How to keep practicing basic technique interesting
This past Friday in the Flamenco Bites Community I posted a question asking everyone what they had practiced the day before.
One of the dancers that replied said they were working on footwork drills until their teacher returned from a trip to Spain but that they found it difficult because they get bored from doing repetitive drills.
This is normal, repetition can be boring but it is so valuable that we must make time for it.
To help with this type of practice I thought I would share a few of the ways that I keep things interesting when I practice fundamentals.
Paying attention to the breath
As dancers we have a tendency to hold our breath when we are trying to figure out something new or if we are doing something particularly taxing (turns anyone?) that we don't yet have full control of.
Make a point of noticing when you take a breath in or expel air from your lungs. Does it feel easy? Do you feel like you're out of breath? If you changed the way you breathe does it make the movement easier or more difficult?
Pay attention to how you use your weight
How grounded are you when you perform a certain drill or step? Play around with the amount of plié you use. Do you notice whether your groundedness changes the longer you dance (legs straightening as you get tired)? Is your centre of mass more or less in the centre of your base of support (your feet) or is it shifted off to one side or diagonal?
Play with dynamics (sound)
If you are practicing footwork drills do you just repeat the same step for 5 minutes or do you try to make it musical?
Think about the dynamics of sound created by your feet. Can you create clear accents? Can both right and left feet create the same strength of accent? Can you lower the volume of your feet and maintain clarity?
Try the same step for different palos (different emotional quality)
What happens if you take the same drill/exercise and try it using a different palo? Apart from the change in musical quality the emotional quality should also change.
Even if you are using a metronome to practice you can still think about the emotion behind a step or movement and try and create that atmosphere as you dance. It is more difficult without musicians in the room but it is an incredibly powerful way to practice.
Imagine performing in different spaces ie. a tiny tablao and then the Teatro Real.
For whole body movements (eg. footwork with upper body, marcajes or llamadas/remates)
Try doing the same movement very small then very big. Imagine performing in different spaces ie. a tiny tablao and then the Teatro Real.
Experiment with having your gaze closer and then further away. Or using same direction for eyes and arms and then the opposite.
Try dancing with different imagery in your mind for example, gentle waves lapping on a beach or the fire of the blacksmith's forge. Use your imagination and create images from your own life.
Listen to a piece of music that inspires you then turn it off and try to use how it made your feel in your dancing.
These are just a few examples but you can see where I'm going. The same basic movements can be performed and practiced in many different ways.
I think that the most important point is to try to me mindful about your practice sessions.
Have a goal for each exercise that you do and when you finish stop and think about what just happened. Was it what you expected? How can you change it for your next attempt?
I love this quote that I came across recently that I think sums this process up perfectly.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
~ Marcel Proust
How do you keep your practice sessions interesting and engaging? We'd love to hear your ideas and suggestions in the comments!