Here at Flamenco Bites we talk about technique a lot. Unfortunately as adult dancers coming to flamenco we often skip the basics and jump straight to learning choreographies without really understanding the movements that we are trying to do.
Eventually we hit a wall when we want to try and do more advanced dances because we just don't have the foundational strength and coordination that we need to succeed.
Just like the baby that spends months moving through every stage of physical development before they earn the right to move on to the next stage, we need to understand that time must be spent working on basic dance technique before we can move on to dance the big choreographies that we have our hearts set on.
We learn technique to be able to forget it and eventually go beyond it when we perform.
So what type of things should we be thinking about when we practice?
The alignment of your body affects the ease with which you move and your ability to be coordinated. Movement looks better and feels better when a dancer has a balanced alignment. Since your alignment is a reflection of the way you use your body, to improve we must become aware of how we move and decide to move in a way that serves us.
This is training that may start in the dance studio but must also be carried into our everyday lives. Training specific technical skills will allow us to recognise habitual patterns that we may have such as tension in the neck and shoulders, a rounded upper back or a forward tilting pelvis, and gain awareness of how we naturally use our bodies. Once we have this awareness we can start to organise ourselves in a different more efficient way.
The ability to coordinate/control all the parts of the body to move in different ways with different qualities is a hugely complex task. As flamenco dancers we have fast footwork combined with contrasting arm, body and head movements that must also all be contained within the rhythmic constraints of the compás that we are working in.
In order to gain a high level of competency, technique practice must be clear and progressive. Learning advanced movements before having an understanding of basic coordination is inefficient and will lengthen the time you need to master any step. As adult dancers we can get in the way of ourselves by trying to run before we can crawl.
3. Stability and mobility
So far in this article I have avoided using the word strength because I think it invokes an unhelpful image of excessive tension through out the body. What I think is helpful is understanding that as dancers we need a balanced relationship between stability (we don't want to fall over or injure ourselves through excessive movement) and mobility (we need the joints in our bodies to have a certain safe degree of movement). We might find this balance through doing some extra-curricular activities but it is also found and developed by practicing the types of movements that we want to be able to do.
We need to develop mobility in our feet for example to be able to separate the planta from the tacón. We need to have stability through our mid-section so we don't fall over when we do quiebro.
Without consistent practice of good quality movement we will remain at the same dance level for a long time and miss out on discovering the possibilities that flamenco has for us if we put in some directed effort.
Taking the time to work on the technique that underpins your choreography will give you as a dancer much more value and enable you to work independently to discover your own body and how it moves.