Fluidity in a dancer is an enviable quality that we all hope to achieve.
There are some dancers who seem to have an energy that never stops pouring out of their body even when they are standing still on the stage.
It is a worthy goal in all of us but without an understanding of what it is and where it comes from it can seem like something that lives at the end of a rainbow.
What is fluid movement?
From Merriam Webster the definition of fluid is
: capable of flowing freely like water
— used to describe something that can change easily or that changes often
: having or showing a smooth and easy style
It reminds me of the Bruce Lee quote
To me the ability to be fluid is a quality of resilience. The ability to adapt and change and not fight against what is happening in the moment.
Your energy is flowing and you are strong enough, prepared enough and confident enough to know that you can cope with whatever comes your way.
This ability comes from many hours of training and practice.
With flamenco dance there are two elements to this idea of fluidity that are helpful to study.
We are going to assume for the sake of this post that you are continuing your technique practice and are working towards conditioning your body to flamenco movement.
1. Improvisation in the moment of performance.
You can learn a choreography and know it inside out but when you get up to dance with a singer anything could happen.
You are not going to be dancing on the stage by yourself, you are at a minimum going to be dancing with a singer and a guitarist.
In the moment you are all on stage together the singer may be inspired to sing differently to what you were expecting or what you had rehearsed.
It is completely with in their remit to do so. If that happens you need to be able to respond to what you hear.
Another situation might be that you do a step differently than you had rehearsed and then need to find a way rescue yourself.
This could be down to something as simple as your weight shifting a little more in one direction than you needed (or not shifting at all) and you need to be able to sense where you are and get yourself back to where you want to be or to somewhere that will keep you moving forward.
All dancers, but especially flamenco dancers, need to be able to think quickly (José calls this 'rapidez mental' - mental speed) and have their body respond instantly with out stopping or dropping energy.
How do you study this? By taking every opportunity that comes your way, whether it be in class or not, to try performing.
2. El entre paso (the transition step)
The second part of this exploration of flow or fluidity is about learning how to transition from one step to the next and how to work out what the transition should be for yourself.
The step between two steps, the transition, can change each time you do it. It is one of the most difficult things to master in your dance training.
It requires the resilience mentioned above, mental speed and a an ability to problem solve for yourself.
Take three steps and change the order of them each time you do them.
How does each step change?
What do you need to do to be in the correct place to enter each step confidently?
You can decide to do this practice. You do not need someone to hold your hand.
In our course Fundamentals of Flamenco Dance José talks at length about 'el entre paso' and we work on developing our ability to problem solve using steps from the choreography for Fandango de Huelva.
Premium members of danza estudio Flamenco Bites have access to the whole course on demand. Click through to find out how you can join our flamenco community!
Learning dance is not a passive exercise.
It would be very easy to just keep going to class and learn how to copy your teacher exactly.
You learn choreography after choreography, you copy the steps and do them exactly as designed but you never really learn how to dance.
You need to decide to take the step to challenge yourself and really try to learn what it means to be able to dance.
In the beginning we are all copying. It is how we learn and it is a great place to start.
But at all times you can try to look deeper.
Develop your senses, what does it feel like when you do a certain step.
Pay attention to your breath. Do you hold it when you feel out of control?
Fluid movement comes from deep study, deep practice and complete awareness of your body and the environment around you at all times.
Dance requires you to develop your ability to think on your feet (your mental agility) and to start learning how to solve the problems that you encounter by yourself.
If you begin to develop the ability in class or when you practice, when you perform it is more likely to come to you naturally.
Don't worry if you try something and it fails.
Continue to add to your body of movement experience, open your mind to let it work for you when you need it and let your movement flow.