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story by Linda Machado for DanceUs.org

The A to Z's of Flamenco Dance: I is for Instruction

The A to Zs of Flamenco Dance:  I is for Instruction

The importance of quality instruction in Flamenco dance and guitar (and anything in life for that matter) is often, unfortunately, highly underrated.  We seem to be living in a fast-paced "now" world.  

I want it now; I don't have time to work for it, I don't have time to wait for it.  And since I'm so busy I don't want to travel more than 15 minutes to take a class.  So whatever teacher is closest, cheapest and puts me on stage the quickest is where I'll go.

What I have seen over the last 25 years in Flamenco is that this scenario is all too prevalent with many beginning Flamenco dance and guitar students.  And I am not saying anything new.  Here is a quote from 1990 by the late, great Flamenco master Teo Morca:

"Basically, there is no shortcut to arriving at a level of flamenco professionalism. You have to give a great deal to the art before you expect to receive. If someone studies in college, say in medicine, they must go through the basics over and over for years. Who would go to a doctor who has only studied six months or a year? Why should people who have studied a few months feel that they can represent flamenco as a profession? When is the respect for the art and for themselves as a true representative of this art going to be realized?" (Morca, Teo Becoming the Dance: Flamenco Spirit Kendall/Hunt Dubuque, Iowa 1990)

Taking the time to get quality instruction in a strong foundation in Flamenco is absolutely essential to becoming the best (and uninjured) dancer that you can be; and if the best teacher happens to live an hour away, then you simply have to drive an hour. (A perfect time to put Flamenco music on in your car and learn the rhythms which, by the way, is more important than learning the steps).  I have a student who drives 2 hours EACH WAY to study with me. 

Regardless of whether you want to dance Flamenco for hobby or profession, you need to start with quality instruction.

HOW TO FIND THE BEST FLAMENCO INSTRUCTOR:

  1. Be sure to thoroughly read ALL of the information on your prospective instructor's websites.  That gives you the instructor's teaching philosophies and course descriptions.
     
  2. Go to see your prospective instructors perform if possible.
    The way the falmenco instructor performs is the way you (or your child) will look by studying with this person


    a) Some performers (like me) focus on mostly private events and only have occasional public performances. Performing in a public venue does not guarantee quality performance or instruction ability.

    b) The way the instructor performs is the way you (or your child) will look by studying with this person. Be sure this is the look you want for you (and/or your child).
     
  3. Call the instructor and have a lengthy conversation. Ask all your questions and get answers you understand.  If the instructor does not have the time to discuss Flamenco with you, they may not have the time to be patient with you as a student or to consider you and your instruction a priority in their lives.

    a) If the instructor does not seriously stress the importance of a strong foundation then know that you probably are not getting a serious and/or qualified instructor.
     
  4. Word of mouth can sometimes work, but only if you and the person you are getting the referral from are on the same page about your Flamenco goals.


Now that you have found the best teacher, one who knows the importance of a strong foundation AND can teach that to you, (regardless of how far you have to drive) then what?

  1. Attend class regularly. If learning is important to you, go to every class you signed up for.  No excuses (within reason, of course  please don't go to class if you're ill).  Think commitment.
     
  2. Go home and make the time to practice every day what you have learned in class so the instructor can move forward with your lesson the following week and not have to repeat everything.  This is boring for everyone.
     
  3. Please do not ask the instructor if their fee is negotiable.  People usually do not get rich as teachers and their fee is probably what they need to pay their bills so they can keep teaching.  Put yourself in their shoes.
     
  4. Leave your distractions at the studio door and pick them up again when you leave. 

 

The best flamenco teachers teach from the heart not from the book!

And remember:

 

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