas during an entrada or doing a marking that doesn’t move across the floor, you gain more confidence in looking at yourself.
It allows you to reach for that fire inside so you can show it off to the world. When you look into your own eyes, you connect with yourself, become grounded and ready to pounce. THIS is how you build your own personal aire! Toma que toma!
I know, touchy-feely. But it’s true! If you can learn to confidently look at yourself in the eye in the mirror, then you can present that confidence to the world and be one kick ass flamenco dancer.
I hope you find these tips helpful for you! They work for me! Gracias. xoxox Rina