Commence Flamencafication

Today is Aug. 1, which means it’s the first day of my 30-day challenge. I’ve created a Project Diary page where I’ll document my daily activity, thoughts, frustrations, bits of insanity, progress, setbacks, etc. throughout the month. TMI? For sure. I certainly don’t expect you to read that. But if you’re curious (nosy) and want to find out what I ate for breakfast, see which toenail I’ve busted now, and other such nonsense, it’ll all be there and updated daily.

“Dude, what’s up with the 30-day thing?” some of you have asked. Well, as I’ve said before, I want to push myself hard through the end of 2011 and I figured the best way to get started was to put myself into a boot camp frame of mind. And by telling you all about it and writing about it here, I’m forced to stick to it because you, dear friends/readers, will surely call me out on my shit if I don’t stick to the plan.

And I’m curious to see what I can accomplish if I really put my mind to it, you know? If I improve my diet and increase my exercise, will I feel a difference in stamina in a matter of weeks? Will I have some kind of major flamenco breakthrough in the next 30 days if I’m practicing my ass off? These are the things I’m dying to know.

I’m off to class …

Dear Bulerias Beginner: It Does Get Better

Doña Guajira and I missed Saturday classes a couple weeks ago, so tonight we crashed Rina’s intermediate bulerias class.  We both took this class for the first time about a year and half ago.  But we’re by no means bulerias masters yet, so this was a nice review — and a very different experience this time around.

Back in January 2010, when we began our journey por fiesta, Doña, myself and the rest of our cohort were terrified of being pushed into that bulerias circle. I dreaded being called out first because, shit, I had no clue what I was doing and I couldn’t even count to 12. I remember hearing the compás as chaotic beats, arbitrary strums and frenzied clapping that left me both frantic and dumbfounded when it was my turn to improvise. Half the time I’d just stand there and curse.

By this time, I had been a flamenco student for about a year and a half and I was getting very discouraged. I thought, “Holy crap, flamenco was already hard. Now I have to do THIS?!?!” But I wasn’t the only one. We all struggled. We’d all freeze sometimes. We’d all trip over our feet, fall out of rhythm or stop dancing before Rina stopped singing.

Slowly but surely, though, we all had our little breakthroughs. We started to recognize the patterns. We could hear the cante rise and fall, and subsequently figured out where to put our desplantes.  Oh, what a feeling it was to be able to get through a simple buleria without dropping the f-bomb!

But being truly comfortable with this little dance comes with time. My compañeras and I have come along way, but we still have a long way to go before we can bust out bulerias the way Rina does.  THAT is the goal. But man, it sure does take work. It takes a ton of practice, a figurative bag full of tricks and the confidence to get out there and dance your gypsy ass off.

The ladies I danced with tonight are waaaaayyyy better than we were at that point in our bulerias training.  For our show last month, they performed a bulerias choreography, which was a great foundation for learning to improvise. As frustrated as they sometimes seemed tonight, they have no idea how far ahead they are and how well they’re doing.

To all you ladies who were in class tonight:  You’re making great progress and you all looked great.  Sometimes you’ll get frustrated. Sometimes you’ll want to give up.  And you might drop a few f-bombs along the way. But hang in there and keep at it because, trust me, it DOES get better. And when December rolls around and it’s time to perform again, you’ll all be excited about showing off por fiesta.

Top 10 Signs You’re Obsessed with Flamenco

10.  Your once-perfectly pedicured feet now resemble the scrappy paws of some unidentified feral beast, complete with calluses, budding bunions and missing talons.

9.   Your friends and family are nearly outnumbered by fellow flamencophiles on your Facebook friends list.

8.   Eighty-percent of the items in your Google search history are things like “flamenco dresses” and “solea por buleria video.”

7.   You’ve been caught unconsciously playing palmas while listening to your iPod.

6.   You’ve been caught wailing or tirititran-ing while driving with the windows down.

5.   “Master bulerias” is ahead of “find a husband” on your list of goals.

