Thursday, 31 October 2013


Just one of the words a few of the participants wrote to describe today's Session 3 of the project.

Another great session, lots of work done. I am tired and my battery is low. More info maƱana!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013


Bit of radio silence again as I continue to do more prep for the 3rd workshop session tomorrow....

Yesterday's session in the school was fantastic. I have 6 core participants - 3 male, 3 female and they a;; absolutely loved the 'inking' activity. So much so, that they were a bit too fast for it and were asking for more cells to draw. Whoops, that'll learn me to never underestimate the capabilities of our youth.

In fact, on the feedback forms, which were all generally very positive, the only criticism the group members had was that there weren't enough animation cells to draw. One very enthusiastic participant even reckoned I should take 600 cells in for them to animate.  Though I'm unsure as to whether that will happen because its taking some time to staple the tracing paper to the print-outs of the individual frames!

All a great learning curve though - definitely about process and great for the participants to learn patience. And for me too really.....

And check out this great photo, taken by one of the young lads on the project, who incidentally now wants to be a photographer!

As the group were so quick completing the first batch of animation frames, I decided to show them just how much in real time we've actually completed by laying out the first 100 cells completed, which equates to 4 seconds of the 53 seconds we need to animate.

We've got a long way to go, but if yesterdays session was anything to go by, the journey will be a joyful, if labour intensive one!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Living and learning...

To bed shortly as I've spent most of today prepping for tomorrow's second session at the school.

For reasons I won't go into here, I'm on my own now. So I've decided that tomorrow's session will be an 'inking' session, outlining some cells for the animation.

Looking forward!

Buenas noches :)

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Re: Responsibility

A very quick post to say that the edit of the raw footage for the routine is done! On reflection, it wasn't as painful as i though it would be, but I am so aware of the technical misdemeanours I've committed - eek! Doubt if Toni will be happy when he see's it!

Thoughts today whilst editing.....In the workshops, I will go with the 'inking' or outlining of the many individual frames, because I think, as I should have learned throughout the learning process as I tried to master the flamenco routine, patience is a valuable virtue to learn.

Young people (and most adults) want everything now (self included), and I think taking the time to create something of quality in terms of the outlined frames, not compromising this with quantity, may just be a very important skill for the participants to learn, if they don't already possess that skill of course.

The other thought was that, like everything, learning is very much down to personal responsibility. Whilst Toni taught me the flamenco routine from scratch, only I could execute the final performance.

I say this here, now because I'm responsible for my errors. All of the video footage shows how fantastically he tried to instruct, direct and encourage me. But it was on the day that mattered, and there is definitely some truth in that old adage, you can only try your best. I'll just have to ensure that in the exhibition literature, its clear that I'm aware that my technique failed me on the day of the filming and that the participants are clear on the effort rather than the result / the process rather than the outcome and what a valuable learning curve this can be.

Which ties in nicely with me thinking about more evaluation questions for the participants to do with confidence in trying new skills and team-working etc. What am I looking for in the workshops? Constantly asking this!

Back to the other old adage of stopping being so hard on myself and getting as much rest as I can. A busy week lies ahead...

Friday, 25 October 2013

Temporary Artist

A slightly, shorter, later blog today. As an emerging artist, its usual to have to find some temporary work to get you through, so today, I was supporting a reception in a Medical Centre in Liverpool and had yet more realisations about some gender differences.

In short, I witnessed a lot of aggression from young males today and it just reminded me of why I'm doing this project.

It seems that young men are just brought up differently form young women. There is a lot of arrogance around from young men today (and of course young women) and I want the legacy of this project to be that young people develop a respect for the opposite gender.

I don't think I've explained that very well, but I know what my sentiment is. Its that everyone is empowered and confident in their gender without having to be oppressive or the aggressor.  This can only come from channelling aggression into creating something, rather than destructing something.

I hope the animation-making helps in some way.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Downs and Ups, Ups and Downs...

I think there comes a point in a participatory project like this when things start to become clearer, but  before that there are definitely downs and ups and ups and downs.

Yesterday I felt I was moving forward because there was some nice press coverage in the online Spanish / English arts magazine, 'yareah'. 

I also felt as though I was making progress in the editing of the raw routine footage.   

Today, on the other hand, has been a mixture of both ups and downs. I realised how much I miss Barcelona and the daily flamenco training. I haven't worn my shoes once since getting back and I wish that I could make the time to keep up practising the routine.

On the plus side, I finally got sorted on what I'll be doing with my group in the workshops. Because of the short time frame, its something very basic, but really nice and effective, based upon rotoscope animation.

It means the participants will become 'inkers' for the next few sessions, drawing my outline from each frame, I'm hoping for at least 30 seconds worth of footage.

