How is it March already?!

Twenty days until show time … wha?!?!

I am excited! And nervous! And obviously I’ve been so busy rehearsing or thinking about rehearsing because I haven’t written in for-EVER.

Fun with JT
Fun with JT

I’ve been taking it all in: the many rehearsals, getting used to a different group of artists, working in one particular palo for the first time, etc. There have been many firsts during this experience. At times I’ve been frustrated with myself for not getting it as quickly as I’d like, but I have to remind myself that we all learn at different paces and by different methods. But on each occasion I’ve spent practicing with all of these wonderful people, I left exhausted, sweaty and smiling because I learned so much and I had FUN.

But the fun ain’t over, folks. We’ve still got a show to do! Are YOU coming?
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Hope you can all make it. Maestro Juan put together a great line-up. A whole lotta talent and variety. Ole!

Top 10 Flamenco-related Happenings of 2014

Happy New Year! Yes, it’s Jan. 7 already, but hey, don’t judge me. Since my tradition is to put out a top 10 list for the outgoing year, here’s mine for 2014. Yes, I should have posted it a week ago, but I was caught up in an amazing first trip to San Francisco and had better things to do than sit in front of a computer. Better late than never, right?

10. I got a new dress. Hey, fashion is important to me. I really love my new dress! Love the color, love the style, love that it makes me feel like a pretty girl. I also love the lady who made it. She’s talented and a sweetheart. Thanks, Maria!

9. New connections. I’ve made many friends through the dance network in L.A., but also via this blog. It amazes me when someone from another state or country writes to tell me they’ve found my blog and are enjoying it because they are having the same experience with this crazy dance. I’m so glad to hear from all of you, and I sincerely appreciate your support.

8. “She’s a dancer …” More than once this year, my man, a talented painter, introduced me to friends and fellow artists as a dancer. It seems like such a simple thing, but I can’t tell you how much this filled my heart with joy. “I’m a painter … she’s a dancer.” Isn’t that lovely? So much better than, “I’m a painter … she makes web pages at a school.” It made me feel like he appreciates my dedication to this dance and that he sees me the way I want to see myself.

7. Opportunities. I’m so grateful to Rina for offering opportunities to perform — it’s always an honor to be invited. One thing I took part in this year was a benefit for a local organization, Helping the Homeless Help Themselves. Dance experience AND giving back WHILE hanging out with some of my best friends? Can’t say no to that!

6. I turned 40. How is this flamenco related? Age seems like SUCH an obstacle when you begin flamenco in your mid/late 30s. I remember thinking, “But I’m almost 40! How can I possibly TRY to learn all of this NOW?!” Ugh, what a dumb way of thinking. I see that now, especially this year. There are so many other dancers I know who either began at the same age or older, or have been dancing 20 or 30 years longer than I’ve been on this earth and are still kicking ass. Turning 40 brought me a weird sense of peace and motivation.

5. The Meltdown/Fallout. So you’re probably thinking, “Oh no she DIDN’T …!” But yes, I am placing this series of events on the list. Not because it was one of the best things that happened (far from it), but it was certainly significant. (Read the posts about them here and here). Shook me up hard and almost took me out of the game, until …

4. Along comes J.T. If it weren’t for Juan Talavera, I might still be on the couch while my shoes collect dust in a closet. (Read post about J.T here). I could have taken months off or more if he hadn’t offered me a rare opportunity; luckily I took him up on it! (And thanks, Victoria for the recommendation!). Having this phenomenal artist who didn’t know me tell me I’m good enough to be in his show was just what I needed to get back on my feet.

3. I go to WERK! Working with J.T and the rest of the cast over the last couple of months, in a different environment, has been really good for me, I think. I’m used to working only with Rina, so it’s interesting to see another artistic director’s method and perspective. Plus, he’s a man and that puts a whole different spin on things too. He’s fun and I’m learning so much! Most of all I’ve learned that even though I’m being challenged and I’m out of the safety zone of my O.G. Torrance crew, I’m not a bad little dancer. Yes … I can do this! I AM doing this! I love doing this! Come to the show in March!

2. My friends in flamenca sisterhood. I say it every year, because every year it continues to hold true. My flamencas (my classmates and teacher) are MY PEOPLE. They are funny, quirky, and supportive and I admire them all in different ways. I can’t imagine going through this flamenco thing without them. (So, yes, Rina, I’ll be back soon.)