4.   Your insomnia is exacerbated by the obsessive need to mentally rehearse your choreography over and over and over …

3.   You can’t step onto a wood floor without doing a rolling golpe.

2.   You pay your dance teacher before you pay your phone bill — and sometimes the rent.

1.   You’re up at all hours of the night blogging about flamenco.

Time to take out the trash

It’s been more than a week since the show and I’m just now getting around to writing about it. I got sick immediately after the show, which isn’t surprising, since I was incredibly run down from the worry and extra practices. Then I had to quickly shift into last-minute Christmas shopping and wrapping mode. Now that I’m done with that, I can share a few thoughts.

I think it’s probably good that I didn’t have time to blog right after our performances or I might have over shared. Now that I’ve had time to think about it before putting my thoughts into print, I’m going to take a different approach to the post-show review.

The conductor of the chorale with which I sing tells us never to show our “learning curve” or reveal our mistakes to the audience after a performance; it’s not professional, and we’re supposed to be a professional group. So I generally don’t. But then, it’s more difficult to recognize mistakes in a chorale performance, unless maybe you’ve got a highly trained ear. In a student dance recital, that’s not quite the case. If one dancer in the group is off or if a soloist stumbles a bit, the audience will surely notice.

Still, there are probably things I/we did that the audience did not notice. So I’m going to leave those things alone. Why draw attention to things that the audience might not have been aware of?

One of my compañeras says she has a knack for forgetting her mistakes. I think this is a gift. On the flip side, what I have learned about myself in this process of learning and performing is that I have a knack for remembering EVERY misstep in EVERY choreography I EVER performed. EVER. This, I’m certain, is a curse.

So what I’ll say is, I made mistakes. Some big, some small, some really stupid that left me thinking, “WTF happened?!” and were hard to shake off. But I’m not going into detail here.

One of my New Year’s resolutions is get out of my head and quit obsessing over mistakes made in the past, both with the dance and in other areas of my life. If I don’t, I’ll never be able to move on and up. I just have to recognize them, learn from them and then let them go. Having years worth of crumpled up mistakes cluttering up my brain is not helping my progress. It’s time to take out the trash.

I’m looking forward to putting on my shoes and starting fresh in January. Happy New Year, everyone.

The hardest working ladies in show business

Last night, todas las flamencas ran through the entire program for Saturday and Sunday’s (sold out!) shows. It was a successful rehearsal and it was pretty cool to see it all come together after our months of hard work. And when it wasn’t my turn and I could watch the other dancers from the sidelines, it was clear that all of these lovely ladies take this as seriously as I do. This is why I love flamenco.

I have a few critiques about my own performance last night and I feel like if I write about it, it’ll somehow help me get my thoughts straight so I can do better in the actual shows. But I’ll keep this fairly short and sweet because I’ve got an awful hot/cold pain radiating through my lower back/upper butt area makes it terribly uncomfortable to sit at my computer. Here’s what I need to do:

1. Focus, but not too hard. I know the choreography and I’m fairly comfortable with compás, so why am I freaking out during a run-through? I’m psyching myself out for no good reason and my footwork is suffering as a result. Just do the dang dance, M, just like you do in class. Just let go and let the moves come.

2. Loosen up. I need to be strong without being hard, if that makes any sense. Like, I need to move with clear intention, yet with grace, rather than like some kind of non-elegant, heavy-hoofed buffalo. That’s what happens when I tense up — I lose the pretty angles. Gotta keep those muscles loose.

3. Breathe! Seriously. There were a few moments when I realized I wasn’t. And you know what’s not sexy? Passing out in the middle of a buleria and hitting the floor with a thud. Yeah, kind of a party killer, so I’ve got to remember to breathe in order to avoid becoming just a pile of ruffles on the floor.

So those are the things I’m thinking about tonight. I’m nervous, anxious, exhausted, excited, optimistic … so many feelings. But I’m sure my compañeras are feeling the same way, especially those who might be out there for the first time. But I guess those feelings are normal when you’ve worked so hard and you want so badly to do well.

Anyway, pray for me/us. And if you’ve got a ticket, I’m looking forward to seeing you and hope you enjoy the show!

Now back to my heating pad.