Percussive footwork is a dominant characteristic of flamenco dance and something that I personally enjoy working on as much as possible.
Through our footwork we become a part of the larger flamenco orchestra along with the flamenco singer, guitarist and percussionist.
Flamenco dancers are musicians as well as dancers.
Here are 5 tips to help improve your flamenco footwork.
1. Improve your overall posture
Take some time to understand what your natural posture is and then figure out what you need to do to get your body into a more optimal position. You might need some help from your teacher or a bodywork therapist for this one but it is worth investing some time in to figure out what you need to be aware of when you dance.
2. Drop your weight down into the floor
If you are holding your body weight up out of the floor you will always struggle with your footwork. Some commons signs might be falling out of a step, not having control of the compás, not being able to achieve a good tone in your footwork or be able to play with the dynamics of the tone. If this sounds like you read this article on how to use your body weight for some more guidance.
3. Start by practicing slowly
If you've been learning flamenco for a few years it can become very comfortable to launch into every bit of footwork that you practice at full speed. This is a mistake, without good clean technique your footwork will sound muddy and unclear and will be impossible for anyone to follow. Make it a point to spend some time working slowly and with great care about correcting your technique. When you eventually do speed up you will have much more success.
4. Practice at speed
You don't mind a little contradiction right? After you have done your slow practice and warm up you might start working on a step that has a melody - it can be very hard, sometimes impossible to practice such a step at a speed that does not make sense musically. In these situations it is much better to practice the step at a speed closer to what is natural (if a tiny bit slower) and try and feel the melodic or musical phrasing in the footwork.
5. Think about the 'dibujo de los pies' (the picture of the feet)
The position of your feet under your body has a huge impact on the success of your footwork. Your feet should be directly under your hips (not miles apart) and in parallel position not turned out. There are exceptions to the parallel position rule for different steps but this is the basic starting position for all footwork. Add to that a slight demi-plié in the legs and correct technique for lifting the leg (always to the back never in front) and you will on your way to having a strong footwork technique.