Somewhere Between Calm and Fear

I have no relevant photography to share, so here's what I look like today.

A sense of calm came over me last Sunday after I spent time in the studio rehearsing my solo for our upcoming show. Before that I had been somewhat nervous after my private lesson with Rina a couple weeks ago, when I realized there were a few rough spots in the choreography I hadn’t worked out. But time alone with my thoughts and choreo let me work though these little bumps and get me to a place where I’m feeling ok, maybe even sort of good, about it all.

I was excited to post a video from that practice, but unfortunately I forgot to tap the record button on my iPhone. Bummer. I was so confident I got a great take, too. So to compensate for the lack of video and relevant photography, I’ve posted a picture of myself in front of my Mac as I type this post — it’s also how I look at the end of a long work day when my hair’s in a messy pile on top of my head and I’ve got more mascara under my eyes than on my lashes.

Anyway. You’d think by now I’d have more of a sense of calm about everything all the time. This will be my seventh student show and fifth solo, I think. This should be old hat to me, right? Yes and no. With each performance comes the pressure of being better than the last time. I can no longer use the excuse of, “Well, it was my first time” or “I’ve only done this a couple of times.” Nope, I’m a seasoned professional student now. I’ve got something to prove — to myself, at least.

Yes, I put pressure on myself, for myself. I need to see progress with each performance. It’s been six months since our last show and while that might seem like a significant amount of time to you, it seems like mere weeks to me. So I wonder, WILL I feel any different this time around? Has my technique gotten any better? Will anyone notice?

So, my fears have evolved from “OMG, I’m performing flamenco as a newbie and I’m scared because I barely know what I’m doing and people are watching me” to “OMG, I’m performing again and I’m not scared but I really want to give my audience a kick-ass performance.” I guess that in itself shows progress though, right? Of course, this is me speaking as a student dancer. Throw me into a professional performance setting and I’d probably be in newbie panic mode all over again.

I think too much, huh?

Putting The Pieces Together

I spent an hour in the studio today to practice my solo for our student show in September and I’m feeling good! I feel strong and I’m starting to see how the events of the last few months have brought me to this good place.

When Rina announced there would be a show in September, I got nervous. I had pretty much taken off more than a month after my adventure in Albuquerque and I feared it would take me a while to get my body reconditioned. But yesterday in my first classes of this session — a two-hour tientos and bulerias fest — I felt great! The rush of endorphins had me so happy and pumped that I could have danced another two hours. I woke up sore, but that’s to be expected and it didn’t hinder my private rehearsal this morning. I’m back.

That seven-day ass kicking I got in Albuquerque changed me. Of the 10 pounds I lost there, I’ve surprisingly gained back only three, but I had been trying to watch what I eat while taking some time off from dancing. I feel great but give me a couple of weeks and I’ll be back down three to five pounds and feeling even better. My rapid June weight loss, while not ideal, reminded me that I’m a small-boned girl who truly feels better around 125, give or take a pound or two. Yep, that’s my fighting weight. It’s weird how much more stable and balanced I feel on my feet. Who knew a few pounds could make such a difference?

My next solo is a solea and while this scares me a little bit, I feel ready for it. I’ve danced it with a group a couple times and I love this palo. It’s so pretty, emotional. And did I mention it’s the same one I’m learning on guitar? It’s like the solea stars have aligned to allow me to be immersed in this rhythm, experiencing it as both dancer and musician. How perfect is that? I’m going to learn so much. I’m grateful.

Just when I think things might be falling to pieces, the pieces start falling into place. I love when that happens.

On New Love

So much for fireworks. I spent the Fourth of July on my couch independently, with a tummy ache and a guitar.

I’m a little obsessed with my instrument. It’s such a challenge that I tell myself I’ll practice for 30 minutes and before I know it three hours have gone by and it’s 1 a.m. and I’m tired and frustrated and cursing under my breath but I can’t put the damn thing down until I get what I’m practicing right at least once.

