Playing for dancers
In summary, the traditional steps to learn how to successfully accompany are
Find a guitar teacher who accompanies dancers and learn some basic rhythm chord sequences of the main dance forms.
This usually involves regular and ongoing private lessons.
Sit with this guitarist as he plays in classes and at dance rehearsals. The main guitarist usually uses an
amplifier so the student can practice quietly in the background with muffled strings. Recording lessons and classes
is also useful.
The student provides simple accompaniment as second guitarist in dance classes. He will also play on his own for
beginners classes and plays basic rhythms sequences to things like Sevillanas, Soleá and Alegria.
The student sits with the main guitarist on stage and supplies basic second guitar rhythm accompaniment.
The student plays on his own in more classes and rehearses with students and goes into the field doing performances
in cafes, private parties and other gigs. Eventually he is called upon to play on his own in more advanced dance
classes and to create suitable music for dance choreographies
Through this process, he learns as much as he can from recordings, books and videos. The best CDs to learn
accompaniment from is those that highlight singers and also those that feature live dance performances where the
steps are audible. I shamelessly say "he" rather than the more politically correct "he or she" because I have only
met two female flamenco guitarists in my life. Both of these preferred to remain low key regarding performances. To
my knowledge female guitarists are rare even in Spain.
All this could take about a year, but it is a most satisfying experience and you end up walking away with all you
need to arrange half decent dance accompaniments in the privacy of your own home with no dancers in sight. But even
so, the results will still need to be tested, and usually further customized to suit the individual dancer. Serious
dancers don't usually dance to "off the shelf" music. This may happen in some dance schools that use tapes and CDs
in class, but I would not send anyone to learn dance in one of these schools.
Most "serious" dancers prefer to play a part in it's development.
I probably haven't helped you that much. I just wanted to emphasize that fact that
flamenco is about interaction with others. You can't do it on your own. I dare say that anyone who has been
actively involved in performing flamenco will tell you the same thing. Despite what I say, my hope is that you will
go ahead and create some arrangements anyway and try them out with dancers. The bottom line is that music and dance
are personal expressions that need not be necessarily limited to traditional rules. I worked with one dancer who
had a background in modern jazz style dance. She liked to freely improvise flamenco steps without any regard to
specific compás. That was fine by me. We both knew the "rules" but for a bit of fun, we sometimes made a conscious
decision to disregard them. In other words, I could play any style of music (classical, ragtime or whatever) and
she was happy to dance to it. That was kind of liberating but we both knew it wasn't flamenco. We just enjoyed what
With kind regards,
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