Yumi La Blanca
Seeking the joy of dancing flamenco - am I going to perform again?
To be honest, I was struggling - I ran out of time this week to do enough research on a good topic to write about, and didn’t feel like featuring a specific event either. Time just passed while I was looking for potential inspirations.
My husband, in contrast, was having fun - sitting together with me on the sofa, he started his own ‘dance party’. In other words, he began swinging to his favourite music on the headphones, while still seated. Our sofa suddenly turned into a dance club… The wobbling sofa initially distracted me, but incidentally reminded me of something important about dancing. Dancing itself is pure joy, but… do I still want to dance on stage again?
Performance as a process of learning
Two weeks ago, I managed to get out of the isolation to attend the flamenco dance workshop by Gemma and Carmela. I enjoyed not only the classes per se but also chatting with them as well as their students whom I hadn’t seen since lockdown. A friend of mine, Farah, was also there and asked me if I was going to perform soon somewhere. I said ‘I don’t know’, as an honest answer.
In the past, I tried to take every opportunity to perform, either dancing or playing the cajón, assuming it was the best way to boost my improvement. There was so much to learn from by putting myself in the situation, which is something you can’t practically assimilate in a class or studio.
I’ve learnt how to artistically respond to live music as well as how to recover from unexpected ‘accidents’ on stage. While you obviously need to keep up with a certain quality as an artist, performing in public can be an experimental opportunity to figure out what works well and what doesn’t, in the relationship with the live musicians as well as the responses from the audience, so that I could potentially ‘correct’ myself to perform better for the next time (and another ‘accident’ could happen in the next performance… and so on).
Compliments are always grateful, but that’s not the ultimate aim. It’s not for the simple joy of dancing either. If I genuinely want to enjoy dancing, I’ll be happier dancing Rumbas or Sevillanas with friends at a party. Performing on stage is a part of the process of seeking what flamenco can mean to me. Your inner flamenco artist could emerge through the public eye.
Studio practice as a routine
In the meantime, I often enjoy practising by myself in a studio, even more than performing in public. It has a different benefit from going to a class.
When I bump into other dancers who also use the same studio, they often ask me if I was rehearsing for a show. Sometimes I’d have a gig happening shortly, but most of the time I’d just go there with or without having upcoming shows, and repeat almost the same routines every time, like a monk.
I tend to spend most of the time on repetitive exercises and can’t go through any fancy choreography at all, but it’s OK. I’m practising ‘flamenco zen’. Going through the ‘same’ routines actually enables me to monitor and observe which aspects of my body and movements have changed, improved or are still undeveloped. The solo training serenely gives me a different type of reward and enrichment from attending a class or performing in public. There is a certain joy in itself, whether I have a show to prepare for or not.
Since dance studios re-opened, I’ve almost resumed this habit of self-cultivation, but haven’t still got a strong drive for performing in public again. Maybe I’ve become too comfortable with the joy of solo training. In contrast, I sometimes feel like crying, realising that my body still remembers how I used to dance on stage. I might subconsciously be longing for performing. Maybe the best way to rebuild my motivation to perform is by doing a performance, as an experiment.
Sitting on the dancing sofa created by my husband, I’ve probably found my next project - dancing on stage again, hopefully sometime soon...