The A to Z's of Flamenco Dance: B is for Braceo
In Flamenco dance, braceo (bra-SAY-oh) is the Spanish term for Flamenco "arm work," the specific technique of moving the arms. Flamenco dancers, particularly women, are noted for having very powerful, yet extraordinarily graceful arms. This power and grace comes from engaging the arm muscles and controlling the arm movement, often in an extreme manner.
Proper braceo starts with proper posture (which I will discuss when we get to the letter P its one of the most important topics, so be sure not to miss it.) While the arm positions in Flamenco are similar to the arm positions in ballet, I teach my students to hold their arms in a basket position rather than in 1st, 2nd or 3rd positions: basket in front, basket overhead, and so forth. This helps them to break the association with ballet if they have had prior ballet experience. Ballet arms are very soft and graceful fluttering like delicate butterflies. Flamenco arms are very powerful yet graceful more like an eagle.
Arms do not move themselves. You must intentionally move them when and where you want them to go. Arms held overhead dont just randomly fall from the sky to your sides they are controlled downward, by you, every inch of the way. A key word here is resistance. All braceo is done with resistance like moving your arms through quicksand. Up and down movement, side to side movement all with resistance.
Men and women do relatively the same braceo but their hand movement (floreo) is different. So gentlemen should not worry about their arms looking like the ladies and the ladies should not worry about their arms looking masculine the technique is the same but the result is different. Floreo is a completely separate movement from braceo. Hands and arms work together, but separately. I will be discussing floreo in more detail in a future article.
Here is a simple arm exercise for you to get started with: standing in front of a mirror, hold your arms in front of you above your belly button and below your top rib - like you are holding a basket, with your elbows slightly relaxed. Now PUSH the basket up until your arms are over your head, being sure not to raise your shoulders as if shrugging. And I said PUSH dont just throw them up there. Now bring them back into the basket position by PUSHING them down, v.e.r.y. s.l.o.w.l.y. Repeat this exercise 10 times. You will start to understand the power required for proper braceo. The side-to-side movement requires some additional technique, such a keeping the arms a certain height, keeping the elbows facing the right way, etc.
And if your arms get tired, this is what I tell my students (especially the younger ones who tend to complain about everything!) too bad. Everything in Flamenco (dance, guitar and singing) takes effort above and beyond average. That is what makes it so special it is not an average art form; it is an extreme art form, one that can give you extreme rewards. So take the challenge youll never know how far you can go if you dont take the first step!