March 6 Sunday There is a different energy this week compared to last week.  Is it due to the rain?  - actually closer to the way I remember spring weather in Spain -  Or perhaps it is that some of the excitement has worn off?  Or is it that I am taking classes by myself this week, without any of my compañeras from home.  I was only signed up for one festival course, so I decided to take a tangos workshop from Tatiana Ruíz, the daughter of Chiqui de Jerez.  The girl ought to be a sergeant in the US Army, though I suppose she talks too much for that.  In any case, she worked us hard today and clearly took great pleasure in doing so.  My brain quickly went into overload as I tried to execute the steps at a seemingly impossible pace while at the same time struggling to understand how in the world Tatiana moved her body as she did.  Later that afternoon I headed to my bata de cola class with Alicia Márquez.  It moved slowly, so I was able to get things, but still, how ever do I get this awkward train to cooperate and do what Alicia's does?!  As I walked down the halls of the bodega after class, I poked my head in the various rooms and fantasized that it was my home.

I then stepped out to an amazing view of the grounds and next to the Jardines de la Alameda Vieja, definitely not a route I'll mind taking every day.  Feeling very deserving of a special treat I stopped at the bar in front of the cathedral that we'd visited on our first day in Jerez where the waiter proudly showed us pictures of his flamenco pop group.  Today Curita, the resident dog, graciously allowed me to sit at her table where I met Lucía, the waiter's daughter.  After attempting to kiss Curita one too many times the little girl's uncle had her sit on the chair next to me.  There the dog sat on her lap and was quite content to let Lucia treat her as she would one of her stuffed animals.  I felt completely peaceful and could have stayed seated there all night until it occurred to me that I had to get home to shower as my boyfriend was set to perform later!  My flamenco boyfriend that is, Joaquin Grilo.  Ay!   Then another thought came to mind, my towel!!!  If only I hadn't left it out "to dry" all day in the rain...oops.  On the way home some Spanish tourists asked me for directions, "There is a bar right down the hill where you could ask,"  I told them not having any idea where the Baños Arabes were.  "No, we asked and they just told us, por allí arriba."   Haha, haven't I heard that before.  "Es que hemos estado dando vueltas y vueltas,"  Well, at least I'm not the only one who catches herself walking in circles terrorized by streets that suddenly end or don't take you to where you would expect them to.  Now I'm home from the show feeling fabulous for tonight my boyfriend reminded me of why he holds that title.  This native Jerezano has a soniquete like no other, an incredible ability to improvise with body and sound; call him a dancer, call him a musician, if only there were a term for both rolled into one.  This is why I love him - and can you imagine how incredibly fun it would be to do palmas for him?  Buenas noches.

March 7 Monday While this week's classes are somewhat of a disappointment compared to last week's, I still feel spoiled by the fact that I get to enjoy the scenery of the bodega while inhaling the sweet smell of sherry throughout bata class, and Tatiana doesn't cease to entertain with the hilarious comments that so naturally and regularly come out of her mouth. My favorite quote from today, "Oooooooo, chiquilla!" in between her moans of pain during stretching, stretching she seemed to throw in upon becoming too tired to teach us any longer.  With six hours a day of dancing, I guess I get it, "Mi mare me tiene como loca."  Still, I had grown accustomed to classes last week going longer even than scheduled.  In Manolillo's class we were typically given just one break; he wasted no time, nor did Marco.  Tatiana gives us numerous, times to "go over it by ourselves," while she runs out to do this and that.  Hmm, I suppose I ought to view these as opportunities to self-motivate, to check whether or not I am really getting the steps.  Pretty much everything about Alicia is on the relaxed side, how she speaks, how she looks over everyone in the class and asks how we're doing with the step, how she allows for leisurely transitions from one group dancing to the next.  On the first day she told us that we had to be tranquilas as we learned, a philosophy I do very much appreciate.  Learning should be fun, no need to save the enjoyment for later.  Still I am having a hard time motivating in both classes.  I guess I miss the combination of high expectations with a structured method for helping us to reach them.  Tatiana expects a lot but wants us to figure out how to arrive on our own, and Alicia doesn't seem to expect much more than we feel like giving.  But, wait, it's good to be exposed to different  techniques, and maybe part of this week purpose is to challenge me to evaluate how I learn and to take the initiative to focus and motivate on my own...