1. I bought a house! Wha?! I know, right?! It’s crazy. I didn’t think it would happen so soon, but it did, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. What does this have to do with the dance? Everything. I now have my own little dance studio! It’s what I’ve dreamed of for years now. Now, I still have to put down a proper floor and put mirrors on the walls, but I have a real space dedicated to dance. No more complaining that our usual studio space is unavailable, too expensive to rent by the hour, or too inconvenient to get to. Now I get to walk a few steps out my backdoor, anytime day or night, and go to work. This is HUGE! How’s that for way to wrap up 2014?!

Don’t Call it a Comeback …

It’s been nearly two months since I last wrote, probably the longest I’ve gone without writing since I started doing this four years ago. But as you loyal readers know, I had a bit of a blip in my dance career in September, so I took a brief time-out to catch my breath.

After the incident, I seriously considered taking time off. I thought a mental and physical break from dancing would do me good, given the amount of stress I had been under with dance and everything else. Clearing my schedule a bit would be a good thing and I could come back refreshed sometime in 2015. Apparently the flamenco gods were having none of that.

I’m not kidding, the day I made up my mind to go on hiatus, I got a call from the legendary Juan Talavera, who had been referred to me by another dancer. He was looking for additional dancers for his big upcoming show (not a student recital) and asked if I might be interested in auditioning. Wha?!

I’d seen Juan perform with Rina in a couple of shows, so I was familiar with his work (plus he’s just very well known in the L.A. flamenco scene and beyond) and I was honored to receive his invitation. He’s phenomenal! I thought about it all for a minute … then decided it was pure serendipity that he called on the very day I was about to temporarily throw in my flamenca towel. I had to accept the opportunity, right? Long story short, I’m now rehearsing with him and the rest of the cast every weekend and I couldn’t be more excited for the show in March!

What I love is being able to say to friends, “Yeah, I’m dancing backup for J.T…”

Not this J.T. (Justin Timberlake)
Juan Talavera
THIS J.T. (Juan Talavera)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll be sharing more about J.T. and the show in the coming weeks/months, but for now, save the date!

Juan Talavera presents FLAMENCO BRAVO!
March 28, 2015
The Colony Theatre
555 N. 3rd Street
Burbank, Calif.

I haven’t been in classes with Rina due to some end-of-the-year schedule issues, but I’ll be back with her soon, too. I miss her classes … I miss my tribe.

There’s another aspect of divine intervention to this “comeback” story, but I’ll get to that in another post. The main thing is, I’m still dancing and can’t ever imagine even considering stopping for any period of time, ever again, EVER.

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P.S. This (the inspiration for the title of this post) has been running through my head for days. Guess I’m back in bad-ass mode …

The Fallout

I can now breathe a sigh of relief: The show is over. The entire production itself was great — Rina, the musicians, and all of the other dancers did a fantastic job, and I heard nothing but great things from family, friends, and even a few strangers in the audience (our guajiras especially was a hit!). I’m am happy for all of this and grateful to have been a part of it.

Yet in the spirit of keeping it real, I have to admit I am immensely disappointed in myself and am having a hard time shaking it.

In the days following the meltdown, I thought I had regained my bearings enough to pull off a solid solo. I rehearsed my ass off, first watching the video from the musician rehearsal to see what went wrong, then going through the entire choreography beginning to end many times and even performing it for a my classmates a few times.  I woke up the day of the performance feeling steady and calm. I thought I’d be OK. I should have been OK. Then my moment to shine came and I fell apart.

"Oh God, I still have at least another 4 minutes to go."
“Oh God, I still have at least another 4 minutes to go.”

I’m not kidding. I got up to take my place center stage and my legs were already shaking. From the “1” on which I began my llamada, my steps were completely wrong. All I had to do was start with a simple rolling golpe and my feet refused. I’m not sure what I did for those first two compas, to be honest. Again, I had that feeling of doom jolt through me and for a moment it was as if my head was disconnected from my body. Somehow I managed to close the llamada, despite being completely off beat. Thank God for the musicians supporting me. All I could think was, “Oh God, I still have at least another 4 minutes to go.”

Got through the first letra a little wobbly, but OK. Llamada for the second letra came and I freaked out before I even started it because it’s where I messed up during the meltdown. Mind you, the steps are not difficult, but again, I got nervous, lost focus, and fell out of compas. The second letra is a complete blur. I have no idea what I did.

