Flamenco is difficult enough with the compás (timing of rhythm), all the different palos (rhythmical forms), and the overall structure of a dance. But then footwork is thrown into the mix and that alone can cause some novices to run away screaming.
Footwork is a challenge, but it’s definitely something that can be learned, strengthened and polished. Read on!
GETTING TO THE CORE OF THE MATTER
Let’s start from where the movement originates. Like all dance, flamenco movement originates from the core- abs, back, pelvis. With a strong core, you can freely do peripheral movement, which just means you can move your arms and legs. But having a strong core also stabilizes you while doing footwork so you aren’t bobbing up and down or falling over.
How do you get a stronger core for flamenco? One of my favorites you can do in the studio with your shoes on is a plank walkout. You squat down with your hand in front of you on the floor, then you walk your hands out as far as you can go while keeping your feet in place and your abs tight.
DON’T LEAVE THIS BEHIND
Another thing to add is how you position yourself while doing footwork. One would think that you need strong feet to do footwork. That’s partly true, but you really need to have the feet and legs relaxed and have the movement originate in your butt.
The glutes are a large muscle group and are the true power behind great footwork. You don’t need a large gluteus, but you do need to know how to access it while doing footwork. That comes from focusing on your backside to sit into the movement rather than leaning forward to force it out of the thighs and feet. This will keep you from busting your knees while doing footwork as your glutes will absorb all the impact.
One way to strengthen your glutes at home is to do glute bridges. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet about hip width apart. Then engage the abs, push from your heels and squeeze your glutes as you lift your hips off the floor. Be sure to engage your glutes and NOT push through your lower back!!
IF THE SHOE FITS
Then there are flamenco shoes. If your shoes are too big, then your foot will slide inside and you can’t dance properly. You have to think of them as ballet slippers or gloves. You can’t have extra space for comfort as you would in street shoes. The beginner model shoes tend to be inexpensive but also of poorer quality so a dancer can’t quite do proper footwork in them. This leads to knee injuries because the dancer can’t flex the toes properly during certain techniques.
If you know that you’ll be taking flamenco for a long time, it’s best to invest in a good pair of shoes as soon as possible or else you’ll be facing the possibility of doing footwork improperly and risking injury.
Get shoes that fit! If you have wide feet, get your shoes a half size or so smaller than your street shoes size and get them wide width. A little tight is good, they will stretch. Breathing room in your shoes is not good! Here is a resource guide where you can buy your flamenco shoes.
These were all secondary methods to help you with your footwork. However, the number one way to get faster, stronger footwork is:
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE– CORRECTLY!
You have to be consistent in your practice to get better in your footwork. There’s no going around it, just like a musician will practice scales, flamenco dancers must practice footwork the same way. Get your shoes on, get your floor out or go to the dance studio and be sure to use solo compás- super important! There’s no use in practicing your footwork if you can’t keep it in compás!!
You’ll want to practice slow and controlled with accents before speeding up. You can either do drills with varying speeds or even practicing a piece of footwork. But again, it’s best to practice slow with accents before pounding out fast.
Remember to use the full range of motion of the foot and articulate each sound. This means to get the heel high when you’re doing a tacón, dig the planta in by having the movement come from behind (not lifting the knee), the using the whole foot for a golpe.
Footwork is one area of flamenco that dancers can get great gains in quickly just by paying attention to the movement, starting off slow and accenting.