March 8 Tuesday There were brief instances when the rain let up at least a little bit today, but somehow they failed to coincide with any of the times I needed to walk to and from classes. "It was like you were in the shower all day," my friend Stefani recently commented to me in an email about the weather in Portland...Exactamente!  This afternoon I discovered that using the rolling suitcase for my bata is not such a good idea on a day like today; I am in front with the umbrella, it is back with the rain.  Oops.  Back home sitting on the edge of the bathtub, soaking my feet in the bidet in a bath of Satltratos (some miracle foot salts Heather got from the farmacia), listening to the pounding rain I wondered whether or not I could I muster up the energy to go back out and make the trip to the Villamarta to see Manuela Carrasco tonight.  Was this sacrilege?  Jackie was in taking a nap, Heather reading on her bed, neither interested in going, and, al final, with the unending heavy rain and having just seen her in Albuquerque last June, we skipped the show.  Instead we had a copita at home, and I played a YouTube video from Carlos Saura's Sevillanas of her dancing to Camarón singing the most moving sevillanas ever.  And now I think I'll go to bed remembering the fun of providing the base for Tatiana's "jam" today.  As we were doing our footwork warm up she started running through the tangos using us as her metronome.  En serio, I would have been happy to have spent the whole class just doing that; it was like watching a show, a really really good show, and getting to be a participant at the same time.

completion of Alicia's class
completion of Alicia's class

March 9 Wednesday I involuntarily became part of a manifestation today.  I believe we were protesting the CajaSol for taking jobs away from Jerez, but I'm still not positive.  I saw the large crowd gathered and even heard strange sirens sounding as I approached the Ayuntamiento Building on my way to class.  Actually, I believe I was more or less aware of what I was entering into, but, in typical Laura fashion, I told myself that I could simply breeze through all of the people.  I mean, why turn around and take a longer route?  By the time it really hit me, there I was, essentially stuck.  "Con permiso," I said, attempting to make my way though an unmoving mass.  And did I mention I have claustrophobic tendencies? Just keep walking Laura, and breathe, I told myself.  Though not a lot of permiso was given, more and more empty space was becoming visible.  Phew, I'd made it, and on to class I marched.  I was sweating just upon entering the room, though this was mainly a result of the humidity left behind by the previous class.  Tatiana started us with the regular exercises on turbo speed then disappeared.  She spent a lot of time outside of the room today for one reason or another, answering the phone, meeting with the cantaor, who knows what else.  Thank goodness for the new guy who joined today -he's working on a performance with her- who helped motivate us to go over the steps again and again.  Come to think of it, maybe he could work for the ejército too...

March 10 Thursday Well, I almost lost it in Tatiana's class today.  I could feel the tears coming, the negativity trying to take over.  Uh-oh.  So, I took a breath, stopped trying to slop my way through, stood to the side for a moment, and did the step slowly on my own at which point I realized that when I went fast my feet were rebelliously putting in an extra heel on one side.  The execution was still difficult, but that made it better.  More importantly not giving into the frustration seemed to allow me to enjoy the remainder of the class a bit.  And of course Tatiana provided her usual entertainment throughout, most notably at the end as she sang to the melody of our tangos coletilla, "Y ahora voy ir a comer unos pinchitos en casa de mi mare."  Perhaps right before lunch and siesta is not the best time to study with her.  In between classes I made a stop at the market.  As I got in line I noticed the smell of feces.  I glanced at my shoes wondering if I'd stepped in something then I saw the suit-wearing man in front of me with his bottle of beer, the cashier telling him the price as he put out some change.  "Es que no puedo Pepe con esto," she told him.  He pleaded a bit.  "No puedo."  He grumbled, said he'd come right back, and left.  It was a sad reminder of how fortunate I am.  Afterward I took a moment to eat and breathe while sitting amongst the blossoming orange trees in front of the Alcázar.  Then it was time to get myself to bata class and try to land a decent spot on the floor.  On the walk home I think I was given some evidence that everything happens for a reason.  I was still feeling down in mood and felt a cold coming on.  I debated going by the market to get some cheese for dinner but realized I had just over 5 euros.

Not wanting to deal with trying to ask for just that much manchego, I turned around and headed back to the Plaza de los Plateros.  Craving a zumo natural de naranja, I asked in one bar if they had it.  The bartender said no but directed me to a place across the way that would.  "No, por las tardes no," the waitress there informed me.  So, I had a café instead then decided to just go and get the cheese after all.  "Tengo una preguna un poco rara,"  I told Antonio, the owner.  "Venga," he said.  "How much cheese can I get for 5 euros?"  "Un cuarto de un kilo," he replied.  "And that was the weird question?" he asked while preparing my order.  We proceeded to have a nice conversation about queso and lentejas pardinas (little lentils) amongst other things, and that was it, I was feeling good.  Gracias, Antonio.  I left the store smiling, and as I turned the corner into the plaza I heard someone calling.  The next customer was running after me; I'd left my wallet.  Ay!  I went back to see Antonio standing outside the door with it.  "I could have taken all your money," he joked, "Yes except I don't have any left!"