And now the escobilla, the other problem section during the meltdown. First compas was fine, then I forgot what came next so repeated what I had just done. After that I’m not sure what happened. I think I finished the footwork OK, although it wasn’t steady, and the buleria is also a blur. I haven’t a clue what I did.

I do remember dancing myself off the stage because I felt like I couldn’t get there fast enough. I just wanted it to be over. This was the first time in my 5-year flamenco performance career that I did not enjoy performing solo. Usually I’m nervous at first — a healthy nervous — and then I get out there and put on the attitude, shake my booty and enjoy every minute of it. This time it wasn’t like that. This time the thought off having all eyes on me for those 4+ minutes absolutely terrified me. And I’m certain it showed on my face at times, especially in the first 20 seconds.

It’s so frustrating. I’ve done this several times before, and at least two of those times I did solea por buleria. And that was 4 years ago when I wasn’t even as good as I am now! How could I keep it together then, but couldn’t do it now? And one by one I watched my fellow flamencas go out to do solos, big or small, and one by one they did so confidently. What the hell was wrong with ME??

A few minutes later, I had the opportunity to redeem myself with a group solea. I felt good out there. Confident, even. I knew what I was doing and did all the steps. I felt the safety in numbers and in knowing that the audience was looking at me maybe only 20 percent of the time. Same with the guajiras — I felt safe with the group and I genuinely had fun. At least I could somewhat end on a high note.

Feeling safe among friends.
Feeling safe among friends. We look great, right?! (Thanks, John!)

When it came time for fin de fiesta, I chose to sit that one out for the first time ever. Usually I’m out there doing something silly at the end of every show, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it — even though I wanted to push myself to, just as another means of redemption. But no, my racing heart wasn’t having any of it. I didn’t want any more attention.

After the show, I was complimented and congratulated by people I knew and a few I didn’t on the great job I did out there. I graciously accepted their words and flowers with a smile but it wasn’t easy. My family and friends, of course, told me how great my solo was — to which I was like, “Um, thanks for your support, but it was actually pretty bad.” I went to dinner with my people and talked and smiled, but I was exhausted and utterly bummed out and trying not to show it.

Just another example of where my head was that night: After the show I left without my dresses. Yep, just left them at the venue and didn’t realize it until I got to dinner. So either I was very stressed or it was a weird subconscious way of leaving this whole experience behind. (Luckily a friend picked them up and got them to me the next day).

The following afternoon, a classmate who had to bow out of performing with us for health reasons threw a party to honor Rina and her 10 years of teaching and showcasing flamenco, and to celebrate us all in our flamenca sisterhood. A lovely time in a breathtaking setting — this is what it’s all about, right? It was nice to relax with all my friends, but I still felt so dazed from the events of the previous evening.

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Through it all, I’m grateful for this kind of support.

I’m not writing this to get advice or sympathy (although your words of wisdom and support are always welcome), or, God forbid, kill the buzz of my fellow flamencas who did well and had nothing but fun on Saturday (again, it was really a great show!). I just need to get all of my personal angst off my chest, plus it’s just part of my journey. I realize I need to move past all of this and keep working on my dancing, but it is SO HARD to not take all of this SO HARD. I’m super sensitive and I genuinely care about delivering a great performance. And you know what? I know I’m a strong dancer. I hate feeling like I failed, even if others don’t see it.

That said, I’ll be back.

The Meltdown

meltdown

Yesterday a friend posted on FB “Are you crying? There’s no crying! There’s no crying in flamenco!” (a throwback to A League of Their Own, in case you didn’t catch that). Man, were those prophetic words.

Monday night I ran through my dance in front of my friends just fine, even though I was a little unsteady. Felt better getting all the way through, though, so I thought I’d be fine in last night’s rehearsal with the musicians. I felt OK during the day leading up to it, but on the way to the venue, my stomach started to turn. I tried to compose myself and I thought I had it all under control. Until I stepped on stage.

I started OK. Not strong, but OK. As I made my way through, my legs felt weak and unsure, and I fell out of compas a few times. When I got to my escobilla, it all fell apart. I felt that awful wave of doom settle in my chest and I just stood there and tried to breathe. Then came the tears. And the mild hyperventilating. I was a mess.

