Thoughts about the art of flamenco
By Kasandra “La China”
June 29, 2009
Artistically, I am concerned about getting an “Ole”. Having performed all spring and moving into the summer, I am consumed with the Mount Everest of tasks as a flamenco performer…getting genuine jaleo (shouts of encouragement) from the audience and working it.
Flamenco is an art form that thrives on audience participation. It’s not like going to the symphony or to the opera where the audience has to WAIT for the music to be over, e.g.: the end of a concerto or the end of a movement, before clapping. Hell no! In Spain, people in the audience shout with reckless abandon. Flamenco needs the audience to be part of the performance and take an active part in the form of percussive jaleo and also shouts of encouragement. If a dancer or guitarist or singer is doing something that you like, you get to yell!
“TOMA QUE TOMA!”
Anyway, I’ve been analysing video of my performances and thinking about the 200+ shows I have seen in Spain and all over the world. How come some artists get “Oles” while others don’t. What’s the magic?
Unfortunately for dance, there is a tremendous amount of technique that is required before one can even look like a flamenco dancer and get away with it. We spend our time as dancers perfecting lines, learning choreography, repeating over and over. Choreographers think of the aesthetics, how it looks, how it feels, how it visually communicates. But beyond the technique, movimiento and aesthetic, WE HAVE TO SAY SOMETHING with our baile, and in the end the “Oles” go to people who are communicating with the audience.
Flamenco is feline. Have you ever watched a cat hunt? Lion, tiger, panther, leopard, osicat, house cat, doesn’t matter. All cats hunt with laser-like intensity and patience, before a ferocious, direct attack. Flamenco is a lot like that because an artist has to pick their moments and then unleash wild hurricane fury in the form of a remate or llamada.
My most recent lesson with Cihtli Ocampo really reminded me to have eye contact and stare my audience down. She put a big masking tape X on Oscar’s studio mirror and made me focus on the X while executing my llamadas and remates. Crap. I could barely do it. Do I have an avoidance problem? Well, after a week’s worth of work, I could actually do this and this really reminded me of a Self Defense class I once took in high school and the instructor stared at me, bored holes through my eyes while leaving her face two inches away from mine. I had to get through that without blinking, moving or flinching. It was nerve wracking to say the least…but have you ever seen a Farruco flinch?
What am I trying to say with my remates and llamadas? Honestly, I have mountains of material coming out of the yin yang. But the question is, do they get “Oles”?
Cihtli Ocampo also came up with a cool way to make them mean something, and that is to have a story about what the movements mean. That was weird. I tried that with my intermediate class the other day and told them that this llamada, we were knocking on the door and when no one lets us in, we would break it down. Wow, instant results, people were dancing like they were really trying to break the door down. Ole!
So, at the end of the day, you have to know what you are saying when you dance. It is best to be genuine, honest with who you are and what you want to say. And when you dance 110%, the “Oles” will be waiting.
Thanks Cihtli for your simple yet effective flamenco puro bulerias remates. We are working on it and it will probably settle in another 3-6 months.