Me and the bata de cola.
You could say that there’s really no excuse for me not being able to dance well with the bata.
Because I’ve had several experiences, various opportunities to learn.
I'll tell you about a one of my favorites today, and after the story, I'll tell you why you should study the bata even if you don't ever want to dance with it, and I'll share with you another bata need-to-know.
A [very] brief history of my bata experiences
You know about the first, it was with Matilde Coral. Though I'm not sure if I count that one because I barely knew what a tacón was back then.
I believe the second experience was with La Tati at Amor de Dios. But that was one drop-in class, and we never went back. All I can remember is everyone going to great lengths to find batas for me and Jackie and that someone's bata was brown. That's it.
Then there were the lessons with Vanessa, again at Amor de Dios. But I don't remember her ever talking about being in plié, which (spoiler) has to do with today's tip. More on that at the end of this post.
Then there was Concha Jareño’s workshop in Albuquerque. It was Ricardo who told us we needed to take with her, because she is a bata master. I basically had no idea what was going on during that entire workshop. I loved everything she did. But I sure wasn't able to do it.
So today I'll just tell you about the next bata experience, which I'm pretty sure was dancing in the kitchen with Ricardo ...
The Kitchen Sessions
It was the fall of 2010 I think.
And Ricardo had brought one of La Rafi's practice batas. La Rafi is Rafaela Carrasco.
But we didn’t have a bata workshop.
Well, we didn’t have an official one, at a studio, with a bunch of students.
We kind of had an unofficial one. Ricardo and I did. In the kitchen. Just before he left Portland.
We hadn’t had (made) time to do it before. Even though he’d been here for a couple of weeks. We’d been using our flamenco time for actual workshops and for rehearsing and things like that.
But I wanted to learn to dance with the bata
That's what I said at least. Really, I guess I just wanted to be able to dance with the bata.
The bata was another one of those things.
Another one of those things like castanets. Another one of those things that seemed very hard. Like I’d never get it. Like it was too late. Like I’d waited too long.
In fact, our mini-bata kitchen workshop was quite similar to a mini-castanets in the family room and living room workshop we’d had a couple of years before. (A story I'll save for another day.)
So what happens during a mini-bata kitchen workshop?
Well, it includes lots of breaks for food because, well, you’re right there in the kitchen.
And when it involves me and Ricardo it also includes several additional breaks for stories.
While the breaks could be thought of as distractions, a workshop in the kitchen is definitely more about play than discipline, and I believe all of these breaks helped to keep possible frustration at bay.
So this was an at home relaxed kind of thing, and I wasn’t exactly channeling the feeling beautiful bata energy I'd felt the time I'd worn the bata in Matilde Coral’s class.
Still we had fun.
And I gained more exposure to this still new technique.
And I do remember some of what Ricardo taught me. Which is to be noted because I couldn't really recall even one tidbit from any of the previous bata experiences. Well, except for one thing from Concha.
And I remember that the moves felt doable. Partially because we couldn’t do, do them. What with the limited amount of space in the kitchen.
But the whole leg positioning thing really frustrated me. My legs did NOT want to cooperate.
Well, my knees, really.
My rebellious knees.
This was my main mistake, my rebellious knee
It wanted to go in. It needed to go out.
And I remember Ricardo being on my case about it. And fixing it. And it rebelling over and over again.
I seriously struggled with the leg positioning.
Like everyone says, the leg positioning is key.
And then there was the plié thing.
Which leads me to the Tip
When you dance bata, you dance in plié.
I first learned that from Concha. That may be the only concept that I really grasped from that workshop with her. And then again from Ricardo. And from every bata teacher since.
You keep your knees bent (in plié) when dancing with the bata de cola.
This is muy importante.
And I've discovered that it takes a lot of thought and practice to maintain.
For some more bata tips, check this out. (It’s a bit involved, so don’t look at this if you get easily overwhelmed.)
A Note on the Benefits of Bata
"Strength, balance, and awareness of my body in general has improved after my time with the Bata. It forces you to become aware of bad habits because the movement of the Bata does not lie, you have to be strong and centered to hold the positions required so that the Bata can dance." That comment comes from Melinda Hedgecorth, and you can take a workshop from her this Monday, Labor Day. You don't even need a bata or previous experience.
Okay, please tell me, what tip do you have? And I'm curious, do you dance with bata de cola? Who have you studied with, and how did it go? Leave a comment below.