Now, if anyone knows about animation, it works on the basis of 25 frames per second. Thats 750 frames that would be needed to be 'inked' for 30 seconds worth of footage. This will be a lot of work for the young artists, which is why its got to be this simple given the time frame of 5 more sessions.

Maybe following the techniques in this beautifully done animation?

Also, I'm trying to think of a way around reducing the number of frames without the routine looking completely weird when rotoscoped.

And, here's the interesting thing about talking through this process with my friend S
am, who is a great animator here in Merseyside. I had realisations that maybe I would not have had if I wasn't undertaking this project.

Essentially, I realised by processing this that I am someone who learns by doing. If I think back to an earlier post on this blog, I remember saying that I wasn't listening sometimes to Toni when he was teaching.  I was kind of 'zoning out' and today was the same when my friend tried to explain something to me. I had to do the action as opposed to listen and take it in that way.

Also, as I think I previously mentioned in an earlier post too, I have very little patience.

I think these are all good things to re-realise as I have to start from this point now and understand how I can encourage someone with similar learning traits to develop or learn certain skills.

That in itself is a plus point because its about how from my own challenges I can enable someone to overcome theirs in a way. I'm sure this will reveal itself when we're trying to ink the frames in the forthcoming sessions, so its about what techniques I can use to motivate the participants to keep them interested.

I look forward to the outcome!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Edit. Edit. Edit.

Yep, that's what I've been up to today. Finally getting around to cutting the video footage of the routine in time for next weeks workshop sessions.

Its not been as bad as I thought it would be really, though I need a rough cut before tomorrow so that I can run through some animation ideas before Friday when I next meet with Barry, the other workshop artist.

I've been checking out clips of the footage and looking at how awful my footwork / technique was on the day of the filming.

There are some decent takes though, so all is not lost.

I suppose the beauty of animation is that I can use a variety of different shots for the participants to draw over and animate.

Having ideas about how this can be shown within the installation at the celebration day.

Talking of which, its only four weeks away now, so the next phase of publicity and marketing needs to kick in fast if we're going to have an audience and pass on this flamenco fever!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013


I've spent today battling with Mercury in Retrograde, communication and technical issues etc etc..... so thinking back to a time not so many weeks ago when I was training everyday in the flamenco routine and enjoying Barcelona has been easy.

Today I've been writing a press release to push coverage of the workshops and doing bits of facebook page updating with photos of the shoot etc.

Tomorrow I'll crack on with editing the actual live action footage of the performance last week. I've been putting this off slightly out of fear that its going to be awful, but there are loads of things I can do with the other practice footage I've got as well and I've got loads of idea about what work can be done in the workshops to go towards the exhibition / celebration day.

In quite a reflective mood today, thinking about the amount of things I've learned, not only about flamenco and the process of learning that, but also its been so revealing about the obstacles I put in front of myself as a barrier to progress.

Essentially, on reflection, I can't do everything and this project is a mammoth task for one person to take on alone. Also, I now respect and face up to the fact that I can't be producer and artist at the same time.

I feel as though I sabotaged my performance the other week by not letting go of the film production aspects of it and I look unwell and tired on the photos from the shoot.

That said, at least I have learnt this now. These are valuable, if difficult things to realise, admit and attempt to confront because its about how I change my practice from this point on.

One change is this: I will stop work now, earlier than usual to enable myself to have time for me and recover from the exhaustion that has set in over the last week. Small changes are good and come at the right time.

So I'm moving forward in this at least. Not falling back, as the planetary system could potentially try to make me do right now. given the current position of good old Mercury.

Change is hard, but good, and as much as it is trying, retrograde for me, right now, is not in the stars.

Monday, 21 October 2013

And so to blog...

So....this weekend I have been pondering upon what direction to go in following the first workshop session with the young film-makers / animators and today I have been looking at some animations for inspiration, namely 'Feet of Song' by Erica Russell: and 'Triangulo' by the same artist: which both look at dance and movement and using ideas about shape.

Also been chatting with my animated animator friend Sam Hatton about the way to move forward now that Barry and I have introduced the participants to rota-scope animation.

We have 5 sessions left with the young artists, and I want this to be as much about process as it is about outcome. I won't reveal too much but I want the celebration event / exhibition to show the whole process from the first introductory session and how the participants have progressed.

Animation is very labour intensive so there will be lots of production line material to exhibit - I just wonder if my collaborators will be able to keep up with the workload of potentially having to produce around 750 drawings to cover each of the frames needed even for just a third of the routine footage?

Barry's idea for one of the animations is to animate the words of the flamenco movements which is such a beautiful idea, but I want to work with shape and collage in Gaudi kind of way....