I promised myself I wouldn’t have unrealistic expectations with this, but I can’tĀ help it. I like to see progress. I need to see progress. I also don’t want to look super lame next time I have to play for my teacher.

I get so nervous during these private lessons! I don’t know why; Walter is patient and nice, and doesn’t make me feel stupid when I can’t grasp something. It’s just my personal need for the approval of my teacher, I guess. I’m the same way with Rina. I feel like they’ll feel insulted if it appears I’m not trying or I’m unprepared.

When I’m finished with this post, I’ll practice my solea for a while before bed. I’m going to try to limit myself to an hour, but I’m not making any promises.

Since my left foot issues have me semi-sidelined from the dance at the moment, guitar has been a great outlet for my excess flamenco energy. And the feeling I get knowing that someday I’ll be able to play this beautiful music … I can’t describe it. Yes, I like guitar a lot. I might even love it.

Dance is still my first love, but guitar has undoubtedly stolen a little piece of my heart. Sigh.

Distractions

I have my second guitar lesson tonight. Haven’t practiced as much as I would have liked given my busy schedule and having been away for a week, but I’m trying to keep my expectations in check on this goal. This one is gonna take a while. If you’d been at my first lesson, you’d understand why.

Not to mention my head is in 38 different places right now. Dance still tops the list, and now guitar, chorale (for which I’m also designing a website and managing social media), square dancing (shut up), this blogging thing, and a full-time job. And somewhere in all of this, I’m supposed to make time for some kind of personal life. Or so I’m told.

“What’s wrong with you?!” some of you ask. I ask myself the same question sometimes, especially after weeks straight of getting home late and getting up early and being a total zombie because I’m so tired. Or when I neglect responsibilities or people or myself because I’m too busy in a class, or practicing something or daydreaming of how I’d really like things to be.

There are many possible answers to that question. I’ve always loved music and all things artsy, but perhaps I’m experiencing some kind of renaissance and I’m now especially compelled to learn and create. Maybe it’s mid-flamenca-life crisis that’s pushing me to try new things or make up for younger years when I put artistic efforts on hold. I joke about having adult A.D.D … Maybe I truly do need constant and varied stimulation to stay focused. Or maybe being on continuous go leaves no time to be upset, worried and pissed off about the things that typically upset me, worry me or piss me off.

Choose the answer(s) you feel are most accurate.

Festival Day 7: Nooooooooo!!!

It’s over. I’m so sad.

This day was a blur. As I type this from my couch in Los Angeles, it’s hard to believe that 12 hours ago I was shoving my puffy feet in my pretty pink Gallardos, wicked-stepsister style, getting ready for my final workshop with Pastora Galvan.

It was madness in Carlisle Gym today as flamenca/os scrambled to get to their final workshops (and videotape choreo!), buy last-minute souvenirs, snap photos, and say goodbye to friends. It was also open workshop day, where we were free to sit in on any class and watch.

A quick recap of my day:

1. I left Pastora’s class with a decent grasp of the choreography, which was exciting. I thought it was funny when she asked that only people who knew the choreo well be videotaped. All the lame people, myself included, were asked to sit that one out.

2. I really didn’t want to, but I ditched castanets so I could go watch Pastora’s other advanced class. All I can say is, holy crap! Had I ended up in that class, I’d have dropped out the first day and gone home crying. They covered a ton of material in seven days and there was a lot of fast footwork I could never handle. But it was obvious there were many professional-level dancers in that class, more than in mine. I think she slowed the pace in my class when she realized what she was working with. I lucked out.

3. My feet were pretty much shot days ago, and yesterday the area below the calf on my right leg, above the heel, has been hurting/burning. By the time I got to bata, I was done. I shed that pile of ruffles about 20 minutes before class was over and plopped myself on the sidelines. I felt guilty, hoping Olga didn’t think I was being lazy, but I had to listen to my broke-down body and rest. I recorded the cute choreography to practice at home, then ran out to catch the shuttle back to the hotel to collect my bags and head to the airport.

