Review: Puela Lunaris' Flamenco: You can do it! Sevillanas

I became interested in Puela Lunaris's DVDs through World Dance New York, which is better known for its bellydance instructional videos. And while Lunaris has done work on the Zambra (the style of flamenco most closely associated with oriental dance) it is important to note that Flamenco: You Can Do It! - Sevillanas has nothing whatsoever to do with bellydance. In fact, the sevillanas are not even flamenco. They are an old, very strictly structured Spanish social dance which is sometimes performed in flamenco shows, but is also done socially in Spain. This DVD not only introduces the dance, but does an excellent job at showing how it can be performed alone, in a pair in a relaxed, social manner, and in a more showy performance style with fans.

The good:

As much as I generally do not like choreographies, this is the dance for them, since every sevillana is the same. The first choreo section is an extremely lengthy breakdown of all the movements necessary for all four sections of the sevillana dance. Lunaris is painstaking in demonstrating the steps, repeating them many times over, and then adding arms. There is instruction on posture, arm movement and placement, arm variations, the different styles of hand floreos.

Lunaris often also shows variations that can be introduced, not in the steps per se, but in the upper body styling or arm movements. This is where the dancer can express his or her individuality, since the steps are fixed. She also briefly describes how men's arm and handwork differs from women's.

In the second choreography, Lunaris has mini workshops on fanwork and on dancing with a partner, and runs through the entire choreography again using the fan. She uses her partner to show not only how dancers move around each other during the sevillana, but also more stylistic variations.

It should be clear by now that this DVD is a treasure, an absolute treasure. I am currently taking beginner flamenco classes and learning the sevillana as part of these. They are quite complicated, at least at first, and any online reference material has not been very good at explaining the dance part of it. To have a DVD at this price not only run down the entire choreography but also show variations is truly exquisite. The two performances at the end are an extra treat.

The bad:

As well-organized as WDNY DVDs generally are, I find myself wishing for more, especially when it comes to Lunaris' videos. The current organization allows you to watch a demonstration at full-speed with music, then have a lengthy breakdown, then have choreography and practice with music. This is great, but it bothers me that some of the basics of the dance, like how to do floreos for example, are hidden away in a long choreography, with no way to guess at where they might be. There should be an easy way to jump to the descriptions of a few basic techniques, if not have them in a different section altogether.

More specifically to this DVD, since the sevillana is such a repetitive dance, all of the instruction would make much more sense if the dance were broken down in table form and available as a screen or even for printing. It would make the choreography much easier to learn.

How to use this video:

First, watch the first choreography all the way through. Just watch it. Watch the performances to see how it all fits together. Then start doing it, but take it slowly. In a normal class, this is material covered over months -- the fact that it is all on one DVD makes this video valuable, but it is also unrealistic to expect to learn it quickly. Just focus on the feet at first, and only later practice adding the arms, and then, slowly, the hands.

That said, the sevillana is more approachable than flamenco dance. I.e., it's easier to look good dancing the sevillana. Lunaris' is a great introduction for those with no experience of it, and a wonderful reference work for those who are learning it in a live class. She has a charming on-screen persona, and she is careful to give you a sense of the culture, attitude, and context of the dance as well, so you understand the spirit as well as the movements. If you are willing to practice a little, you will not regret buying this video.

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