So this week then, there will be lots of session planning and materials buying, and it is quite exciting because again, its all about my process in this as well as enriching the lives of collaborators.

Also feeling as though I need to reign in my focus about the research enquiry about gender and collaboration and what I am looking to draw out of the workshops with the young people, so that I can evaluate this properly and more valuably.

A busy, but interesting week ensues...

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Back to the old school....

So today Phase 2 of the project kicked in, and was the first workshop session that myself and the other Halewood based artist, Barry Worrall, delivered with the participants at Halewood Academy Centre for Learning, Halewood, Knowsley, Merseyside.

The Academy is on the site where both Barry and I went to school (formerly Halewood Community Comprehensive School), which is why we feel its important to go in and create something here in our own community.

Today was also the last day of the school term, so with just 7 participants, it wasn't as well attended as we'd hoped, although surprisingly, 6 of the participants were boys, and I always assumed it would be the girls who were the keenest to participate in these sort of art projects.

Barry and I introduced ourselves and our individual practices and the project we're doing. In this Phase, we're aiming to collaborate with the participants to create audio/visual installations from the video of the flamenco routine I learned, for an exhibition at the school starting November 19th, the 50th anniversary of Carmen Amaya's passing, focussing upon a different culture and ideas about identity within the outcomes.

When I spoke about Carmen Amaya and showed the class some images of her, one of the lads asked if it was a man or a woman, which I was surprised at but glad they had questioned this.

Then we introduced the group to basic rota-scope animation techniques by projecting the images of the video footage from the filmed routine (from Monday) and tracing around 4 individual frames with charcoal onto tracing paper.

Barry Worrall guiding the participants through the first session task

By photographing each frame and importing them into i-movie (changing the duration of each clip to about 0.4 seconds), the participants created basic animations so that they could understand the technique.

Though it was just a small session, we got great, positive, feedback from the participants, with a resounding YES, that they would come back to the next workshop to starcreating the real installations. I think more will turn up next session after the half term and there's lots of ideas for what the outcomes could be but this is also about process too, so it will be interesting to see what else the participants come up with.

Planning for the actual 'vision' for the exhibition and celebration day will also be underway this week, so not a bad start to this Second Phase at all.

Still missing Barca, but things keeping me busy here.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Back in the 'Pool!

Well, after a quiet day on the old blogging yesterday, saying my goodbyes to Toni, finally seeing a bit of Barcelona and saying farewell to this place thats captured my heart and inspired me so much, I finally made it home to rainy Liverpool.

Spent most of the day smiling as I wandered around the city, happy with what an amazing month its been and how much I had learnt about the Catalunyan culture, flamenco and myself.

Most of my time yesterday was spent admiring the work of Gaudi and reminded me that this was what it was about to put your dreams into practice. It struck me how this trip had truly been about that. Its been a test of strength and determination and celebration of life, and thanks to Carmen I've been able to have this amazing experience, and need a new pair of feet. They've been so sore ever since Monday's filming.

More of an in-depth evaluation to come, but now straight into Phase 2 of the project.

Today I've been planning with the other artist, Barry Worrall, who will be working with me in the school, who's a visual artist and animator. We had planned the first session before the trip to Barca, but today was about putting things firmly in place.

Also went to the school, Halewood Academy Centre for Learning, to check out the equipment again as we have our first introductory session with the participants tomorrow after school, which is quite exciting.

It's strange to think that its only another 4 weeks or so until the exhibition has to be ready. Keeping this busy means I don't have time to think about missing Barca that much though there is absolutely a huge gap in my heart at the moment, so I'll be glad to bring a bit of Catalonia to Merseyside.

Its important at this stage to keep focussed on the present and what needs to be done now, not what has been.

But right now though, I leave you with a few images from the filming on Monday. Enjoy!

Pictures by Tea Guarascio

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Viva Barcelona!

I've been reflecting on yesterday's filming and I think the biggest lesson is that I really need to relax more about things.

My new friend here, Julia, said that maybe I set my expectations too high, and I agree.

What I've achieved over the last 4 weeks is amazing. So I'll be happy with what I got yesterday and there will be images soon.

Now for my last day in Barca I'll spend as a tourist, gathering research for the next phase of the project which starts in Halewood Academy Centre for Learning on Thursday evening.

I feel sad at the prospect of leaving this city. Its been so inspiring in so many ways.

Now for some more great culture and food.


Monday, 14 October 2013


Well its done.  We only had 3 hours in the location, that included set up and set down. It was very nerve wracking but I have many takes of the routine. All of the crew, James, Toni, Tea and Alex were fab.

I felt disappointed for Toni as my footwork wasn't great today. I'm sure there will be something I can use form the rushes but I felt I put myself under too much pressure today.

