We love flamenco. We take classes. We go to shows. We go down that YouTube rabbit hole of wonderful videos. We want to dance like *that* dancer in the video– Concha Jareño, Olga Perfect, Karime Amaya, La Farruca, Claudia Cruz. All very different dancers with their own particular style.
And what’s the #1 way to get closer to your favorite dancer’s style (besides cloning yourself or moving to Spain)? You must PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, just like any musician, ballerina or athlete. You must practice with your MIND, BODY & SOUL for flamenco.
The MIND part of flamenco is all the intellectual learning like understanding the structure of a dance, recognizing the different palos (rhythms) and hearing the compás (staying in rhythm or time).
The BODY OF FLAMENCO is where we use the body. The technique, upper body, footwork, turns, strength, coordination, stamina. You get the idea. Simple enough, right? LOL!
The last element is the SOUL OF FLAMENCO.
This is, I think, the most crucial element of dancing flamenco. It’s the difference between watching a highly trained yet spiritless dancer vs. a dancer with less finesse but is absolutely captivating.
The word for that dancer is that she has aire or duende, which means the quality of passion, inspiration and most of all CONFIDENCE. It also takes showing up and allowing ourselves to be seen, being brave and vulnerable at the same time.
I know this sounds like a lot or over complicated. But it’s not! The trick is to focus ON ONE THING. It’s too much to think, “I’ll practice today and I will be perfect in my Solea.” That’s just not going to happen, so we get discouraged and figure why bother even trying!!
But one thing I learned from this great book, Atomic Habits by James Clear, is that small, consistent steps lead to incremental then huge changes. So even if you commit to practicing 10 minutes everyday, that would lead to over one hour of practice every week. Can you imagine how much you’d improve in your turns in two weeks if you practiced them every day for 10 minutes?!?!
I know we all have the best of intentions of practicing flamenco after work or before the kids get up. But then the snooze button takes over or the couch calls us.
I know! My life is busy with kids, husband, activities, etc. as well.
Here is a quick list of ways to MAKE SURE YOU COMMIT TO YOUR FLAMENCO PRACTICE.
1- I’ve learned that if I SCHEDULE IT IN MY CALENDAR, the chances of me practicing are much, much higher. SCHEDULE your practice time for only 10 minutes in your phone and have an AUTOMATIC REMINDER that pops up. Start with 3 times per week. What’s great is that many times that 10 minutes turns into 20 or 30 minutes.
2- Get ACCOUNTABILITY by either having a flamenco buddy to practice with or to check in with. That’s easy if you take live classes. You can also join my Online Flamenco Studio— lot’s of accountability waiting for you in the private Facebook group!
3- Get a clear GOAL. Having something to work towards is very motivating, especially if it’s a show. Deadlines work wonders! If you don’t have a show, then focus on ONE THING. Is it perfecting an escobilla? Then only focus on practicing it super slowly with great soniquete. Are you working on a choreography? Then focus on marking through the letra with special attention on the accents.
You can focus on the MIND of flamenco by watching flamenco videos and trying to identify all the components of the dance.
You can focus on the BODY of flamenco by systematically practicing one piece of footwork each time, making it cleaner, stronger and faster.
Or you can focus on the SOUL of flamenco by stepping out of your comfort zone and improvising to a piece of music, focusing on the feeling of the piece.
4- BOOK STUDIO TIME at your local dance studio. The additional cost of a studio will keep you very motivated to show up and use your time wisely.
5- Use an APP that tracks habits such as Streaks, Flora or Habitify. They have fun little gamification features that remind you to practice. Plus it’s fun to see your progress.
6- Have a set RITUAL to get you started. Of course, getting your shoes on and pulling out your practice floor is part of the habit. But for me, having the ritual of the same full body warm up completely changes my outlook, gives me motivation and signals to my body that it’s “flamenco time” no matter how tired or distracted I am. I emphasize that this ritual be some sort of body movement as well.
In the end, you have to be real with yourself. Why do you love flamenco? Do you want to get better? Can you spare 10 minutes? Are you in it for the long haul? Because flamenco is all about the journey and you can’t take the journey if you’re just sitting on the couch instead of dancing. 😉