Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Progress, Process, and Personalization...all in a day's work :)

Last week in class, I was extremely frustrated.  I just wasn’t understanding the steps; for some reason the sounds, and even the mechanics jus weren’t sticking in my body or my ears or my brain.  I think I was just tired and needed to rest, to figure out what I needed, to believe in myself, to remember why I’m here. 

On Monday, class went amazingly well.  We ran through everything we’ve done so far since classes started October 1st.  I have been practicing all the steps every single day in the studio in the mornings, and it paid off.  The steps were mine.  Yes, there were a few hiccups here and there, but I own those steps.  I truly danced them.

How does one come to “own” a flamenco step and what exactly do I mean by that?  First off, you have to be able to do the step in compás (in rhythm) otherwise it really means nothing.  You also have to be able to do it the way the teacher taught it; the way the step is meant to be with the body and the intention.  Aha! There’s that key word—intention. 

To own a step, you have to understand the intention behind it—the musical intentions, the gestural intentions, and the whole big picture intention.  I think you can alter a step to suit your body and who you are without altering the intention or the musicality of the step.  Eventually, of course, or at least outside of that teacher’s class you can play with the step all you want and change it until it hardly resembles what it came from. If a step doesn’t have a clear purpose or meaning (and that’s not to say it is something that can be translated into words, because it cannot be, that’s why it’s dance…) then you don’t really understand the step to begin to make it your own. 

That’s really only the beginning of the process.  You have to do a step over and over and over and over again with intention, exploring its subtleties and nuances, and exploring your interpretation of it before it becomes “yours.”  Connected to this idea is not dancing “academically.”  Both Andrés and Rosario often tell their classes, and me included, that something is too academic.  Basically, it’s exactly and precisely right as far as the technique goes, but it has no essence, no personality, no profundity, no zest—the step hasn’t been "owned" yet by the dancer.   That doesn’t mean you throw technique out the window, in fact quite the opposite.  You expand you technique and your capacity to enrich the movements with your body.  In other words you don’t limit yourself to one stagnant technique.  (I hope this is making some sense…)

For now I think owning a step means you understand it inside and out, and you also dance it in such a way that no one else can execute it exactly the same without looking like an imitator.  

All in all, I danced well in class on Monday because I didn’t care what Andrés or anyone thought of my dancing.  I just danced.  So of course Andrés noticed I was dancing well.  Now, I have to do that again tomorrow, and then even more so the next day. Yes, I have some not so great days where I want to cry at the end of class.  But because I work through those days, because I get in the studio every morning and figure out the steps and make them mine, I have days like today where I can see my progress, where I overcome obstacles and eventually dance.  I guess it’s all a process….

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