Oh, and by the way, my iPhone was propped up on a piano a few feet away, capturing it all on video … great. At least it provided a compelling photo for this post.

I’ve never, ever had this happen in rehearsal, not even as a first-time soloist. I’m usually relatively calm and experience only normal nerves like everyone else. WTF?

Thank God I was working with the coolest, most supportive people ever. My breakdown killed at least 10 minutes of our rehearsal time (which made me feel like a total a-hole), but Rina, Ana the singer, and Kai the guitarist, took the time to reassure me and offer advice; apparently every performer experiences some degree of anxiety at some point. My classmates were also supportive, so I collected many hugs and kind words — which was so nice and much appreciated, but also just made me cry more for being such a basket case.

Toward the the end of rehearsal, I made another somewhat successful attempt at getting through my solo. I wobbled and lost compas, but I kept going and finished. After what I had been through earlier, I was satisfied with this.

I called my man when I got home and between heaving sobs retold the story of my legendary meltdown, and how I felt SO stupid for going off like this in front of everybody. He was able to talk me off the ledge and offer some insight as to why I may have cracked. In a nutshell, I never crack. Ever. I keep my cool most of the time, even when I’m stressed, sad, pissed off, worried, whatever. It all stays inside. Throw the pressure to perform well on top of that and I’m a bomb with a short fuse. It took very little to set me off last night.

I’ll be OK. I’m still a little rattled, but I’ve got rehearsal with the other ladies tonight, and a day off from work tomorrow to practice some more and then relax.

Have any of you ever gone through something like this in rehearsal or performance? How did you deal?

Given Up

It’s past 1 a.m. on Sunday night/Monday morning and instead of being fast asleep, I’m up working on work stuff that can probably wait until tomorrow morning. But my mind is still busy and I’ve got some energy to burn. Plus, it’s freakin’ hot in here. Stupid heatwave.

The show is less than a week away and it’s major crunch time. This weekend I made time to practice in my parents’ laundry room — which is great because no one can hear me down there. The extra practice was much needed and did me good, and I’ll certainly do more of it every day this week. But at the same time, at this point, I guess you can say I’ve given up.

But I mean that in a good way. I’ve given up obsessing or being hypercritical of myself. It serves no purpose at this point. Last week I was quite literally sick with fear that I wasn’t ready to perform. Sure, I’m always nervous before a show, but this time has been worse than ever, even worse than my first solo performance. Still not exactly sure what that’s about, though I suspect anxieties from other areas of my life are to blame.

All I can do now is center myself, keep running through my choreographies every day and take comfort in knowing that I am technically prepared. Tonight we’re running through everything at rehearsal. Later in the week we’ll do the same with the musicians, and while that can be intimidating sometimes, more often it just gets me totally pumped and awakens my inner ham.

Speaking of musicians, I had to give up a concert ticket to see one of my favorite bands tonight because of the rehearsal. Oh well. I’ve seen them before and I’ll see them again — and my brother will get to attend a concert and not have to worry about my embarrassing him. (What can I say? I’m a screamer.)

Here’s what I’ll be missing. Aggressive, perhaps, but it’s super fun to belt out in the car and it sure does get the adrenaline going. A classic. Enjoy.

I’m HOT

No, I mean, I’m really hot, as in, the temperature of my body is uncomfortably high.

I don’t do well in heat and as I’ve gotten older, that intolerance has only worsened. It’s not unbearably hot where I live, but the air conditioning at the studio has been out for months (seems like years!!). The room I rehearse in is the worst. This morning I walked into the fresh hot steam and funk from the zumba class that had just ended. Joy. Did I mention I’m coming off a cold and my lungs aren’t 100%? Oh well. Such is the life of a flamenca who lacks her own studio space. The show must go on.

So I worked on my dance for an hour, taking short breaks between stompity-stomps to wipe the sweat (and boy, do I SWEAT) and drink water. I was able to get some relief from the inappropriately large-and-loud-for-the-small-space fan on the wall. You can hear it this video. Rina taught me this little nugget last time we met:

When I was done, soaked and out of gas, I spent a few minutes catching up with my fellow soloist who had been working with Rina in the other room. We compared solo notes, shared fears and uncertainties, had a few laughs and headed to front desk to book our next studio dates after realizing, “Oh gawd, we’re rehearsing with musicians in a week!” Nice to know I’m not the only one cramming 🙂