There's something in my process thats not working. I was a bit too tense and should have relaxed more.

Feeling slightly deflated though its done now I will have to live with what I've got. Things do seem to take longer with film as I already know but because the pressure was on me to remember the steps in rhythm, that was my downfall.

I'm often too hard on myself and I have to learn that this is just a learning curve about journeying to an ideal destination of having the resources, the people to assist and the right amount of time at a location to get through this difficult challenge.

Don't quite know what to make of today, I should have known better really to think I could film this in just a few hours.....who knows what the rushes will be like. I had a sneak peak and they look well shot, thing is that the footwork on some of the takes isn't great.

Time for this weary woman to rest. Totally tired out and need to enjoy Barca for my last evening here.

I am so proud of myself for everything that I've journeyed through in the last 4 weeks. Flamenco isn't easy at the best of times. Under the challenge I set, its been even harder.

There is a sense of victory for me today, but also its about project management as well as the actual creative side. Mixing those two is so hard and as I've said before, I can't do everything myself so thats a massive thing that I've learnt. Having to let go of stuff and give other people control of a situation. But then the final decisions stop with me.

I will leave Barca a changed woman because of what this project has taught me, so watch this space.

Lets see what the outcome will be for both this project and my practice.

Some documentary photos of the filming can be seen below, shot by the great Barcelona based, Italian photography artist, Tea Guarascio.

Channelling Carmen

Bon dia world!

Well, I am just about to go and get set up for the filming of this choreography and actually feeling good.

Just gone through the steps quickly and I seem to know where to do what - only the real thing will be the test of this learning process.

I'll spend the last few minutes studying Carmen Amaya in the video clip I've been referencing. I can't believe the filming day is here already and I will leave Barcelona tomorrow.

Don't really know what else to say other than I'm trying to channel Carmen in that she would be absolutely fearless in going out there and performing. I just need to relax, keep in rhythm with the music, summon up whatever passion and attitude I have, and most importantly enjoy.


Sunday, 13 October 2013

Bedtime for this Bailaore!

Well the centre where I booked opened agin in time for my 4 hours of rehearsal / practice and I think I finally cracked the timing for the beginning and ending parts, the middle is still confusing me but I'm so happy that all that remains is getting the technique absolutely spot on. I want to do that for Toni's rep as much as mine. He's taken a big risk when you think about it. That takes courage.

One thing I'm not certain about is that the Fandango is about celebrating life so I'm unsure if I should be 'fierce' looking? Carmen looks like she's enjoying herself in the video clip, so maybe a quick question for Toni tomorrow about that?

As I walked back to the practice centre though, I realised just how many men were calling 'guapa' after me. I'm not saying this as something I'm proud of, just amazed how still men are more 'visible' than women on the streets. It takes confidence to walk alone down the street as a woman I think, with more males populating the street.

What I'm trying to say in some way is that, this piece of work is in a large part about recognising that women aren't around to just be pretty for the benefit of men. An age old discourse but why does it feel as though time is going backwards in this arena, particularly here in Barca? Or is that just because I'm here now?

Too tired for this discussion really and this Bailaore needs rest before the big event.

Hasta Manana (well, later today!)

Baile Flamenco at the Last Dance Saloon...

Have got almost everything I need for the performance / shoot tomorrow and not feeling as nervous as I  probably should, even though the place I've booked to practice for potentially the last time this evening is closed as I've just walked past. Estupendo!

The important thing in these situations is not to panic. I've gone over the routine in my head and in my feet many times. I just need to get that technique spot on and the timings better, oh and channel the attitude of Carmen.

Easy? No hi ha problema......

Still considering practice before the shoot tomorrow, but will have to see what time I have. Everything will fall into place I am sure with Toni there to direct me a little more and I'm actually excited to see what the outcome will be, but wherever you are at 2.30pm Barca time tomorrow, please, please think of me.

Final Lesson


Saturday, 12 October 2013

A Strong Constitution...

Lo siento, another later than advertised post. Been taking in a bit of Catalunyan culture today on a very much deserved day off.

OK, I say day off in a very lose way. I've also been shopping for costume requirements and seem to have got everything I need for Monday. Just!

Also saw a bit of a display of nationalism in Plaza Catalunya. This was all to do with Spain's constitution etc. and people wanting Catalunya to be part of Spain, the reverse opinion of what some people said the other day. Reminds me a bit of the Northern Ireland situation about belonging etc. Of course I realise that there's more politics and social reasoning behind this....

No practice today, but worked out the steps in a shop today as I waited for an order. Obviously, I must have looked a bit strange.

Also talked to people about engaging young people in creative activity. They said that the important thing is to make them feel connected. So I have a few ideas about that.

A shorter post than normal.

