I recently held a student show last month at Tapas Restaurant in Newport Beach, CA. It was great because it was a lower stress event for me since I didn’t have to worry about all the “theater” logistics.
But there were a few surprises, like going to the restaurant early to rehearse that afternoon and not having access to the restrooms. Ouch! But that’s another story.
This was a very special show because I had the regular group numbers, Sevillanas, beginner Tangos and a cute Guajira with fan. But what was so impressive was my soloists. There were four of them and 3 out of four of them choreographed their solos themselves. Super powerful.
The one that didn’t choreograph her solo, though, sky rocketed in her ability to let go on stage. OLE Gina con esas Alegrias tan bonitas!!!
Susan pieced her Tientos from previous ones we had done in the past. Marissa rehashed her original Solea por Bulerias with a few updates on her own. Then Astra created her own Tangos de Malaga from inspiration from various sources, including a letra of mine. Ole, ole y ole!!
Each soloist gave every ounce of her being and that’s the only true thing I can ask of them. Bring yourself. Be authentic. Let. It. Rip.
But I would say that the most important thing that the soloists learned from their experience was working with the musicians. Each one has done a solo before, but I had held their hands for it, helping them communicate with the musicians. This time, since most choreographed their own solos, it was up to them to communicate with the musicians. That night we had great L.A. artists Tony Triana and Reyes Barrios. They’re super professional, helpful and flamencos puros oozing with arte.
Each of my dancers learned one or more of these things through the experience. Unless you’re doing tons of rehearsals with the musicians for an ongoing show, you need to be smart about your solo and get over yourself. By that I mean the musicians don’t care about your solo. Well, they do, but it’s crazy for any dancer to think that the musicians will remember all the details of your solo, especially if they have to remember tons of stuff for a student show or if it’s a one time show. So, as a dancer, it’s your responsibility to know your solo, and convey it in the most obvious and simple way.
That means, you don’t tell the musicians, “When I look over here, you need to sing,” or “I want you to start the Buleria on 9.” No, they’re going to forget or worse, they’ll rebel and not support you. This didn’t happen at my show, but my dancers had to really have strong llamadas that clearly showed a transition. The only thing the musicians really need to know is how many letras you want and if you want a falseta here or there.
But again it’s up to the dancer to clearly convey with her body what she wants to happen- letra, falseta, estribillo. Also, short, simple and strong trumps long, complicated and sloppy.
So, if you’re wanting to do your first solo, I hope your teacher can help you with being able to identify the components of your solo. Each section has a name and a reason. If you have more experience and you’re ready to move into tablao, get ready to have your ego put in check. Tough, I know, I was at the same place in the beginning as well!
But trust me, after a few tries, you get in the groove of how to clearly show what you want. Then it’s exhilarating to be able to tune into the musicians and be able to read each other’s cues with a strum, a turn of the head or a breath. OLE!
I’m super proud of my dancers for reaching the next level in their flamenco journey. I better get on it with looking for a regular gig for them to do!!!
Do you NEED more flamenco? I have an Online Flamenco Studio with dozens of instructional videos of technique and choreography for all levels. I also talk about each component of a complete choreography.
Thanks for reading. Please share this with someone you think may like it.