At the end of show party for the last student showcase, one of my dancers asked me, “How the heck do you keep choreographing something new for each session?”
It’s true, I don’t ever teach the same choreography twice. I may teach an Alegrias one year, but teach a completely new one the following.
I had to think about the answer though. The quick reaction was, “Well, you all wouldn’t come back if I taught the same thing over and over again!” I guess that’s a ‘why” but not a “how” response.
The real secret is that flamenco dances have a structure that always needs to be followed:
llamada (call for singer)
letra (singing verse)
escobilla (footwork section)
buleria/tangos/macho (fast ending section of dance)
salida or estribillo (exit)
There are variables to that- an extra letra, more than one escobilla, falseta, tapao section,etc. But with a structure that’s solid, it’s easy to change all the variables within it. And I just start one compás at a time.
For example, if I’m setting a Solea por Bulerias for class, I may have an idea what I want for a llamada, but I actually just start with the first compás and see what comes next. The complexity of the llamada (or the whole choreography for that matter) depends on the level of the class. There’s usually an overall goal for each choreography as well. If it’s for beginners, then I want the moves to be simple and strong. If it’s for advanced, then I can throw in counter time and syncopation.
Then on to the letra. You have to understand the structure of the letra for each palo that you’re working with. There’s time to do subtle marking and time to accent. Again, I just go one compás at a time for the letra. I use a “solo compas” recording in class so I can be inspired by the style of the singer and guitarist.
If I try to think of the whole letra or worse, the whole choreography, I get too overwhelmed and stuck. To get out of that I may look at some videos on YouTube for ideas. I don’t copy what I see, but it allows for the creative juices to get flowing and provides inspiration. I may find one arm movement from one video that I want to use and then I may find a particular “soniquete” for part of an escobilla that I can build from.
In the end it comes down to knowing the structure of the choreography and the particular letra, working one compas at a time with maybe the solo compas recording and then finding inspiration on the internet if I get stuck.
How do you create your own choreographies? Leave a comment below and let me know!