Estoy Cansada. But again, happy, nervous, excited about Monday. It will be fantastico! x

Penultimate Lesson

Friday, 11 October 2013

On my last legs?

Estupendo 3 hour final flamenco session with Toni today. It was so hard going, even he was shattered. He is definitely Sant Antoni!

Firstly I had to perfect some rhythmic concerns that were still troubling me in regard to the timing of the music. Particularly after the llamada step when it goes into the paso with golpe golpe golpe, planta tacon etc. as the rhythm in the music we're using changes velocity quite subtlely and quickly from very fast to slow, I'm trying to rush into this paso step unnecessarily.

Its good that I have to slow down at this point as thats the step I really struggle with, and the step that I know Toni is most concerned about in terms of my technique. It just doesn't go in when he tells me the rhythm and apparently I've been doing one less golpe stamp than I should have done, so the fact that I have to slow down at this point in the routine is good, as I may have mentioned in previous posts, because it means that I can focus on thinking with the planta and getting this technique right too.

Also the golpe stamps and accompanying arm movements need to be more forceful and have more security. Toni was clear on that! Despite being so encouraging and so patient, he's probably thinking, 'This English woman cannot dance!' I can see the frustration sometimes on his face.

After overcoming that obstacle of the timing, for creative and time constraint reasons, we agreed that we would plan the choreography to just over 2 minutes, when there's a clear break in the music. So more steps to be learned and taken in today.

It was brilliant though because we worked on my posture and how I should hold myself when doing the walking steps, worked out some beautiful braceo marcages moves, introduced more classic golpe steps and then worked on some dramatic finales!

So it felt like I had to take in loads today, and by the end of the 3 hours, I was confused by the ending of the routine I had no choice but to walk away and finalise the routine through practicing. The techniques have to be right and I want them to be right for me to produce a great performance, but mostly to save Toni's reputation!

I did feel more confident today in suggesting moves to do that could be adapted to my level and the music, and these ideas were really taken on by Toni. So its been an interesting collaboration where my confidence has grown in something that I've only been a part of for 3 weeks.

It was a shame that because of time I couldn't do the walking braceo marcages move, but there's so much to still learn and remember ow anyway. Its going to be a mad few days.

Later on in my own practice session, I was getting slightly confused with the music but as almost getting there with the timings. The thing I need is the passion and conviction still. I need to move like Amaya did in how she swayed her hips while doing the marcages moves. More studying of the video footage of her is what I'll be doing tomorrow!

Still, I'm so proud of what I've achieved today. I've worked so hard and need to keep the cold that's been going around these parts at bay so that I'm well and rest for more practice this weekend and the actual filming on Monday.

So I'm happy with the progress and where I've got to over these past few weeks, but still can't believe that today was the last day that I walked that daily weekday route from the apartment (in Sant Antoni, no less) to Carrer de Aribau for my flamenco lessons. Its been a great journey, one that's not over yet, for, and that part of it I'll always have treasured memories of, but I'll also miss.

Onto the last leg, the final furlong of this stretch of the project.


Thursday, 10 October 2013

Soy Preoccupada...

Today was good and bad, but ultimately its all good.

I'm so tired at the moment and can't really afford to be. Starting to get worried there's not enough choreography to fill the amount of filming time I want or work with most of the music I'm using, largely because of the time its taking to learn and also the short time I gave myself for this project.

Shared my worry with Toni and he said we can fill 2 minutes of the music with choreography, its just that what Amaya did in this dance was so complex and so fast, I couldn't realistically learn all of this in the little time we have / have had.

But today I was at least learning to put the moves to the music better. Just getting confused again with the timings a bit and of course, I think Toni is still giving up on me in terms of my rhythm.

He said a lovely thing the other day. In the final step, I am to find the light in that step in arriving at that position. I have to bring light to it. Bonita!

I will try to remember that as well as everything else I have to remember in terms of the timing. Its so difficult but in my extra practice today, I did manage to get the timing right so far.

So....we added a few marcages today, some paseo / walking elements and lots of lovely Amaya style arm movements and pitos (finger clicks!).

It really feels now like what Amaya was saying was about a celebration of strength in femininity rather than challenging the masculine. That's my interpretation.

So new steps added, including a funny little intro of me walking onto set, time to sort the location for filming. I'm so pleased to say that Sala de Carmen Amaya in Barceloneta Civic Centre is confirmed for the filming of this little homage to Ms Amaya on Monday afternoon. Feels like everything is fitting into place, and I actually can't think of anywhere else other than right by the place where Amaya grew up to pay tribute to her. Excited and nervous at the same time.

Now all I need is to find the right wardrobe / clothes etc. A task for the weekend I think when I can think straight a bit more.

