By Michelle Harding
August 31, 2011
Flamenco is as challenging as you want to make it. It’s very personal. Wherever you decide to set the bar, it will always come up to meet you with a fresh set of challenges and frustrations.
And there is never any shortage of things to work on. Whether your current mission is to achieve a better “line”, move your hips, do sharper turns or cleaner footwork, everything in flamenco comes with a little tag that says “Repeat 1000 Times”.
This summer I was honoured to work with an amazing group of students for a Footwork Bootcamp workshop that ran for 4 weeks in the only hot month Vancouver saw this year – August. Out of a group of 12, 4 survived through week 4!
These dedicated folks spent 1.5 hours a week sweating buckets, torturing their feet and twisting their brains around at least a dozen different footwork patterns designed to both create and destroy muscle memory.
Why the heck would they want to do that?
- They improved. The difference between what people were able to execute in week one compared to what they could do in week four was huge.
- Footwork practice is especially satisfying. You can get results really quickly and you can easily tell when you’re getting better. It either sounds good or it doesn’t. There is no in-between.
- Being footwork-proficient makes it easier to learn choreography. If you already have the basics in your pocket, you can concentrate on the arms, the torso, the aire.
- When you can do crisp, clean, clear footwork, you own the world. No cuadro can follow you without it.
So, say you want to practice your footwork and you can’t remember any of the exercises you learned in class? First of all, that’s not an excuse (whip-crack sound effect please). Second of all, I know that you know enough footwork patterns to keep you going for a long, long time. How about contras? How about those triplets (cadenas)? Golpe talon talon. Planta talon talon. Picado martillo. Just put on your click track and subdivide the compas.
Subdividing the compas:
- Single time: one sound on every beat – say “Yum” on every beat – count one, two, three etc.
- Double time: two sounds for every beat – say “Ice Cream” for every beat – count one and two and three and …
- Triple time: three sounds for every beat – say “Strawberry” – count one and a two and a three and a…
- Quadruple time: four sounds for every beat – say “Watermelon” – count one y and a two y and a three y and a ….
- Sextuplet time: six sounds for every beat – say “Cabernet Sauvignon” (if you’ve gotten this far, you’re justified in thinking about wine) – I don’t know what exactly you count, just 1-2-3-4-5-6 really fast.
Then do the next speed. Then the next. Now lift your torso. Do it quiet. Do it loud (without speeding up). Shoulders down. Where are your accents? Try doing arm circles. Now do floreo. That will keep you busy. It certainly does me.