So much to say about today. Its been brilliant, if very tough. And full of sweat. Nice.
Another great lesson started slowly with me trying to do this stamp move from yesterday. I got there in the end with some repetition. But got there (that's the important bit).
Now onto yet another move. Its just non-stop and brilliant. And excuse me while we laugh at the high speed of the music from the performance we're trying to adapt the choreography to.
'El Embrujo del Fandango' has a very complex 'compas' or rhythm. The start of it is like a buleria and the fandango is part of the same family as this.
Anyway, at the start of the dance that Carmen Amaya does in the performance I'm trying to emulate, she does palmas (clapping) and stamping at the beginning. So we tried that firstly, which was good, but it took me a while to relax. My teacher always laughs at how I have too much tension. Is this a very English thing? Or a very Clare thing? He must think I'm mad for wanting to even attempt doing a routine to this music, because he said even he finds it hard to dance at the speed that Carmen Amaya could dance.
Anyway, the palmas was slower than Carmen's (first name terms now), but the timings today were definitely not processing in my head and I was starting to think that my teacher thought I was missing something. I explained that, usually, I think I have rhythm, but this is a completely different ball game.
Moving on from the palmas, we did this move that I actually loved, but found mas dificil. The Llamada (pronounced 'Jamada').
It took ages for me to get this right. I think its because we're working with a 12 beat pattern, which stops on the 10th beat usually and begins again on the first beat after the 12th beat, and also I'm getting used to this in Spanish rather than English, which is a bit off-putting. The way I'm learning is just by the count of the beats. So on the 1st and 3rd beat there are golpe stamps. Then a step forward for 2 beats, then another golpe step on the 6th beat, then, 7, 8 and 9 are planta tacon steps backward with a golpe on the final 10th beat.
I did laugh at first because it was like doing the flamenco version of the moonwalk but it wasn't funny when I was constantly doing it wrong and not producing a great technique in my planta. I have to put the emphasis on the planta and tacon, add more force and security. After about half an hour or more of this I was starting to feel sorry for Toni constantly going through the timings and counting me in only for me to miss the beat I should begin on. This person has great patience.
Again, the key was to relax. Once I did, it got better. But now we would put the palmas and the llamada moves together, a la Carmen Amaya.
It was really weird trying the moves that she did because it is really like performing and becoming another person or trying to become another person. I really have to think about if this is what I want to achieve in the re-performance.
Dancing like this, though, really gave a sense of strength and conviction, because that was what Amaya was about. Her performances where characterised by strength, and she had this like no other male dancer at that time, apparently. It was so unusual for a woman to dance like that with such masculinity in the late 30's, now its more normal but she was unique.
But if I wanted to get these steps right, I have to feel the force, particularly in steps such as the planta and tacon. That doesn't necessarily mean stamping louder, but just with that little bit more security and grounding would help. Can I really begin to feel this?
So I tried almost emulating that strength and the positioning of her body in the moves she did for the introduction to the performance, the palmas, through to the grabbing of the jacket, through to the llamada etc. If I'm honest, I was so proud of myself for getting through that bit - and sometimes it was good. Just some mistakes on the llamada, but practice will help that.
There's lots of work to be done on the positioning of my body etc, but essentially I did feel that I became stronger and 'grander', more confident by doing these steps and I think that's what Amaya was trying to do. Give women more confidence in themselves.
After a quick run through of the 2 marcages that we'd started on Tuesday, the lesson ended with the advice that I need to work a lot over the weekend, and this evening, I went to see Toni, my teacher, perform in 'Opera y Flamenco' at Teatro Poliorama, on Las Ramblas. I was curious to know if he performed as well as taught, so it was interesting to see him in that context and how flamenco is of course a performance which includes a bit of acting. The dancing itself was great, and the singers and musicians were just amazing. In fact, I immediately recognised some of the musicians from the 'Bajari' feature documentary I saw last weekend. It was just so brilliant to see and hear such talented people perform in this amazing city. I feel very lucky about that.
It also made me think about where I should film my re-performance. Should I try and hire a theatre, or is a studio OK? I'll have to process that one.
So that was me for today. Pleased with the progress, but aware I have so much to do. Another great day in Barca. Video footage to follow...