How to speed up your flamenco footwork
This is a question we've had a few times, if you are trying to speed up your footwork - this is for you!
A quick note before we get started, if you are in your first couple of years of learning flamenco you shouldn't be interested in speeding up anything. Your main concern should be keeping a steady pulse and staying in compás.
Fast footwork is for more advanced dancers.
So how do you do it?
Let's think about what you need to before you can start speeding things up.
You need control of the compás
If you don't have this at more modest speeds you will never have it when you try to go faster.
You need strong feet
All those planta/tacón or golpe/tacón exercises you do that might have started to seem a little dull? Well they are what build up the strength in your feet, you will never have our permission to stop practicing them. If your feet aren't strong and you can't articulate the different sounds with the different parts of your feet you won't be speeding up any time soon.
You need control of your body weight
Your weight needs to be centred over your two feet. If it isn't you will constantly feel like you are falling off or out of the footwork before you get a chance to speed up.
You need strong but not tense legs/glutes
Flamenco dancers have incredibly powerful legs but you need to remember that a muscle that works well is one that contracts and relaxes easily, without strain. If when you are doing your footwork your find your muscles gripping so hard that you get to the point where you just need to stop you need to reconsider how you are using your legs. Maybe your plié is too deep, perhaps you lack strength in your glutes (hint - many of us have this problem!). What ever the case take a step back and consider where you are before trying to speed up your footwork too much.
Ok, you've been through each of the points above and you think you're ready to start working for speed.
What should you do?
- Choose a step that you feel confident doing and increase the speed slightly.
- Practice the step at the new speed for as long as you can do it well. That means clean sounds, strong accents, controlled upper body (including arm movements if you have them) and legs that don't scream at you to stop. As soon as anything starts to fall apart - stop, collect yourself and then start again.
- Once you feel confident at this new speed you can try and take it up again but only when you are ready.
The key is to practice at a faster footwork speed in short controlled bursts and then, when you feel comfortable, take the speed up again. Don't try to jump straight to the footwork speed of José Merino!
Don't keep practicing at high speed if your footwork is a mess.
One caveat - remember to push yourself. I've spent this whole blog post telling you what you should be careful about but don't use that as an excuse not to work and push yourself.
You know whether you are working in a comfortable place or working to improve what you can do comfortably.
Good luck with your practice!
If you have any questions let us know in the comments below.