Arte Flamenco at Taste of Bethesda. October 4, 2008
Jacqui dancing Garrotín. October 4, 2008 11:08am (photo by Hector Márquez)
It's 4:30am on Thursday as I type these words. Last night I performed at Las Tapas with dancer Emily Mazzotti and I'll be performing again tonight (Thursday) but I'm not sure who the dancers will be—so I guess you'll just have to come to Las Tapas to find out. ;-)
Yeah, I know it's been a few weeks since my last blog entry. But I've been quite busy with all kinds of Hispanic Heritage month-related gigs and rehearsals. And on the occasional days off, I've been spending time catching up on sleep and enjoying the outdoors. The weather's been quite beautiful lately, so why not take advantage of it?
Anywayz, the pics I have for you today are from my gig with Natalia Monteleón's Arte Flamenco when they performed at Taste of Bethesda on Saturday October 4th. Enjoy!
Jacqui. October 4, 2008 11:10am (photo by Hector Márquez)
Actually, I have performed at this festival in the past. I think the last time was in 2005 but for 2006 and 2007, the festival organizers instead hired Furia Flamenca and Ziva's Spanish Dance Ensemble.
Miguelito playing an intro to alegrías. October 4, 2008 11:13am (photo by Hector Márquez)
I've been performing with Arte Flamenco long enough to see several waves of dancers come and go. So it's always exciting to work with her company. Why? Having been involved in the DC flamenco scene for 17 years now (longer than most of you DC flamencos out there!), one thing that stands out about Natalia Monteleón is that she has produced more dancers that have gone on to becoming confident performers than any other teacher in the DC area. And I know this for a fact because the list of dancers that I have called for tablao shows again and again are mostly from her school!
Arte Flamenco director Natalia Monteleón. October 4, 2008 11:13am (photo by Hector Márquez)
Terrie dancing alegrías. October 4, 2008 11:13am (photo by Hector Márquez)
Terrie. October 4, 2008 11:17am (photo by Hector Márquez)
So what is it about Natalia's classes that equip her students to work well as performers? I've had my share of dancers that can only perform if I play the same melodies etc that they heard while learning the choreography. It seems to be true about a lot of dancers in the beginning stages. But when I started working with some of her students, I would intentionally play music that was different from what they were used to. Of course the compás and aire were the same but the melodic material was different. It was awkward at first but to help ease them in I would emphasize certain accents to make the compás clear and to musically support whatever they were doing in the choreography. And with Natalia's students they adapted to my music rapidly.
Kelly. October 4, 2008 11:18am (photo by Hector Márquez)
OK, I'll take some of the credit in "molding" some of these future performers since I've given quite a few of them the opportunities to make their DC tablao debut. Because of the challenges of the informal setting, the tablao is a great place to learn flamenco. Sometimes the dancers would ask to rehearse right before going onstage and I would just tell them, "No. I'll play an intro and when you're ready, get up from your chair and start dancing and I'll follow you."
Kelly in Zorongo Gitano. October 4, 2008 11:20am (photo by Hector Márquez)
I don't do this to be cruel. I'm just trying to get these student dancers to break out of just going through the motions of a learned choreography to set music. I'm not saying that set choreographies to set music is boring, but many student dancers have to learn to perform and by "perform" I mean to express themselves.
Sandy. October 4, 2008 11:20am (photo by Hector Márquez)
There is no shortcut to learning to perform. By all means, practice and memorize and internalize the choreographies to the point where you don't have to think about it so you can focus on expressing yourself. Easier said than done, right? But also bear in mind that dancing well in class or in the practice room is one thing. It certainly helps, but it's no guarantee that you'll dance at the same level when you're onstage dancing a solo in front of an audience.
Kelly. October 4, 2008 11:20am (photo by Hector Márquez)
Sandy. October 4, 2008 11:21am (photo by Hector Márquez)
You will make mistakes and you just have to expect that this will happen. The important thing is to be able to recover quickly. Usually the more experienced performers onstage can help guide you back into compás with the palmas but eventually with experience you'll learn how to recover from mistakes on your own. If as a dancer you are able to feel the compás accents in the music regardless of what melody is being played, then you'll be able to find your way back into rhythm. I won't name names, but trust me on this: even the most experienced performers make mistakes, they're just so good at recovering that most people don't notice that a mistake ever occurred.
Jacqui. October 4, 2008 11:21am (photo by Hector Márquez)
Natalia dancing tientos. October 4, 2008 11:22am (photo by Hector Márquez)
So what is the point of all this? Well, when you as a dancer are no longer artistically "tied-down" to a set piece of music, you actually are more free to express yourself. Eventually you will learn to lead the guitarist. A competent guitarist will be able to follow you no matter what you do and you'll be free to extend or shorten sections of the dance to your liking on-the-spot with no rehearsal, dance as slow or as fast as you like (within musical reason), and overall just be free to say what you want with the dance knowing that the guitarist, palmeros and cante will support you.
Natalia. October 4, 2008 11:22am (photo by Hector Márquez)
Natalia. October 4, 2008 11:22am (photo by Hector Márquez)
All this might sound good in theory, but you can only learn these skills onstage. Dancing technically correct is one thing, but performing is something completely different.
Natalia. October 4, 2008 11:23am (photo by Hector Márquez)
Claudia dancing soleá. October 4, 2008 11:29am (photo by Hector Márquez)
Claudia. October 4, 2008 11:29am (photo by Hector Márquez)
Claudia, Miguelito, Natalia and Kelly. October 4, 2008 11:40am (photo by Hector Márquez)
End of lecture. Allright, it's like 5:30am and I'm starting to feel sleepy. It's not late mind you, I just have different working hours from most people. I'll probably wake up around noon after 6 or 7 hours of sleep.
Sevillanas circle. October 4, 2008 11:45am (photo by Hector Márquez)
Poster announcing the paella festival at Jaleo. October 4, 2008 12:28pm (photo by Hector Márquez)
Festival-size paella pan. October 4, 2008 12:28pm
October 4, 2008 12:31pm
Serving the paella. October 4, 2008 12:33pm
My plate of paella. October 4, 2008 12:33pm
As for tonight (Thursday), I'll be performing at Las Tapas (dancers TBA). For more information about Arte Flamenco visit the official website.
Also...this Friday October 17th at 9pm, I'll be hosting a juerga (informal flamenco party) at Bodega. I'll be there with my guitar, plus a couple of singers and hopefully lots of dancers and flamenco lovers. Come! It'll be fun and you're welcome to try out choreographies with live music. Checkout the pics from the previous juerga.