Should you worry if you can't remember flamenco routines?

Should you worry if you can't remember flamenco routines? |

This is a question we often receive from students 'How do I remember the choreography or movement sequences?'

Is it something you should worry about?

It depends. What are your goals? What do you want to learn? This is something you should take a moment to think about before you put yourself through a lot of stress.

In the beginning I think it doesn't matter terribly much. If you are unfamiliar with the patterns of flamenco movement you will find it difficult to pick up the combinations quickly.

In the beginning I think it doesn't matter terribly much. If you are unfamiliar with the patterns of flamenco movement you will find it difficult to pick up the combinations quickly.

When I go to a ballet or contemporary dance class I find it incredibly difficult to pick things up or even remember what I did 5 minutes minutes after leaving the studio. After 15 years my brain is wired for flamenco but because I haven't put the same time into ballet the combinations do not come easily to me.

Something to think about is that as you continue to study you will start to develop a movement language that has recurring patterns. You don't want to get so used to them that you get stuck but they are there so you can use them to your benefit.

Remembering shorter routines.

As you start learning a few different types of steps you might practice a little combination in class. Maybe something like a couple of different marcajes with a remate or some footwork with a subida and a llamada. It could be anything.

How do you remember these combinations?

Components of a flamenco dance choreography |

This is how I do it.

Firstly, I try to see the big picture. I might think about the fact that I'm doing marcaje followed by a remate or perhaps I have a llamada leading into a letra or it could be an escobilla with a subida that ends with a llamada. There are many possibilities but you should know what the overall idea is.

Then I think about each individual step as something that I need to figure out physically. That means breaking it down to coordinating feet with arms, head and body. I also think about the feeling or spirit of the step. The feeling could be something that I notice by myself or a direction that I've been given.

Next I think about how the steps are joined together. José calls this 'el entre paso'. This is the hard part! How do you move from one step to the next? 

'El entre paso' is the transition from one step to the next.

Often when I'm unsure of a choreography that I have learnt previously I will just go through and dance what I do remember and then when I get to the end of a step the continuation will just materialise in my body and mind. Spending time patterning the 'entre paso', the transition between steps is just as important as learning and patterning the steps themselves. 

Remembering longer choreographies

Learning longer pieces is the same as learning shorter ones. It just takes a bit more time and consistent practice. 

You can break a long choreography down into shorter pieces and then join those short pieces together. I always the big picture in my head along with a feeling and a sense of the rise and fall of whatever the choreography is. 

Memorising movement

Memorising movement is a very specific skill and if you haven't had to do much of it before you may find it challenging (because it is challenging!) when you start learning to dance. Like anything, with focused practice you will get better at it.

Perhaps if it is something you struggle with you might start by just trying to remember one step from your class, see if you can run through it in your head when you're waiting for the bus or in the shower. Once you get better at doing that start making the phrases longer.

A vivid imagination will help you enormously. 

One last word of advice, if at first you don't succeed don't give up on the idea that you will be able to learn a certain combination. To be receptive to learning and embodying new movement we need to be in the right state of mind and body. Sometimes we just aren't, things don't click and we are sure that we will never be able to do something. 

Then one day you'll try again and it will be there within your reach. 

Don't give up, allow your body/mind to progress at the speed it needs to. That doesn't mean taking it too easy but it does mean not closing yourself off to finding new movements in the future. 

To help you get started analysing your flamenco routines we created a worksheet for you. You can download it below.

GeneralFlamenco Bites