Of Calendars and Cocktails
posted in practice on april 22nd, 2009
So I was checking in on some friends’ blogs recently … which reminded me that I’ve got a blog of my own that I’ve been neglecting miserably lately! Well, fear not, intrepid readers, there is news to be had from the Flamenco Northwest and have it you shall.
But first to bring you up to speed: as some of you know (and the rest of you are about to find out), the dancers that make up the other regular two-thirds of my little flamenco group are due back from Spain any week now—two weeks from now, actually.
And terribly excited we all are, of course, to see what new moves they bring back with them. Promising new repertoire or not, however, their absence is not enough to quell the call to perform—or, more specifically, it’s not enough to quell the calls I get from folks asking for flamenco performances.
Okay, fine, truth be told: I’m not exactly seeking restraining orders on potential clients. But there have been a couple interesting dates that have crossed my inbox—one of them the day before Dani returns, the other one the day after Rachel gets back. So what’s a guy to do? Well, I’m not sure what other guys might do, but I for one set promptly to rifling through my list of contacts with this thought: "Who can I coerce into to putting some shows together with me in the vagabonds’ absence?"
Luckily for me, Rachel, Dani and I have been (and will continue to be) strong proponents of collaborating with other musicians and dancers, so a ready roster of potential partners in crime is easily at hand. Building a set from "scratch," however, has been a different process than working a dancer or a singer into an already existing set. And it’s been a good learning experience. Rachel Sprague and Marta (said partners in above mentioned crimes) are both talented performers (again, luckily for me), but—of course—they think, dance, sing, and operate in general differently than R & D.
Which means that I’ve had to rethink my strategies in getting music, arrangements, and set lists together (which is to say, specifically, that bribery with Grape Nehis alone isn’t doing the trick any more). Most of what has been challenging, actually, has been in learning to accommodate different styles of communication and in finding out where the sticking points are that keep us all from getting on the same page.
Ultimately, I suspect (I hope) that these kinds of experiences will make me more versatile and flexible as an accompanist. It’s a bit frustrating to sit down with dancer "A" and struggle to get through an arrangement of a palo that you can do almost unconsciously with dancer "B." But how very cool would it be to be able to sit down with dancer "C" and be sensitive enough to read his or her cues well enough to move through an improvised arrangement on the fly?
I’m not quite there yet myself, but that kind of spontaneity is starting to take on a clearer shape and significance in my mind. Perhaps ultimately I’m starting to figure out that staying in the "comfort zone" of fixed arrangements and collaborators provides some security, but that artistically that security can also be a trap.
But then again, maybe that’s just the Grape Nehi talking. In any case, it’s about time for you to go play, no?