|Improvising in the Thursday “Cuadro” class.|
Oh, sorry. I mean, “How to Dance Flamenco”
Well, actually, I mean
“How to Improvise Your Own Dance”
AKA “WTF You’re Supposed to Do in a Solo”
This entry comes about from my latest experiment in the Thursday Cuadro class that I teach. “Cuadro” means the flamenco group on stage and implies lots of improvising. In the class I really focus on being able to listen, intuit and express for dancing. Lately, I’ve been having each dancer improvise an ENTIRE dance of Solea por Buleria.
What?! They always cry. But it’s such an amazing exercise. I’m not looking for any killer moves but you do have to have a few basic moves secure in your body and an understanding of what’s what in a dance.
Many dancers learn flamenco through technique and choreography. The rest of my group classes are like that, and I teach all those in my Online Flamenco Studio.
But you’ve taken flamenco for many years and you have a few choreographies and you want to move into tablao (flamenco restaurant gigs) work.
You know what?
You’re going to mess up!
The singer doesn’t sing the letra the way you expect or when you want. You build up the tempo too fast so now you can’t do your escobilla properly. You don’t recognize when the guitarist plays a falseta and he gives you dirty looks because you’re clobbering it. You notice a good looking person in the audience and get distracted and forget your choreography.
What are you going to do?
Flamenco is frequently compared to a good jazz group. All the components working together and working off of each other to create a seamless piece that looks effortless. As a flamenco dancer, you need to be able to know when to lead and when to follow, and in the end know WTF is supposed to happen in a dance.
So, in a nutshell, here is a break down of what generally happens in a solo.
- Guitarist plays an opening falseta (melodic playing).
- Singer sings an entrada (entrance with all the ay, ay, ays).
- Dancer walks out and begins a llamada (the dance break that calls the singer). It could be one to four compases (measures), normally. Dancer MUST end the llamada with intention, clearly showing the singer that it’s time to SING!
- Dancer dances letra (verse), listening and responding to the singer.
- After the letra, the guitarist may (or may not) play a falseta (beautiful guitar interlude), so the dancer must really listen and dance to the pretty music without disrupting it with a bunch of footwork.
- Then the dancer can either do another llamada for a second letra or go straight into an escobilla (footwork section).
- The dancer should build up the tempo in the escobilla to finish with another clear llamada for the bulería (The end letra. It can also be tangos or the macho.)
- Now the dancer dances the bulería and can finish off with doing a desplante (another call) to the corner of the stage. This tells the singer to sing an estribillo (the verse to sing you off the stage).
- The dancer finishes the dance by either dancing off with the estribillo and finishing with a little break or doing another subida (footwork build up) in the middle of the stage after the estribillo and ending with a break.
So, there you have it. Your complete framework for a solo.
- Salida / Estribillo
Of course, there are many variations with more letras, falsetas and escobillas. But those are the basics!
However, once you know that framework, all you’d have to tell the musicians for a solo in tablao is how many letras you were doing and if you wanted a falseta somewhere. That’s it!!!
I know all this can be overwhelming if you’re new to flamenco or even a seasoned dancer. Just remember that all dances in flamenco generally follow a particular flow (letras-escobillas-macho.) Then, as a dancer, it would be up to you to signal any of the changes with strong movment– because the musicians are there watching you!
I find your blog posts inspiring and useful and encouraging and entertaining for my budding flamenco practice (took my first class in Granada in 2014). I am looking forward to a time when I can sign up to the online studio and follow along. Unfortunately my life circumstances right now are too unstable to commit to this practice. But reading the material you post while I recover from surgery makes me feel that flamenco rush. Thanks 🙂 and ole!
Thanks for writing Noha! I hope you recover quickly and keep watching flamenco videos!! 🙂 Rina
Quick question about the opening part… I just got back from Spain and was at the festival de Jerez (luckily it was scheduled when it was… one week later and it would have been cancelled). I took a couple of bulerias classes and Angelita Gomez in particular was very insistent that we not enter until after the singer had started singing the letra. I know there are different forms of buleria and etc., but just wondering what your thoughts are on this particular issue.
Also, any possibility of your doing an online cuadro class? I realize that might be tricky…
Hi Jessica. Yes, in Bulerias (for fin de fiesta or juerga) you would normally come in while the singer is singing. But that really depends where you are and what the situation is. In California, many singers will wait for a dancer to come out and “call.” But it is best if you could come out while the singer is singing. A cuadro class online would be great. A little tricky though!
Thanks, Rina, that clarifies!