We are drawn to flamenco because it INSPIRES us, makes us feel ALIVE. But then when we start learning and practicing, it can become a little OVERWHELMING.
For me, my biggest struggle in my first years of learning was being able to listen to the cante (singing) and being able to adjust my dancing with it- besides keeping up with the footwork and compás 😉 Now it’s about making the time to practice outside of the dance classes that I teach. (And it’s not about “finding” time, but “making” time- but that’s another post.)
From my 25+ years of learning, performing and teaching flamenco, though, I’ve concluded that there are three major groups of challenges for dancers in flamenco- and these go for ANY level of expertise.
They’re all focused around the MIND, BODY & SOUL OF 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.
But where to start if you never have? -or- How to progress if you’ve stalled in your learning journey?
No matter if you’re a new beginner or an advanced dancer, we start with the HEARTBEAT of flamenco, the compás, the rhythm.
Then we move on to how do we want to FEEL while dancing, and that has to do with getting in touch with the aire or the attitude of the particular palo (rhythm) we’re dancing.
And finally, and most importantly, we tap into our own personal COURAGE so we can allow ourselves to STAND UP AND BE SEEN!
So, we start with those three elements AND we learn how to DANCE, DANCE, DANCE with your entire MIND, BODY & SOUL, because we know that flamenco isn’t just learning a bunch of steps!
Overwhelmed? No worries. There IS a secret to putting it all together. It’s all about your flamenco MINDSET.
The mindset is key to going through this flamenco journey without getting frustrated. Many of us wish we had started flamenco earlier in life or could channel the energy of Carmen Amaya on command. But we can at least be grateful that we found it, right?
More importantly, though, it’s essential to think of learning flamenco as a journey, to enjoy the process rather than focus on the end result. We don’t take a 6-week course and “know flamenco.” You could learn “one choreography” in 6 weeks, but there are layers upon layers of knowledge and understanding, if you choose to go down that path.
Appreciate where you are. If you’re a new beginner, enjoy the process of learning this whole new language. If you’re advanced, enjoy the process of digging deeper into your understanding. MOST OF ALL, BE PRESENT AND OPEN.
Thank you for your post on The mind, body and soul of flamenco. It was very inspiring and comforting. You bring up many points I identify with. Reading about the mind set and the fact that learning flamenco is a journey really resonated with me and made me realize I need to make some serious adjustments. One of them is letting myself go and enjoy the learning process rather than compare my arm work with a better dancer and wishing I’d started sooner. Another drawback is that I’m a perfectionist and will do technique till the cows come home before doing any form of improvisation. Last year our teacher was determined to teach us (group of 4 dancers) bulerias and to improvise in a circle. Well, we all resisted. No matter how hard she tried to, as she put it ”undress us”, I would go in the circle and showcase some of the steps I had learned but it was very mechanical and artificial.
Anyways, as I was reading your article I found myself taking notes such as learning flamenco is a journey. I love that because it does allow us to learn about ourselves. So I’ve decided to start a journal and a lot of the ideas you express in your articles will go in there along with links, books, etc., all about flamenco of course.
On another note, I’ve signed up for your online classes sometime ago but haven’t followed any of them yet. That’s on my agenda for this month and looking forward to it.
Thank you and best regards,
Wow Anna! Thank you for sharing your experience. That sounds incredible. I’m so glad I could help. And yes, you NEED to watch the classes! LOL!!! 🙂 Rina
Great article!! Thank you for sharing!! It gives me a better understanding of the journey.