So, you want to dance with passion, confidence and abandon. You also want to dance spontaneously, improvise flamenco. Yes, we all do. But let’s start first with what you actually want to improvise?
A patada of Bulerías por fiesta?
A letra of Alegrías?
An entire escobilla?
Or how about dance to any piece of flamenco music that comes your way?
Sounds daunting, even impossible. But would you believe me if I told you that it’s easier than you think? Well, it is. Sort of.
The ONE THING you need to be able to improvise ANY flamenco, and I mean ANY flamenco is a super strong sense of compás.
Compás comes before knowing moves, before being able to interpret a letra, before understanding the structure of a dance. The compás is everything. With compás you have the ultimate foundation of flamenco.
If you’ve taken any amount of flamenco classes, you know I’m speaking the truth, and you might even be more frustrated. I hear over and over again that it’s one of the most difficult things that a dancer faces. And it’s because many dancers rush over truly understanding the compás because they want to DANCE. But you can’t even begin to dance flamenco without understanding the compás, the rhythm.
It’s not as exciting as dancing. I know. But it has to happen. How? By practicing, of course. But you need to practice your palmas first! Follow these steps to strengthen your compás- and these steps can apply to ANY level. Each progression gets more and more challenging. Be sure to stick with one level until you’re confident to move on to the next. Depending on your experience, it might take months to get to the final level.
- Play straight palmas to solo compás, the metronome or drum machine with strong accents on the 12-3-6-8-10
- Play the syncopated palmas with the same solo compás.
- Play palmas to a solo compás recording with guitars.
- Once you can confidently play palmas to the previous tracks, then you’re ready to play palmas to an “easy” and slow regular flamenco song.
- Now you can progress to more difficult pieces of music. Try playing palmas to your favorite flamenco music. Try recordings of dancers dancing as well since there are many changes in tempo.
- Follow along with palmas to your favorite YouTube videos of flamenco dance performances. Pretend you’re part of the cuadro playing palmas for the dancer.
Of course, there are more steps to being able to improvise in flamenco like having a few moves in your muscle memory and practicing them with spontaneous variations. Then there’s the whole thing of being able to “listen” to a letra and interpret when to mark quietly and when to accent. But one thing at a time!