March 11 Friday Today I walked to my final class with Tatiana in the rain unaware of much more than making sure I didn't hit anybody or get hit with another's umbrella.  Not a lot of dancing was done, but I just went with it, and it was really ok considering a big part of me didn't even want to go in the first place.  As class neared its end and Tatiana announced that we would go through the whole dance one last time, I asked desperately for a final bit of body advice.  Honestly, how ever does she make her body do what it does???  Now comes the part where I really wish you could have been there with me to see her face and her mannerisms, to hear her voice.  "Mira, Primero," she gestured to her body from head to toe, then did the same to me, "Seguuuuundo," a gesture at her width and once again then mine, "Y Tercero,"  a signal to her back side and then, of course, mine.  Everyone laughed.  "Repito," and she went through it all one more time just in case anyone had missed the point.   "We have to work with the bodies we have.  What naturally comes out of me is not the same as what naturally comes out on you."  "Pero tu natural se ve bien y lo mío se ve raro," I told her.  Not surprisingly, this sparked a long and entertaining (so long that some of us actually sat down) lecture about discovering your own way in your body.  She showed the first step and how her mom had originally taught it to her, "She had some shoulder move like this in it; I can't even do it," she said, ahem, as she did it, looked pretty good to me.  "You have to see my mom do it; she looks incredible.  But I didn't like how it looked on me, so I changed it and made it mine."  Then she did it her way, ok, so it did look better on her that way.  "You have to do the same."  She then went on talking to us about finding flamenco everywhere and providing numerous anecdotes of how it permeates her life.  If only I could relate them to you, but I'm not sure that I could do them any justice; I will work on it though and report back... And tonight, well, I FINALLY stayed up late for what I would call a legitimate reason for someone who has come here to Jerez to experience flamenco.  After the show, we went to get a tapa and then headed to the Barrio San Miguel to Peña la Bulería to see Ana Maria Lopéz and her group.  Now that's definitely not a place I would want to go all by myself, talk about feeling out of place.  Though once we walked back to where they would hold the show I noticed a more varied crowd.  It was fun to go, but I must admit, even begin the night owl that I am, I became quite sleepy during the show.  After the looooooong wait to get out we started our walk home in the pouring down rain.  When it turned into a serious chubasco we found a doorway and waited for a taxi.   On the ride home a drunken partier jumped in front of us in hopes of getting the taxi for himself, and we literally almost hit him.  Now that was a scary way to end the night...

March 12 Saturday I like the lady at the pastry shop.  She always smiles and calls you cariño.   And I love that I walk around here witnessing beauty daily and that it is different from that of Oregon's.  Beauty in the sky, in the stone streets I step upon, in the old buildings, in the sounds I hear coming from the houses and people's mouths as I pass them.  Today was the final day of the Alicia's workshop.  On the way to class I used my footsteps as my metronome as I imagined the tricky part of the escobilla that I had intended to practice earlier, playing it over and over in my head.  My brain did a good job of seeing and hearing the steps and keeping up with my pace.  Coming home from class I saw a man outside of a restaurant in the Plaza Plantera hunched over his guitar in a chair, passed out.  I wondered if this was due to "La Crisis," or if that's just how it is for this guy.  - Chatting with Tilo, the owner of our apartment, the other day I learned that Andalucía's unemployment rate is at 40% now. - Anyway, I see this guy around town a lot.  In fact, I remember him from our first day here.  We went to the Lina's corner store in the Plaza de Santiago and could hear someone singing flamenco outside.  Then he came in drunk as a skunk trying to buy a beer...

Me and Boyfriend
Me and Boyfriend

As I continued home I passed a Spanish bachelorette party on la Calle Francos.  The friends of the bride all wore tight black mini skirts and purple boas; la novia wore a pink one along with a Miss America style banner declaring her status.  Just before turning the onto our street, la Calle Palma, I noticed a commotion by the church.  I looked around the corner to see Costaleros practicing for Semana Santa, other men from the church trying to direct them through the incredibly narrow street lined with parked cars.  I could tell there was no way I was going to get by, soI took a detour.  Approaching the street from the other end I saw that little progress had been made.  No wonder they begin practicing in late February for this!

And tonight to mark the end of the festival, we attended the último espectáculo and witnessed Eva La Yerbabuena's genius.  More incredible dancing, more incredible music, and more incredible cante, a very fine note to finish on.  And tomorrow, a relajar.

RACC-logo
RACC-logo

I didn't talk a lot about the shows this week, but here you can see video snippets from some of them, even better!  FlamencoworldTV

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