Basic Marcaje - Technique for the arms and body
In this tutorial we are going to revisit a basic movement in flamenco dance, marcaje. In this case a marcaje that is performed in situ without moving across the floor.
The reason for revisiting this movement is that since I recorded the original video I have been working with José on my fundamental technique and my understanding of this movement has changed so I wanted to do an updated version and share everything that I've learnt.
Firstly why is technique so important? When you watch a flamenco dance performance every dancer seems to have a slightly different technique and it all looks amazing.
For me it is two things, it allows me to develop strength and a wider movement vocabulary to use when I am dancing and secondly it gives me a chance to become more aware of where my body is in space when it moves.
The second point is very interesting to me. When you look at the 'before' version of my marcaje I was pretty sure I knew where my body was when I was moving it but the positions of my arms in particular were pretty vague. Now I have a clear understanding of what positions I am aiming for when I practice and so although it is still a work in progress each time I practice I am reinforcing a movement pattern that I can picture in my head and feel when I don't achieve it.
That means further down the line when I am performing I will be able to make choices about what I want to do with my body. You can move in a million different individual ways, but you need to be able to know what you a doing when you move.
These patterns of movement for the arms also help with turns (another big technical hurdle) which need a great level of control and awareness. If the arms are flying off in every direction or moving in a very big circle, turning quickly and compactly in compás becomes very hard.
Before we get started lets look at my before and after.
Pretty different don't you think? This is something we can all work on so lets have a closer look at the technique.
The most important difference is the movement of my arms. When I move my arms I am aiming to move through specific positions each time.
The starting position for the arms is fifth position above the head. The arms form a circle above and just in front of the head and the fingers are just visible in your line of vision. The elbows are open (if my elbows were dropped you wouldn't be able to see my face in the mirror) and the shoulders are dropped down in the back.
From fifth position one arm opens to the side to third position of the arms. The arm above the head maintains its position and the arm that moves maintains a slight curve with the elbow is lifted.
This is the second main position of this marcaje, fourth position of the arms. One arm is curved above and in front of the head (as in fifth position) and the other arms is curved in front of the body approximately in line with the bottom of the ribs. Importantly, the elbows remain lifted at all times.
From this position the bottom arm moves back up to fifth position through the front of the body. The arm moves with the elbow lifted.
Practice moving your arms through each of these positions and try to be as accurate as possible. Using a three beat rhythmic cycle the pattern would be...
Here is a video demonstrating the movement with the rhythm shown above.
Once you are confident with the arms you can add the movement of the lower body. This is also a simple movement pattern but the key is to be clear about what you are doing.
To begin move into a demi-plié position, as you bend your legs slightly lift your torso up.
The foot (which is the same side as the arm that is moving) lifts up to the back before stepping forward.
The beat is marked when the foot touches the ground. When you step forward transfer a little of your weight onto the front foot. Not too much though as it would be too difficult to come back to centre if you had to shift the full weight of your body.
You can see in the image above the foot touches the ground at the same time as the arms reach fourth position.
When you step forward keep the foot in a parallel position to the other foot, some of us have a tendency to turn the front foot out (me, I do that) in an effort to gain stability. Just like the arm movement you should be aware of what you are doing with your feet.
You then come back to the starting position by moving the front foot back under the hips with the arm that travels back to fifth position.
Here is the rhythmic pattern of the feet, this follows the pattern of the arms above. The same arm as leg move at the same time.
Here is a video demonstrating the coordination of the arms with the feet.
Movimiento de los manos
Finally we add in the movement of the hands.
When you move your hands the rest of your arm should not be affected, try as much as you can to not let the arm move. Keep your elbows lifted and isolate the movement of the hands.
As my arm moves out to third position I circle away from the body, as I bring the arm back up the fifth position through the front I circle the hand in towards the body.
If you look closely at the video you'll see that the elbow of my left arm drops and my arm straightens when I circle my wrist with my left arm above my head. This is something I'm working to eliminate, I want to point it out to you so you can look out for these types of idiosyncrasies in your own technique.
The final video below moves through the full progression of the technique. It starts with the arm movement, then adds in the feet and then finishes with the hand movement.
We hope you have found this tutorial helpful!
If you have any questions leave a comment below and we'll do out best to answer them.
Renae and José