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Workshops - why bother?
March 19, 2017
Flamenco is one of those dance forms where your enjoyment increases, the more you know. With more knowledge, understanding, skill and confidence, you find each class a more joyful and fulfilling experience.
Learning is gradual in Flamenco. You may feel as if you have climbed a little hill (or maybe for you it felt more like a mountain) one week, then maybe you stay on a plateau for a while and then you realise you've just climbed another hill.
We encourage people to come to class regularly but we know that there will always be people who just can't attend regularly, no matter how much they might want to. Family life, work life and other commitments sometimes get in the way of class. As Flamenco is a dance form where you really only improve by regular class attendance, sometimes you have to look for other ways to help you to climb that hill. And that's where workshops come in.
Most Flamenco dance schools runs workshops. The fact that almost all Flamenco schools offer workshops suggests that there's a market for them. No-one would go to the trouble of putting on workshops unless they were sure dance students were going to show up. But why bother signing up for these workshops and giving up a day of your weekend for them? What are you going to get out of them that you aren't going to get from your regular (and cheaper) weekly classes? These are good questions and they deserve honest answers about why all dance students should also attend occasional intensive workshops as well as their normal classes.
1. If you're someone who finds it difficult to attend regular weekly classes a workshop can fill that gap. They give you that all-important dancing time. You can learn as much in a well taught workshop as you would learn in 2-3 classes. I have seen many dancers come away from a workshop understanding a technique, a step, a style etc for the first time. They've never got it in class, but now they get it. The length of workshops may have something to do with it.
2. Workshops are much longer than normal weekly classes. A workshop will usually be minimum of 2 hours and it could be longer. This gives you a much more intensive learning time. It's a more immersive experience (like putting your head into a bucket of Flamenco and leaving it there for a while!) in which you have to switch off from your normal world and just give yourself over completely to the Flamenco world in that workshop. Without external distractions, you learn a lot more.
3. One of the feedback we receive most regularly after a workshop is from students telling us how inspiring it was. This seems to come from the fact that for many students, attending a weekend workshop is the closest they are going to get to the inspiration of attending a course in Spain. No matter how keen you are, attending your regular classes week in and week out, can sometimes leave you feeling a bit jaded, a bit out of love with Flamenco and you may even start to question why you come to classes. Particularly if you feel as if you're not achieving much. A good workshop cuts straight across that and it makes you feel as if you've had a great big drink of Flamenco love, passion and it renews your commitment to why you wanted to study Flamenco dance in the first place.
4. No matter how good your usual teacher is - and there are some fantastic teachers out there, it is very, very good for students to sometimes have a different teacher. Each teacher has their own style, their own choreography and their own "language" for teaching. After you have studied with that teacher for a while you understand their style, their technique and their teaching language quickly and more easily. They use steps in your regular weekly classes which are similar to other steps they have taught you in the past, so you learn them more quickly. But the problem with this is that if you only ever learn with one teacher, it's as if you only ever get one version of Flamenco, one part of the language! By attending a workshop with other teachers, different teachers from other parts of the world and other parts of Spain, you develop a richer Flamenco language, a deeper understanding of Flamenco style, steps and technique.
5. One of the best aspects of regular weekly dance classes is the friends you make at the class - people who normally you might never have met! But often you see the same people at class week in, week out and when you go to a workshop you meet a lot more people, new people, potential new friends who you already have a lot in common with as they, like you, already are really interested in Flamenco! This social side of workshops is great. Workshops attract people from a wider geographical area and you have the opportunity to meet people who have different Flamenco dance experiences to talk to you about. Your shared interest, your shared laughter and hard work in the workshops is very much part of the enjoyment of the experience.
6. Most Flamenco dance students dancing away in their own classes have little feeling of connection to the wider Flamenco world and culture. if you begin to think about the number of Flamenco dance classes in the UK alone (59 that we know of, so probably closer to 70) and then imagine that there are at least that many, or maybe double that amount in France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway, Hungary, Russia - the list just goes on and on. Then there's the hundreds of classes in the USA. Of course we can't forget the country with the largest amount of Flamenco dance classes and students outside of Spain; Japan, which is an incredible country for fantastic Flamenco. Of course there's also Spain! That's millions of people dancing Flamenco almost everywhere in the world. If you only ever attend your own dance class it's difficult to connect to the wider Flamenco world and culture. Joining workshops allows you to learn with teachers who are not from your area (or from your country) and meet other students from other areas (and countries) and be part of something bigger, more life changing and more profound than just your weekly classes.
We run workshops in Oxford taught by the dancers who come to Oxfordshire to perform at our Spanish Night shows. This means that we aim to offer 4-5 workshops a year. Our workshops are roughly every other month. We don't run them too often because we know that people need a chance to save up the money to book them and take time from the family and work in order to take part. So we think that every other month is about right. Our next workshop is on Sunday 30 April and it will be a 2.5 hour workshop taught by Natalia Garcia-Huidobro from Madrid, who created the Flamenco company "La Típica" and is their main dancer. Details are on the "Workshops" page of our website. After that, our next workshop will be on Sunday 25 June, taught by the fantastic dancer Noemi Luz, who is coming from Sevilla just to dance and teach for us.
But if you're looking for something even more exciting, more challenging and for longer, we strongly recommend the intensive 3 day course with an amazing raft of fantastic teachers run by Flamenco Academy in London (www.flamencoacademy.co.uk) which is from 27 - 29 May (May bank holiday weekend). This course will be packed, with people travelling from all over the UK and outside to dance with them. These type of courses are not only suitable for people who dance at a high level, they also have classes for Improvers and Elementary, as well as special classes in castanets and in Bulerias. There really is something for everyone at a course like this.
For us, the answer to the question "Workshops - why bother" (apart from everything else we've said here) would be because they are SO worth it. They can help you climb to the top of your next Flamenco dance mountain and that alone makes them worthwhile.
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I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!