In the meantime, I'm still sad to think that tomorrow is my last lesson at the school. I will miss it and Toni laughing at my lack of rhythm. Its certainly something you can't buy.

I saw something really amazing today as well, as I went to practice there this morning. I caught sight of a group of very advanced students warming up for their class and saw them kind of doing very low, flexible lunges and thought, what an amazing life to be a great dancer? It made me think will I continue flamenco back in Liverpool. a strong maybe is the answer. I think its probably the hardest dance to learn, but definitely one of the most potent, strong, enduring, passionate and expressive.

I just can't believe this part of the project will be over so soon. Its gone by in the blink of an eye and I've tried to savour every drop of this experience. At times its been stressful with having to plan and organise other things when alls I've wanted to do is practice. Days have been long here, but very much enjoyed and there are so many things I have learned and would do differently in the future, particularly with regard to learning the language here. It opens up another world which I have sadly been closed to.

Anyway, Estoy cansada, so I'll sum up another time.

I may not be at the stage I really need to be in terms of my dance, but no soy preoccupada now.

Soy muy feliz.

October 9th Session

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

I've got the moves like Amaya. Well, nearly...

Amazing how much we can achieve in a small space of time.

Three weeks ago, I had arrived in Barcelona and was nervously awaiting my first ever flamenco lesson with Toni Moniz at Escuela de Baile Flamenco Jose de la Vega.

Did I think that 3 weeks later I would be nervously preparing to film the choreography that Toni had come up with to adapt to the flamenco style of Carmen Amaya? Well, yes and no. Did I think I would be further on in my progress? Maybe...

I don't think I really knew what to expect, just that I was passionate about the subject matter of gender roles and I obviously knew I had to have an outcome for this project, but I never anticipated the adventure in learning that I've had.

I anticipated that it would be full of ups and downs and laughter (mostly Toni laughing at my inability to keep in time to the music or having two left feet!), but its been such an amazing journey, which isn't over yet, of course. I'm so proud of myself for developing the strength to even try this at my age.

Flamenco is a hard dance to master, and I certainly don't think I've mastered it in 3 weeks. Could anyone?

What I know is that this is my homage to Amaya, who had so much self-belief, grit and displayed such sheer strength, happiness and joy in performing her art.

But, as I mentioned, the journey isn't over. I'm still not feeling 100% string enough in terms of 'force', stature and grounded steps during the choreography practice sessions, so there is a huge amount of work to be done between now and Monday afternoon.

Things took a turn for the better today in terms of practicing to music. The original plan, where music was concerned, was that the original music I had from the first ever Amaya dance I saw, the one we're adapting, was just too fast and complex for me to follow. So Toni and I had agreed that we would get someone to record a slower version of something for me to dance to. But I couldn't really justify the money I might need to record a slower version, so we just decided we would go for the original music and use that as our foundation for the choreography, which made me very happy indeed.

This rhythm is so complex that even Toni found it difficult to follow, but was brilliant in timing whatever steps we had done, so that they fitted together with the music.

This music in the first half, you see, changes in speed a lot, which was good actually when it came to some of the stamps that I struggle with - as they can now be done a lot slower.

We tried the moves to the music, and yep, its fast. But I am so determined to do this, and I'm not giving in until its done, really.

Even though its only really been a rough practice to the music today, I felt great satisfaction in what I'd achieved this week.

OK, my technique on a lot of the moves and steps needs a lot of work, but Carmen's spirit is there. It just needs to be there more. I'm not trying to be her, but trying to understand what she was trying to get across, so I need to toughen up more, but still be a woman.

Its great though how this process is bringing out more confidence and strength in my femininity and how much untapped potential we all do have, male or female.

Good news also in that the camera operator is also sorted for the shoot now too. Just a recce to do tomorrow. I want this to be a tribute to Amaya in a contemporary way, so we'll see what the recce of the location gives us to work with. Then its just 'wardrobe' research / buying etc which is good.


Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The Late Late Blog...

A later than advertised blog, mainly to do with the fact that I'm busy trying to sort the filming side of stuff as well as take in the dance lessons, but generally its been a good day, perfecting or trying to perfect the 'llamada' which I thought I progressed on well...then learning 2 more steps which included lots of stamping golpe style, and a kind of side step with golpe stamp (in which I keep jumping!) which took the choreography up to half way through where we need to be.

For some reason I Felt I was much more focused and relaxed today. I was taking things in and meeting the beat more consistently. Previously my head had just been all over the place with planning stuff and there comes the realisation that, you just can't do it all alone sometimes. I had this realisation this morning, with the question, can we ever be 100% self sufficient as artists, as human beings?

