So here we are. At home and in need of physical and mental exercise and inspiration. Physical activity has proven to help with mental well-being and this is especially important in these times. But now the question is, how can we get going? We need inspiration and solutions to get there. Below are my 5 Tips for home practice!
Flamenco is typically thought of as an dance form that relies on sprung wood studio floors to practice. However, flamenco is an art form that is truly multifaceted and there is a great deal of flamenco that can be practiced at home. In fact, this "home" approach can give us insight to overcoming technical challenges that can be overlooked or under practiced in a regular studio setting.
Now Is The Time To Practice Adaptability
As Flamencos we need to be reminded that we are trained in adaptability. During performance we are constantly ready to improvise and adjust choreography depending on what is happening musically, or due to limitations of the performance space. Take this as inspiration into your home practice strategy.
1) Establish a Space for Practice
Lets face it, we sometimes need a push to be inspired to practice. Having a dedicated space set up that looks inviting can truly help.
Consider your space and make it as inviting as you can. Examine the flooring options in your home. Think about optional mirrors, adding a yoga mat, a wooden board, maybe bring in some plants for ambiance, lighting. (I personally practice with a layering of yoga mats, then a wooden board, then an industrial foot mat that is flipped upside down to have the slick rubber side exposed as the final surface. This is all held together with gorilla tape. It works for me and the industrial foot mat certainly helps for decreasing sound.)
Have flamenco props nearby for inspiration. Who doesn't love a prop?? Be it a fan or castanets or a hat.
Have music ready, try a metronome.
Practice your dance moves to any song you love (any genre).
Watch a favourite show while practicing a simple footwork drill. Don't tell anyone....but I sometimes play a TV show on my laptop and do footwork drills. ;)
2) Do What You Can
At home we are working within limitations. This can mean sound concerns with neighbours, and unsuitable flooring. Be inventive when problem solving.
Consider using alternate shoes (flamenco shoes are not always needed to practice). Think of all those videos on YouTube where flamenco jams break out at a house party or in the streets and shoes or a special flooring is irrelevant. Performance choices change due to circumstance. If the floor is hard we do more marking and upper body work etc.
Flores (hand movement) can be practiced on the couch.
Upper body and arm work is quiet for neighbours.
Time to work on palmas and rhythm. This drastically helps your dancing. Try using a click track to keep you in compás.
Practice turns in socks, but be careful.
Wrap a rubber band or a small sock around your castanets to reduce sound.
3) Balance Balance Balance
Work on your balancing! We never get enough time to practice balance in class. Balance is the critical skill to help you with turns and footwork....yes, remember that footwork often requires you to balance fully on one leg.
Think yoga. Challenge your balance in different ways that are not always typical to flamenco technique.
4) Set Flamenco Goals
Goals are a great motivator. Plan them out and be specific. They can be big or small and can include; practicing a different marking step each day, allotting 15 min a day to a footwork step, or studying the nuances of a certain palo like Rondeña by watching videos online. On that note....
5) Get Inspired By Watching Others
We do have the internet! And this means endless flamenco content. We can watch shows, classes, tutorials. So many flamenco artists are offering classes on Zoom, and going live on social media. YouTube is a place for learning. Before the internet flamencos would return from Spain with a flamenco record that would be slowly passed around the community. We now live in different times and flamenco content is abundant online.
Where to start? Don't get overwhelmed with the quantity of online content. Start with an artist or palo you know and then go from there. Share your favourites with others.
Practicing at home is an opportunity to be your own teacher. Analyze and listen to your own body. Figure out what helps you learn and what you need to excel. This is a valuable gift.
Be kind to yourself, celebrate success and if you get stuck, not to worry, take time to reestablish your goals and start again.