4. I’m bummed I missed the last gala show and festival after-party. Poor planning on my part. Now I know better.

5. I’m bummed I saw NONE of Albuquerque. I never had time! I didn’t allow myself meal breaks, let alone tourist time. Too bad because I hear it’s a charming and friendly city.

My bags are open on my living room floor because I’m too tired, too sore and too unmotivated to unpack them. I’m happy to be back in my humble home, but sad my adventure is over and that it’s time get back to who I am in real life. I hate to say this, but I thought about very little when I was away. I was focused on dancing — not work, not boys, not stupid things that I usually waste time worrying about. Being around so many flamencos — dancers, singers, musicians — of all ages, all races, all nationalities, and all skill levels, I felt like I was among my people, you know? Of course, that’s the way I feel when I go to Rina’s class, but it’s more intense and wonderful when you have that feeling literally 24/7.

I’ve got thoughts that aren’t yet fully processed; I’m sure I’ll be writing more about my experience in the coming weeks, once I can make sense of everything. But I will close with this: I loved it all and would do it again in a gypsy heartbeat.

Festival Day 6: Rafael Campallo is Still Sexy

Yes, that’s right, I said it again: Homeboy is one sexy flamenco.

Just got back from Fiesta Flamenca, one of two gala performances that showcase the festival’s featured performers. My Rafael was last to dance. Ay, que cute. I swear if you could watch me watch him, you’d see little cartoon hearts shooting from my eyes. I’ve seen him around Carlisle Gym all week and it took every ounce of restraint to keep myself from pouncing on him, or at least saying something very embarrassing. So I just admired him from afar. Sigh.

Show was stellar. Pastora, Olga, Alfonso, Adela and Rafael, and Yjastros (the local company) were all fantastic, but in very different ways. Friends have asked me, “Aren’t you tired of seeing flamenco every night??” Uh, NO! Not possible. No two performers are the same. And it’s interesting to talk with friends post-show to hear everyone’s favorite. Everyone has a fave dancer whose energy somehow speaks to them more than the others. It’s very personal.

Suddenly I feel reality setting in: This was the last show I’ll see here because I’m leaving tomorrow. I took some last photos with my new friends and I’m packing my things tonight. I’m bummed. I don’t want it to be over.

Festival Day 5: I’ve Been a Bad, Bad Girl

It’s pretty much official that I dropped out of the technique workshop, but something had to give. With all the pain and swelling, it was critical that I eliminate some of the stress on my body. That workshop, with the constant footwork drills and traveling across the room, was harder on my feet than Pastora’s advanced class.

I feel a little guilty; like I’m a juvenile delinquent ditching school or something, but that’s just how it goes. I didn’t want to risk really hurting myself and having to drop everything. I think I have the right to be bad given all I’ve gone through here.

Speaking of bad girls, Pastora’s show was tonight … FUN!! See, I tend to like my flamenco dirty. The dirtier, the better. Hmmmm, I wonder what that says about me … And I wonder how Pastora would react if I told her I enjoyed her dirty dancing … (No, I’m not going to mention that to her on the shuttle tomorrow). I’ve always been fond of her style because it’s sassy, a little rough, and full of booty action. I can relate to that. Anywhere I can incorporate booty action in my dancing (or just life in general, for that matter) I’m all over it. Pastora’s style is beautiful, of course, but girlfriend gets down, too, and I so dig that. Any girl who can kick off her slippers mid-performance and cut a rug is bad ass in my book. I’m so glad I took her workshop!

Since we’re on the subject of bad girls, tonight I did something I said I wouldn’t: I bought shoes! Beautiful, glorious shoes. I’ll tell you more about those later, but I will tell you I can’t stop looking at them and they’re lying next to me on the bed. Hey, sometimes a girl doesn’t want to sleep alone.

And now I’m ending this post before it gets any worse. Clearly the Albuquerque heat is getting to me.