Audiences

Most flamencos know the frustration when an audiences tries to clap along with the complicated flamenco rhythms. This ocurred last night during the opening number of the performance, an intricate seguiriya rhythm. I thought to myself, uh-oh, hopefully they can’t keep this up too long. And luckily they didn’t. However, they did keep up their excitement and feedback with cheering, clapping at the ends of pieces and sections, and at almost every remate (culminating moment). And that fed us as performers. Our show last night was more like a conversation than a one sided monologue; we gave, the audience gave and the energy from both sides made the show one of our best yet.

As we enter and exit through the stage door, we never come into contact with the audience and one can almost forget that there is an audience in front of the stage. When I first started flamenco, expressing something to the audience was my main goal, yet in the last few years I’d forgotten about the audience. There’s always that saying, “Dance like no one is watching,” but is that really why we dance? Or why I dance? Yes, I love to dance regardless of there being an audience or not; dancing is what makes me feel alive. Yet we perform in order to connect with the audience, to transmit something. It’s not that we shouldn’t be caught up in the technique, but we can’t forget why technique is there. And I think technique is there to allow us to clearly express something to the audience. I guess I’ve been caught up in the steps and the technique for a while now and had forgotten why I need technique. Which isn’t to say I don’t still need to keep working at technique–that is a definite must–I just need to keep in mind the purpose technique serves.

A still from the hardest part of the show for me.
I’m still working on my technique for this part and
I am now able to interpret this at least a bit. 
Great performers in any art form know how to “work the audience.” They command both themselves, the stage, and the audience. It’s really knowing how to tell a story. We all know someone who can turn the most hum-drum happening into the jaw dropping story of the day. It was pretty amazing to watch Carlos Carbonell do just that in Baton Rouge in his solo por alegrías. A few other dancers and I were discussing in the dressing room how he can do such simple steps so cooly and calmly, yet have the audience on the tips of their seats and so easily build up to his remates. The movements he uses aren’t very complicated; it’s that he’s mastered bringing the audience along for the ride and releasing the punch line at just the right moment. The most beautiful moment of the tour so far occurred when he turned around and gestured to Pedro, the singer, to join him downstage. The spontaneity of the moment made the moment special and I doubt it could have occurred with any other audience or any other circumstance as of yet on this tour. Pedro stepped our from behind the monitors and microphone and sang the letra of bulerias de Cadiz beside Carlos, no longer separated by distance or a sound system; the cante and baile seemed to be fully united; it felt genuine. And genuineness is what I feel flamenco is all about at the end of the day. Even in a thoroughly mounted show, a palpable realness has to shine through.  

2018-01-11T20:56:13+00:00

About the Author:

Alice Blumenfeld is a flamenco dancer, choreographer, writer, and educator. She holds a MFA in dance from Hollins University and currently directs Abrepaso Flamenco.

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