Monday, May 27, 2013

Note to self: how to dance bulerias

I went on a 3-day flamenco course this weekend, which was fantastic. Bulerias are a fun, short flamenco dance that people tend to perform at a juerga (party). If you go to see flamenco shows in big theatres (eg Sadler's Wells), the performers (dancers, guitarists, singers) will often dance bulerias at the end of the show, at the curtain call: they form a semi-circle and all get to have a go. It's called 'bulerias fin de fiesta' then.

It's really fun but it's also very frightening as the dance is improvised on the spot. The dancer needs to call the singer when he is ready to start the dance, needs to respect the singer during his song and needs to show him when it's time to be quiet as he's about to show off his steps. So there's lots to be aware of, while you also need to look relaxed and have super attitude (see the video below for some cheeky steps, looks and more!). No need to say that dancing bulerias has always been scary for me: I had the feeling that I knew some steps but had no idea how to put them together and where they should go. That course has really increased my knowledge of the form, and now I know where things go - which feels amazing!

- walk into the semi-circle, simply right-left-right-left, be relaxed. You can walk for as long as you want, as the singer is unlikely to start his song until you give him a cue that he can start. A call to the singer is quite simple: clap your hands in front of you, hit your chest, direct your arms towards the singer and walk.
- while the cantaor sings, as a dancer you should do very little - by that I mean just do some marking steps (little walking steps to the right and left, nice arm movements, though you can play around). See 00:23-00:41 below:

- when the cantaor has finished his song, or is nearing the end of the song, you do a llamada, which is another type of call with a very distinct rhythm. This is the basic one, and you can play around once you feel comfortable.
- after the llamada, the cantaor will not start a new song. It's your time to do a bit of footwork and show off. The end of your footwork should include another call (like the one at the start) so the singer knows you're done and he can start singing again with another verse (then you go back to point two above). If you don't feel like doing footwork - or, like me, just want to be out of the spotlight asap! - you can simply end your llamada with a few steps that show the singer that you are about to leave the circle (usually the simplest is to to go into one of the corner of the circle, and show that you're about to walk through it in a diagonal: see 00:41 above for the llamada, followed by the walk to the corner showing that the dancer is about to leave) He will then sing a 'coletilla', a song that goes with those moves

So this is the basic. It gets more, way more complicated! For example, you can decide to wait for the singer to start his song and then jump in in the middle - as the man in the video above does. You can add lots of footwork. You can do a 'remate' to change your marking steps (as the dancer does at 00:22 above). You can do the llamada at another time. etc etc It's like improv - you have all those building blocks and you can play with them within reason.

Your bulerias can last only a minute or so if you want it to - it still feels like a long time when you can fuck up though. For now, I'm going to just keep it super simple until I get more confident and realise that embarrassment does not kill. After all a three-year old is doing it in the video above and she survived.