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Ballet Talk for Dancers

All Things Spanish


hart

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I have been in a bit of rut with ballet, mainly because I know enough to know that I am fighting against my body's natural tendencies. I also have failed to get to the point where I feel like I am dancing in ballet. I am sure that problem lies within myself, but I am finding that I really need to dance. Since I rarely get a chance to perform in ballet, I have decided to take Flamenco. And, well, I have the summer off of my job because I work at a college and I have some money in the bank, so I have decided to take on the Spanish language too. It has taken me several months to figure out what I am going to do this summer, but I am going to learn as much as I can about Spanish culture. I am pretty sure that the Spanish language is going to come much more easily than Flamenco because I have already taken five years of Spanish and language comes pretty easily for me, unlike ballet. Anyway, I am planning on taking a week-long intensive in Flamenco and then another 6 week class. I still plan to continue taking ballet, but I am definitely excited about this summer. I guess I just wanted to share my excitement. And if anyone has any advise for me going into the classes, I am open ears.

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Hart,

Buena suerte con tus esfuerzos! Que disfrutes tus clases de flamenco y espanol!

 

Where are you doing your intensive?

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You could go to Carmen de las Cuevas, a school for foreigners in Granada, if you have some cash to spare. I have been there for the past three summers running, though I don't think I'll be making the trip this year. It's cheap, and the Flamenco teaching is fantastic. I always leave thinking "If only I could stay here all year round, what an amazing dancer I'd be...!" :) You only need to commit in two-week blocks, ie you can do two weeks, or four, or six etc. You can also learn Spanish there. If you can afford to go, you won't be disappointed.

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How are the flamenco classes coming along? I managed to learn the 4 sevillanas (which I've not forgotten) before my Spanish instructor went back to Spain.

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I’ve done two years of Spanish dance now. What would I say to someone who’s just starting?

 

Well, I found it much more difficult than I thought it would be. And I found that practicing helps a lot. Personally, I think it would be hard to develop much in an intensive, just because I think so many of the steps can really be learned after doing them say 200 times, which isn’t feasible in an intensive. But that may just be me.

 

I’ve had a much more varied dance training than others in my classes, so I’m all over the place with respect to strengths and weaknesses. Because of all the other dance I’ve done, I find things like learning sequences quickly and turning easier than most of the quite experienced people. But with other things, like castanets and heel work (which make up most of Spanish dance), I’m right at the bottom of the class. I’ve almost given up castanets, rationalizing that I’m a guy and historically guys haven’t played castanets (though today they do).

 

Even after two years I find the music difficult. Much of it is counted in 6s and often you are starting on 3.

 

Overall, I’d say you have to approach Spanish dance as you would ballet. It isn’t easy and deserves respect. With time, practice, and persistence you get better. No short-cuts that I know of work.

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Well, I found it much more difficult than I thought it would be. And I found that practicing helps a lot. Personally, I think it would be hard to develop much in an intensive, just because I think so many of the steps can really be learned after doing them say 200 times, which isn’t feasible in an intensive. But that may just be me.

 

I believe there's a lot of truth in that, but still it's worth doing an intensive. As someone with a ballet background, the first time ever I went to that school, by the end of two weeks I was getting bored with the beginners class, but then I went home. The next time I went (after having had no flamenco classes at home) I went into intermediate after two weeks. I felt I learned so much, especially stylistically with my arms, and even later when I had regular classes here in Australia, I felt my arms were never as good as they had been in Spain.

 

But yes the music is difficult and I can't say I picked up any theory (the classes were all in Spanish!) :lol:

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Hi Hart,

 

I wasn't clear from your post whether you were planning to take flamenco in Spain or at home. I took classes in Madrid at a school which has a site at http://www.martadelavega.com/. Since you have a ballet background, you might be interested in escuela bolera. It is a style not widely known, but it dates to the origins of ballet in Spain. So it combines traditional ballet technique with Spanish arm positions and castanet playing. I took classes in this style at the same school. I was drawn to it because as someone who began ballet as an adult, my technique is limited, but this is a genuine danceform that works for someone at my level, rather than being stuck with dumbed-down ballet classics. Mind you, it is not easy, and playing castanets is an additional layer to challenge you. (Incidentally, contrary to what people believe, castanets are never played for flamenco, aside from one specific form. Dancers who use castanets are performing folk dances or classical Spanish dance, which is original choreography to classical music.)

 

Anyway, Madrid is a fabulous destination for all the other attractions, so studying dance there would be a great experience!

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Spanish is great fun- and actually it is not that different from ballet! Some turn out, a straight upper body and flowing arms are needed for spanish as well- I´d recommend it as a good dance form for a classical dancer- plus it is loads of fun too!

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Dancers who use castanets are performing folk dances or classical Spanish dance, which is original choreography to classical music.)

 

Hmmm, I just got back from Madrid and went to see flamenco at Corral de la Morería, and in one performance four dancers (Cuadro Flamenco) used castanets. Not the whole time but in the beginning and in the end. I'm not any specialist in flamenco, but I was told that was also flamenco, not folk dancing or something else. Music was flamenco music, two singers and two men with guitars. Do you know if this may have been an exception or have I understood wrong, maybe it was something else than flamenco?

 

The show was excellent, by the way, also guest Olga Pericet was fantastic! :o:shrug:

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I think the dancing with castanets is maybe still flameno, because I just took my first ever flamenco class this Tuesday and we spent maybe the first 15 minutes using castanets. Then we took them off and did some other stuff. :P It was a great class by the way, not to mention entertaining, because the teacher barely spoke two words in the entire class except to count the music a few times - it was just like an insanely sophisticated game of "follow the leader". Very hard, and we probably all looked ridiculous, but it was fun to do something totally different like that!!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well, you could have seen a seguidillas, the flamenco form I mentioned that uses castanets. However, many flamenco performers incorporate folk dances into shows, which can look a lot like flamenco. They still have footwork and can use the same set-up of musicians and singers. Unless the audience is pretty familiar with flamenco, they won’t know the difference. But flamenco in its true form is improvised, so it would be very hard to play castanets for that. Perhaps the distinction is not too relevant anyway, since flamenco is almost always rehearsed now and of course, performing companies can’t improvise with multiple dancers on stage at the same time. Flamenco is evolving, just like any dance form. And "flamenco" classes I've taken often teach Sevillanas, a widely-known folk dance with castanets, and you can buy "flamenco" castanets. I think there is a bit of capitalizing on the fact that the public thinks it knows what flamenco is, but really only knows about Spanish style in general.

 

I guess the discussion has taken a non-ballet direction. Just to bring it back a little, I thought I’d mention that the Pericet family has been responsible for keeping alive the ballet-based bolero style I mentioned earlier. I’m guessing that Olga Pericet is probably part of this family.

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