Since we began preparing for our shows, I’ve gone back and forth on which choreography presents the biggest challenge for me. Each is scary in its own way. Let’s break it down:
1. Cantiñas with mantón, or as I lovingly refer to it, baile de la muerte. First off, I have to say I love working with the shawl. I love … the contradiction of it … how do I explain it?… it’s like, when I’m doing it, I feel so ultra feminine, but I also feel like I need the arms of a dude to pull it off. The first couple of weeks I had some serious shoulder and arm pain. But week after week, my wings grew stronger and now I can even handle a heavier mantón. However, there are many hazards associated with this dance. Foremost, you need to be aware of your surroundings and take care not to whack your neighbor in the face, especially if you’ve got a large wingspan like I do. Somewhat along those lines, there’s a risk of having a silk collision with your neighbor which may result in two shawls becoming one knotted heap (I’ve seen it happen!). Then, and this is by far the worst, there’s what I like to call the “bats in the hair” scenario, during which the mantón inexplicably gets caught in your own hair and just sort of flutters wildly about the face while you try desperately to untangle it and shoo it away.
2. Soleá, presented by the advanced class. I believe “advanced” says it all. I’m relatively new to the this level, so this is an incredible test and challenge for me. Not only is the choreography and footwork more difficult, but soleá itself is just more difficult to “hear” musically, at least for me. This is the one that taught me that I didn’t know how to count to 12. I eventually figured it out (sort of) but it was tough. So when I perform this one, I’ve got to be super focused on executing the choreography and super in-tune with the musicians behind me, otherwise it’s not going to fly. For added pressure, I’m in the front with crazy-good girl with the killer turns to my right. How do I look good next to that? (Yeah, I’m talking to you, Hotcakes.)
3. Soleá por bulería, my solo piece. SOLO. As in, alone. Alone, as in, with no one to look to if I blank out and forget what the hell comes next or fall out of compás. It’s just me and the sound of my own feet out there. I’m not gonna lie, it’s a little bit of pressure. But I KNOW the dance well, so choreography isn’t the main issue here. The real challenge for me with this one is shaking off my nerves so that I can do the choreography well, with authority and showmanship. Since performing this in May, I’ve worked a lot on cleaning up the little things and I HOPE that’s evident. I want so badly to attain that certain level of grace and elegance.
Ok, so after going through all that, I still can’t decide which is scariest. I guess it doesn’t matter — they all deserve and require the same amount of work, perhaps just in different ways. But I think working on these dances, with the diverse challenges they present, has taught me so much over the last three months. I can’t wait to show you what I’ve learned.