PUBLISHED MAY 6, 2008
Before and after ---what about the middle?
Makeover personal views of practice vs. rehearsal in the discipline of flamenco By Erica Poole
Apply this analogy to the acquisition of flamenco palos. Each and every class is the "process," and the "product" is any public performance. Which is more motivating to you?
Three things happen when you consistently attend your instructors' classes: you learn, you review, then you learn some more. Your presence brings clarity with each and every class, thereby keeping the acquisition seamless. No matter how valid your reasons may be for not attending classes, absences create gaps, which prolong clarity…and which in turn need to be filled.
"to exercise oneself by repeated performance in order to acquire a skill; to perform or do repeatedly in order to acquire skill or proficiency; to train or drill in something in order to gain proficiency."
In short, practice is repetition over time for proficiency. The amount of repetition is dependent upon the learner's recognition and self-analysis of what he or she needs to fine-tune, whether it is a weak tacón, poor posture, or loss of balance in a vuelta. Through continuous instruction, your teacher can watch, correct, and note your progression. These revisions can be accomplished by the student with active listening, audio recording, video recording (when permissible), and note-taking.
Knowing that practice is standard (along with routine class attendance), when are the appropriate times to practice alone and/or in a group setting? Reviewing pasos alone secures memory and self-assurance with the learned material. Group practices are wonderful, as long as each attendee has frequented equal amounts of classes, allowing each participant to be a helpmate in the solidification of pasos rather than in the initial explanation. Each person within a group session serves as a contributor, having already practiced beforehand. Otherwise, someone in the group defaults to being the tutor, compensating for another's lost time, which leads you right back to the purpose of learning with your instructor and/or scheduling make up sessions with him/her.
Ay, pero "Fronteras"…the costumes! The accessories! Group uniformity! The coordinating color schemes! The frenzy of last minute decisions for the sake of cohesiveness are all for naught without the process. "Fronteras," equal to any other performance venue, is a product that will either display well-made craftsmanship that took place over time or shoddy workmanship that was rushed and needs to be recalled.
Atlanta flamenco student, Ikuko Kawasaki, currently studies with Marianela "Malita" Belloso. Ikuko provides an alternate perspective on the subject: "I used to see rehearsal as another chance to practice, i.e. [to go] over a set choreography. However, I no longer distinguish these two terms. I actually do not even differentiate them from performance either. In class, my teacher corrects my body movements, footwork, and points out if I am out of compás. More importantly, she evaluates my facial expression and tells me whether or not my performance was inspiring. At this point, I am not merely practicing my steps, but rather performing to my sole audience member, my teacher. Rehearsing on stage you need to consciously perform and enjoy the experience."
So, the next time you watch your "Flamenco-TV" class, linger in the moments of your personal makeover. Notice how your instructors exude stage presence in any attire while teaching. The studio mirror is no different than the television screen of a do- it-yourself program, for when you engage, your attention is held, and you want to stay on that channel for the next step in the process, which will be reflected in your own signature product. Skip a step, talk over the program, turn too soon, defeat yourself along the way, or disconnect, and the power of your flamenco remote will be lost. The good news is…it's YOUR remote that only needs charged batteries. Besides, the hosts of these "flamenco do-it-yourself TV networks" have remarkable programming. Tune in!
Loco for Lunares
Speculation on your favorite specks By Mocha Trimier
Most everything "flamenco" has polka dots (or "lunares" in Spanish) on them in some form or fashion, but have you ever wondered why? I have heard tales of the origins of lunares on flamenco clothing being traced to the small, moon-shaped mirrors that were sewn onto traditional Indian dancers' skirts in order to ward off the "evil-eye." This version is far more romantic than the origin of polka dots cited in various places on the Internet.
For example, an entry at the popular Wikipedia website states, "While polka dots are ancient, they first became common on clothing in the late nineteenth century in Britain. At the same time, polka music was extremely popular, and the name was also applied to the pattern, despite no real connection between them."
Or even here, the Word Detective website states, "Back in the mid-19th century, the [United States] was awash in polka dots, that pattern of dots of uniform size and arrangement, because we had all gone polka-crazy. The polka, of course, is a simple, lively dance step that took Europe and America by storm soon after its introduction in 1835."