No extra practice this afternoon as I had more planning and language barriers to overcome, but happy that the lessons seem to be back on track and that I have some stuff to get my teeth, or at least my feet into. 

Toni looked tired today as he was constantly counting me into the beginning of the steps, and though I did miss a few starting points, it wasn't as bad as it has been. 

More visuals tomorrow, I promise. Today has been a good day about mastering the mind, actually listening and taking more steps forward. 


Monday, 7 October 2013

Luck is an attitude.

Worst ever lesson today. Despite really wanting my life to be in rhythm with the universe, my dancing certainly was not in rhythm with the bulerias tempo.

Just could not get this llamada (or the 'call' as I found out it means through a Skype session!). Its the planta tacon part that is just abysmal. I think there's so much on my mind with the planning and organising with the filming that I'm finding it hard to focus 100% on the choreography.

Really for the first time I felt so tired and like giving up today. The worst lesson ever, but I still feel so lucky being here in this city right now. A slight hiatus dogged by these issues;

1) I find it hard to really listen to Toni or any other teacher for that matter in order to learn.

2) I struggle with time. Or lack of it. Often.

3) I need to relax and enjoy flamenco in the moment and feel its passion more. That I don't feel I'm doing.

These have been problematic particularly today. Not to mention the fact that the dance I am tryng to emulate may not even be 'El Embrujo del Fandango' (or 'The Bewitched Fandango' as it translates to).  Despite that, it was the dance that first inspired me for this project, so that's the dance I'll be adapting.

Speaking of which, next Monday will be the day to film the performance. Even though I've made a decision not to perform it in front of people, its still some pressure for me.

Toni mentioned getting a guitarist to play the music instead of using the music I've got which is perfect and what I originally envisaged.

We also agreed that we'll make the choreography much more simpler and shorter because Amaya's dance was very complex. I'd love to be able to do it completely but maybe that's not the point here.

Anyway, I met with some film-makers here this evening - one British and one Dutch. (Is anyone Catalunyan here?) Many more decisions to make about location of the filming etc etc. but tomorrow is another day and in Barcelona, it seems at the moment, anything can happen.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

I am Catalunyan

No practice today, just a day full of meeting lovely people, some from Catalonia, some not.

Had lunch with a new friend from India and her son's partner from Barcelona, who explained a bit more about Catalonia's push for independence, which has both historical and contemporary reasoning.

Historically, the drive for independence has been one about identity, but more recently, Catalonia is the region that generates more income for Spain in terms of tax revenue, and because the economy is not so good here at the moment, there is disagreement as to whether the region should continue doing this or have its own independent constitution.

Even so, Spain first have to agree to hold a referendum, and even if that was held, the result about whether Catalonia gets its independence may only be 50/50, as many people who live here aren't originally from the region and may not be concerned about it, whereas in the smaller, more traditional villages on the outskirts, people there do want to independence.

I wonder how it would change things here and how the region's identity would evolve or become yet stronger?

We also spoke about how Catalunyan people may at first appear aloof and then open up and embrace people. Kind of finding their feet first. I came to the conclusion that I am Catalunyan.

About strength...that's something I'll need to draw upon for this last week of lessons and practice.

Somehow, I have to feel Carmen Amaya's passion, strength and conviction in my interpretation of the choreography. I have to believe that I can meet and keep in rhythm with the Fandango music.

Expect a miracle.

Practice a la Sala H

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Finding Somorrostro

Well, who'd have known it. Thinking I couldn't find Somorrostro (birth place of Carmen Amaya) when it turns out the first time at the beach last week I was actually on that very beach.

Another amazing day taking in the sights of Barceloneta today. I took the bus down there and walked right along the promenade, stopping for some well needed carbs in the form of patatas bravas and also some small fried fish to keep my energy up for practicing.

Also found Carrer de Carmen Amaya, which I am assuming is named so because she was raised there? I wonder what she would think of it these days?

Onto Somorrostro Beach for a while and then 2 hours practice between 6pm and 8pm this evening in the beautiful Sala H of Barceloneta Civic Centre. Its an amazing venue and the practice was good, just trying to get faster at the Palmas and the Llamada, but beginning to figure out the timings a bit better, though I am wondering how on earth I will get this as fast as it needs to be?

I've decided I'm not going to give up. I'm going to do this, whatever it takes, and I'm already getting quicker, both in the learning and the timings, but its the first golpe stamps and the palmas I need to work on getting faster and perfect right now, so I spent a good amount of time just practicing this.

Felt a lot more relaxed as well, and just kept thinking about how to re-perform that strength and conviction shown by Carmen Amaya.

