The Biggest Mistake I made with my dancing.
scroll down to read part 2.
[Part 1] The biggest mistake I made with my dancing.
I was asked the other day how long I'd been studying flamenco dance for. I had to think about it for a moment before I answered but once I worked the dates out I realised that this year, 2019, is my 20th year studying flamenco.
20 years, even I have trouble wrapping my head around that number.
It continued to play on my mind over the next few days.
Wow, 20 years, I should be really good at this by now right?
Well, yes and no.
The thing is, it doesn't really matter how long you've been studying for if what you've been studying hasn't been helping you make progress.
If you keep practicing the same steps with the same technical faults, you're just going to get better at making the same mistakes.
I was that way for a long time.
I went to class every week, I did workshops and masterclass whenever I could.
I visited Spain for a week or two whenever I could get time off from work.
Now don't get me wrong, I was obviously making some improvements.
My ear kept improving because I listened to a lot of flamenco, I went to many performances and studied the dancers I found online.
I tried to piece together my understanding of the different bailes and even tried to choreograph things for myself to see if I could understand it more that way.
But considering the amount of time I was putting into my studies I felt like I was just getting very good at treading water.
It was like in my mind I could see my future self dancing on stage but the picture was out of focus and I didn't know how to fix it.
So what was I missing in my practice?
The help of a good coach.
I divide my history with flamenco into two sections.
The first stage I call 'before meeting José' and the second and current stage I called 'after meeting José'.
The transformation in my dancing since I began studying with José has been like night and day.
Before I had a vague idea about how I was moving my body but I didn't really have that much awareness about what I looked like. Now, after having focused on my technique with Jose's guidance, I have clarity of movement, I dance with peso and I can confidently dance big bailes that I previously felt were out of my reach.
Of course I'm very happy and incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to study with him, but it also makes me sad to think about all that time I spent treading water when I could have been really dancing.
Even though I knew that I would never give up flamenco, in the midst of it all I had doubts about whether I had it in me to do what I saw my favourite dancers doing.
Now I know that I do and I always did.
I just needed the guidance of a good coach and the discipline to work on all the feedback given to me with humility and a beginners mindset.
Do you ever feel like you're treading water with your dance practice?
Have you considered studying under a coach? Why or why not?
Hit reply and let me know what it feels like for you.
PS. In my next email I'm going to talk about what it's been like to be trained be José and the biggest benefits I’ve noticed about having a good coach.
[Part 2] The biggest mistake I made with my dancing.
In my last email I told you about the biggest mistake I made with my dancing:
I spent way too long studying without a good coach.
On one hand, I don't beat myself up about it too much because I did the best I could with the information I had.
But knowing what I know now, I should have had this level of training from much earlier in my flamenco dancing career.
I wouldn’t have wasted so much time making the same mistakes over and over again and I would have been up on stage dancing much sooner.
I tell you this because I don't want you to make the same mistake.
So will having a good coach do for you? After the last 5 years studying with José here is what I think are the biggest benefits.
A good coach will show you your weaknesses and teach you how to correct them.
I had no idea what my weaknesses were when I met José but I soon found out. Most were related to technique which has been a huge focus for me for the last 5 years and will continue to be for the next 20 years.
For example, I had no idea how much my lack of understanding of upper body technique affected my ability to stay in compás.
A good coach pays attention to the individual and helps you to discover your personal style and voice as a dancer.
José was the first teacher I met who spent time with each student he was teaching to help them discover their own personal style. The worst thing in flamenco is to be a copy of someone else, but how do you figure out who you are as a dancer? Answer: With help and guidance.
When I met José I would always use a lot of force with everything I did. And while I love the feeling of being strong and being able to project that strength, it isn’t always what I want to say. With José’s help I have been able to discover a more vulnerable side of myself and learn how to balance the two without losing the essence of what I am dancing.
A good coach continually challenges their students to do better and push their limits.
As you know, Flamenco is physically demanding.
We need to be able to punctuate our bailes with strong llamadas and remates and then in the next moment, depending on the palo, soften or strengthen the dance even more as we interpret the cante.
It's emotionally demanding, too.
When studying flamenco dance you come face to face with yourself almost every time you put your shoes on. If you are brave enough, you discover parts of yourself that will have been left undiscovered by normal life.
But no matter how hard it for us, José is there.
He shows his students how to be resilient. How to build strength. And he never lets you settle for less than you're capable of. He's always pushing you to be your best.
The best coaches are passionate about what they do.
Have you ever noticed how excited you feel about something when the person talking about the subject is enthusiastic about it? That energy is infectious and absolutely necessary when you're trying to push through to a higher level.
A good coach will help their students believe in themselves.
José could see the dancer I am today before I could and I know that he sees more for me in the future.
He was absolutely adamant from the very first time we met about the possibilities he saw in me and it strengthened my resolve to keep working even when things got hard.
I can't recommend highly enough that you get yourself a good coach as soon as you can.
They can be hard to find, especially if there are no flamenco teachers where you live but luckily in 2019 we are not limited by geography any more, we have the internet.
Studying online is nothing like being in the studio with a teacher.
When you are in class with a teacher you have much more opportunity to study their movements and ask questions. They also have the ability to watch you closely (depending on the size of the class) and give you immediate feedback.
Also, the energy generated by a full class of determined dance students is priceless. It lifts you up, inspires you and let’s face it, is just good fun.
No online class is going to be able to replace that but studying online does have its advantages.
It is much more flexible, you can fit your flamenco practice into your busy life.
You can review the material as many times as you need to. How often have you been in class learning something new only to have a mental blank about what you learnt when it came time to practice on your own?
It is more affordable than an in-person class or workshop.
You can learn at your own pace. There is no need to rush, you can spend time studying each step/technique until you know it inside out before progressing onto the next thing.
But the biggest advantage is that you can access the expertise of teachers that even 5 years ago, you would have had to travel to Spain to study with.
20 years ago when I was starting out, we didn't have the high speed internet that we do today. The internet had not yet become as expansive as it is today and it was difficult to find any helpful information, let alone a world class coach like José.
If you feel like you could benefit from having someone like José in your corner, reply to this email and let me know and we can chat about how we can help you with your flamenco.