Not to detract from polka, but I am not a fan. I think I'd rather stick to the more mystical evil-off-putting history of the ubiquitous flamenco pattern.
The "evil-eye" is a look cast by anyone supposedly out of jealousy or malice. Charms exist from ancient days that are said to protect the wearer from these glances and to turn back harm from one of these looks. The mirrors could have functioned not only to catch and reflect light while dancing, but also to reflect these glaring looks back to the owner of the "eye" as well, and over time, due to the color of the mirrors, could have evolved into the white dots seen today. This is purely speculative on my part, but interesting to think about nonetheless.
Lunares. Decorative and functional. Who could ask for more in a costume? Enjoy your spots!
Flamenco turns women into better moms, kids into adoring supporters By Julie Baggenstoss
A recent wave of births is making its mark on our community with kids, babies and big bellies, but the idea of motherhood among flamenco enthusiasts is not a new idea. Women have juggled schedules and priorities for years to follow their passion. And, according to some women, following a passion makes a mother a better parent and a better person. In turn, mothers agree that their role as parents enhances their passion for flamenco.
Dancer Rebecca Money Johnson had her first child, Gerrick, just after Darbi's daughter was born. Rebecca says, "I remember telling Darbi when we were both learning to care for our babies, 'I know, doesn't flamenco feel like it's a bazillion miles away?' I was so engrossed in my new life I couldn't even imagine getting back to any of my old life; but then, in the end, in some ways, flamenco is even better now. It's more concentrated."
Like Darbi, Rebecca is connecting to the emotional side of flamenco even more now that she is the mother of two boys, 2-year-old Gerrick, and 7-month-old Greydon. "Because flamenco is a perfect expression of life, becoming a mother has been the most flamenco thing I've done to date. Flamenco expresses life's full palette: its joys, its sorrows, its pain, and even more exquisitely, the pain of deep love."
While their kids may be too young to fully realize what these flamenco women are doing, the children of dancer Elsa Hunt are proud of their mother for going after her dream. Elsa says she began studying flamenco after her kids were grown and she had become an empty-nester. "[My husband] Chuck said, 'Go for it;' my children said 'Good for you, mom!'" remembers Elsa of her decision to become a flamenco dancer nearly four years ago.
Elsa says her kids "have cheered and encouraged [her] during performances, even though by now they can recognize when a mistake has been made." Seems Elsa's kids are well into the journey that she hopes for any child that encounters flamenco.
She says, "Children, you have to expose them to the world around them so they can have some rich ideas to express when they speak and write. You know the old saying, 'A mind is a terrible thing to waste.' If they live with flamenco, as they grow, they will appreciate the beauty of the music and dance that they have grown accustomed to listen[ing] and watch[ing]."
And so life in Atlanta becomes richer with the children of flamenco enthusiasts appreciating the art of their parents - or involuntarily suffering through classes, rehearsals, and CD replays. But it may be the unseen satisfaction that the parents gain from flamenco that has the most impact on their kids.
Rebecca Money Johnson underscores her accomplishments, however little or large. She says, "As a mother, my feeling towards everything I want [or] need to get done flamenco-wise or otherwise is 'do what I can when I can.' Have no big expectations, do things inch by inch, because no large block of time is coming my way any time soon. And never give up on anything! It is like digging a hole with a toothpick, but the hole will get dug, by golly! I need to just keep my perspective on what I can achieve; and by so doing, I actually achieve more than I thought I could."
Celebrating the Spanish Way
Spring is for alegrías By Mocha Trimier
Despite what a certain groundhog might say, when spring rolls around, I tend to think of alegrías.
Maybe it's the airy nature of the palo, the signs that Fronteras is on the way, or just cabin fever after a long winter, but out of all the palos, this cante festero seems to embody the light breezes that start to come our way towards the end of March. I would like to think that Little Bo Peep would dance an alegría to lure her sheep back, but that's just me.
Counted in twelves and generally started with the refrain "tirititrán, tran, tran…," this palo is suited
to female dancers more than males, due to its fluid and flirty movements. The playful nature of the palo is
evident in the juguetillos (little games) that a singer will place among the coplas of the song. For example:
tienes los dientes
que son granitos
de arroz con leche.
Mind your sheep, enjoy the juguetillos, and welcome back spring with a wink.
© jaleolé.com 2008