Anyway, as usual, estoy cansada. I know this week is critical but I'm having a bit of a break from practice tomorrow, I'm really yearning Barca culture to inspire this and the next phase of the project. In fact, I thought about taking the project participants to see 'Bajari' if its on in Liverpool when I get back in a couple of weeks. I think that'd be a great idea for them to see that and understand the spirit of flamenco.

Buenos Noches.
                                          Catalunyan Fish & Chips

                                          Its got her name on it...

                                                       Beautiful Somorrostro Beach.

                                          Sala H, Barceloneta Civic Centre. 

Lesson 11

Just a little something I learnt in Lesson 11.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Can you feel the force?

So much to say about today. Its been brilliant, if very tough. And full of sweat. Nice.

Another great lesson started slowly with me trying to do this stamp move from yesterday. I got there in the end with some repetition. But got there (that's the important bit).

Now onto yet another move. Its just non-stop and brilliant. And excuse me while we laugh at the high speed of the music from the performance we're trying to adapt the choreography to.

'El Embrujo del Fandango' has a very complex 'compas' or rhythm. The start of it is like a buleria and the fandango is part of the same family as this.

Anyway, at the start of the dance that Carmen Amaya does in the performance I'm trying to emulate, she does palmas (clapping) and stamping at the beginning. So we tried that firstly, which was good,  but it took me a while to relax. My teacher always laughs at how I have too much tension. Is this a very English thing? Or a very Clare thing? He must think I'm mad for wanting to even attempt doing a routine to this music, because he said even he finds it hard to dance at the speed that Carmen Amaya could dance.

Anyway, the palmas was slower than Carmen's (first name terms now), but the timings today were definitely not processing in my head and I was starting to think that my teacher thought I was missing something. I explained that, usually, I think I have rhythm, but this is a completely different ball game.

Moving on from the palmas, we did this move that I actually loved, but found mas dificil. The Llamada (pronounced 'Jamada').

It took ages for me to get this right. I think its because we're working with a 12 beat pattern, which stops on the 10th beat usually and begins again on the first beat after the 12th beat, and also I'm getting used to this in Spanish rather than English, which is a bit off-putting. The way I'm learning is just by the count of the beats. So on the 1st and 3rd beat there are golpe stamps. Then a step forward for 2 beats, then another golpe step on the 6th beat, then, 7, 8 and 9 are planta tacon steps backward with a golpe on the final 10th beat.

I did laugh at first because it was like doing the flamenco version of the moonwalk but it wasn't funny when I was constantly doing it wrong and not producing a great technique in my planta. I have to put the emphasis on the planta and tacon, add more force and security. After about half an hour or more of this I was starting to feel sorry for Toni constantly going through the timings and counting me in only for me to miss the beat I should begin on. This person has great patience.

Again, the key was to relax. Once I did, it got better. But now we would put the palmas and the llamada moves together, a la Carmen Amaya.

It was really weird trying the moves that she did because it is really like performing and becoming another person or trying to become another person. I really have to think about if this is what I want to achieve in the re-performance.

Dancing like this, though, really gave a sense of strength and conviction, because that was what Amaya was about. Her performances where characterised by strength, and she had this like no other male dancer at that time, apparently. It was so unusual for a woman to dance like that with such masculinity in the late 30's, now its more normal but she was unique.

But if I wanted to get these steps right, I have to feel the force, particularly in steps such as the planta and tacon. That doesn't necessarily mean stamping louder, but just with that little bit more security and grounding would help. Can I really begin to feel this?

So I tried almost emulating that strength and the positioning of her body in the moves she did for the introduction to the performance, the palmas, through to the grabbing of the jacket, through to the llamada etc. If I'm honest, I was so proud of myself for getting through that bit - and sometimes it was good. Just some mistakes on the llamada, but practice will help that.

There's lots of work to be done on the positioning of my body etc, but essentially I did feel that I became stronger and 'grander', more confident by doing these steps and I think that's what Amaya was trying to do. Give women more confidence in themselves.

After a quick run through of the 2 marcages that we'd started on Tuesday, the lesson ended with the advice that I need to work a lot over the weekend, and this evening, I went to see Toni, my teacher, perform in 'Opera y Flamenco' at Teatro Poliorama, on Las Ramblas. I was curious to know if he performed as well as taught, so it was interesting to see him in that context and how flamenco is of course a performance which includes a bit of acting. The dancing itself was great, and the singers and musicians were just amazing. In fact, I immediately recognised some of the musicians from the 'Bajari' feature documentary I saw last weekend. It was just so brilliant to see and hear such talented people perform in this amazing city. I feel very lucky about that.

It also made me think about where I should film my re-performance. Should I try and hire a theatre, or is a studio OK? I'll have to process that one.

So that was me for today. Pleased with the progress, but aware I have so much to do. Another great day in Barca. Video footage to follow...