Welcome to part two of the Unleash the Flamenco Beast series! Read part one here.
Learning flamenco is more than learning a bunch of moves. It’s understanding a whole new language.
I think the mental aspect of your flamenco education starts with internalizing the compás, learning the nuances of the different rhythms, and being able to identify the components of a dance number. So, what’s one way to do that?
LISTEN TO FLAMENCO MUSIC
Did you know that understanding flamenco music will help you become a better dancer? But you don’t need to understand Spanish in order to understand flamenco music. You just need to open ears!
IDENTIFY THE PALO
Each palo, or flamenco rhythm has its own tempo, melody and chords even though there are many variations.
First pick one palo, preferably one that you already have learned in class. Next, listen to the solo compás recordings of it. Then you can move on to other recordings and you hopefully will have found that common thread of melody throughout all of them. After that you can graduate to listening to random music and identifying it.
Playing palmas (hand clapping) is essential to being able to internalize the compás. Giving palmas for your fellow dancers supports their dancing and gives you the responsibility and the sensitivity to not rush or slow down the tempo unless the dancer makes you. Even better, learn the skill of playing palmas for yourself as you dance and do footwork.
WHAT I’M LISTENING TO, available on iTunes:
- Miguel Poveda- ArteSano
- Camarón de la Isla- Integral (remastered)
- Rafael Jimenez “El Falo”- El Cante en Movimiento
- Joselito Acedo- Andando
- Canelita- Saltaré
- Nuestro Flamenco podcast
YOUR ACTION PLAN FOR TODAY:
- BUY any of the recordings above or use whatever you have, even the solo compás ones and play palmas along with it.
- WATCH the videos for how to play palmas for 12 count rhythm.
Thanks for reading! Look out for the next email where I TEACH YOU how to WATCH flamenco dance.
Hasta pronto! Rina
Photo credit: “La Pescailla”
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I have found that to truly listen/hear the compas, it is very helpful to have a guitarist teach you the basic chords used in each palo, both for the basic letras and the cieres. If there is no guitarist available, go to you-tube and look for basic flamenco guitar classes, in the palo of interest.
For example, the chords in tango are easily recognized once you learn them, and you should also recognize the chords of a coming ciere so that you know when to stop at the strong 6-7 (8 silent) with palmas or footwork.
Eventually, you should also recognize a respire–a breath at the end of the first line or two of a letra–where the dancer can answer with a rhythmic piece of one or two compas, again finishing with the strong 6-7.
All of these things will come if you listen to many, many tangos, especially those con baile.
Yes, having a guitarist explain the chords would be very, very helpful. I never had a guitarist explain the chords to me. I always relied on listening and recognizing the chords without knowing what they were. I also explain to beginner students that palos can very much be like American jazz standards. The song “Stormy Weather” can be played a gazillion different ways, but it will always be recognized as “Stormy Weather”. The same is with the others. Alegrias is always identifiable even with variations.
And it always goes back to more and more exposure!
Thanks for your input Tamsen.