Last night after class, one of my students approached me and said "Flamenco is so HARD, this is the hardest thing I've ever done and I've done a lot of challenging things."
Yes, I thought, I know exactly how she feels because there have been moments, too many to count, where I've felt exactly the same frustration, where it all seemed impossibly hard, and I was this close to throwing in the towel.
No matter what I did my feet didn't move the way my teacher's did, my limbs were uncoordinated and awkward, the music made no sense, there was no grace in any of it...
So we've established flamenco is hard to learn. Now what? How do you move forward?
WHY move forward?
Let me address the WHY first.
Because it makes you stronger, not just phisically but mentally. It teaches you that you have a stamina and a will and a certain prioreceptive intelligence you never knew you had.
Because for the rest of your life you will be able to face challenges differently because you figured out how to move in 12 count and spin by spotting and hammer out music into the floor wearing heels.
Because you learn that you can't let things get the better of you.
Because being challenged to the point of breaking teaches you that you are able to bend before you break.
Now the hard part: HOW to move forward.
Regardless of whether or not you have a natural talent for dance and music, you have to be SMART about your training. I can't emphasize this enough. You have to start to think for yourself.
For example, when you're learning a footwork pattern, you have to anticipate that it will be reversed to the other side so that everything that initiates with the right foot, will eventually start with the left. You have to start anticipating "cambios" or resolves in patterns that are related to the rhythm.
In order for this to happen you have to familiarize yourself with the music. Listen to it to the point of borderline obsession. Try to figure out what's happening with the palmas patterns, the way they relate to the guitar and the cante.
If you're two years old and born into a family of flamencos in Andalucia, all this simply penetrates your body through osmosis, without even a thought. Alas, we don't have that luxury.
We have to study and listen and observe and concern ourselves with every step of the process.
Be analytical in your study. Where is the movement coming from? Are the lower and upper body moving in opposition or as a whole? Where is my weight at this moment?
Remember, the movement is coming from within YOU. Where is its origin, its starting point? Don't just copy the movement, process it.
Most bad habits and technique come from repeating the same movement incorrectly over and over again. You develop incorrect muscle memory and it takes forever to break it.
In order to not let that happen, you have to treat every repetition as an opportunity to improve, not as a mindless drill. Pick one thing to focus on for every repetition and improve on that ONE thing, then move on to the next.
The process takes work. It doesn't just happen.
You have to reach within yourself and find the stamina and will to push through to the next level. Reconnect with why you wanted to learn it in the first place.
Ultimately you have to love it. You have to love it outside of you doing it.
You have to love the process and recognize that there's no finish line to cross.
You get better, it gets easier.
There will come a time when for a moment you will be dancing inside the music: one hundred percent present, aware, transported. It will make sense, you will find the grace in it, it will no longer seem impossible.
You can get there, if you will it.