GUEST POST This article comes to you from Diana Welch, Oregon photographer, writer, videographer and flamenca. Reflections on her time in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain in April.

   Tavira, Portugal with Diana and Laura

Tavira, Portugal with Diana and Laura

May 31, 2011

When I first heard that Laura was going to be in Spain for a few months, I wanted to be there, too. Images of sun splashed Arab architecture, flamenco classes, hearing Spanish in the streets, photographic possibilities, intrigued and lured me. Somehow, it came together and after 30 hours of travel from Portland, I was stepping into the culture of Andalucía.

Laura met me at the train station in Jerez. It was a brilliant day and the scent of orange blossoms wafted on a light breeze as we walked to our piso on the other side of town.

   In class before everyone arrived ©Diana Welch

In class before everyone arrived ©Diana Welch

After settling in, my first excursion to view the city was with Laura, to her flamenco class with Mercedes Ruíz, one of the most respected performers and teachers of Flamenco in Jerez today. I was granted viewing permission, and sat on a sofa in the back of the studio, trying to stay awake after so many hours of sleepless travel. Once class began, sleep was not an option; Mercedes’s voice, movements, her accompanying music, not to mention the sound of Flamenco shoes on the studio floor, planted me firmly (for the most part) on Spanish time.

I found my own teacher that night, a student in the class who lives in a suburb of Jerez. She offered to teach me beginning bulerias and technique for a reasonable price.

Adjusting to everyday life in Jerez was surprisingly easy. Jerezanos are open and eager to help, even strangers who are mangling their language. Laura’s expertise with the accent of southern Spain came in handy often. Fortunately, over the weeks, my Spanish served me more as I was able to perceive the cadence of Andalucía.

   In front of the mercado ©Diana Welch

In front of the mercado ©Diana Welch

The town is steeped in rhythm; it is its soul. One day as I was walking to San Miguel to meet Laura after class, I heard a simple statement spoken by a passerby talking with a companion: “Claro, que si!”. These words sounded like dance steps. XXXX. Another day, I was reviewing a bulerías palmas pattern in my mind, as a car driver sounded the horn in the same pattern. And strolling on the gracious jacaranda-lined calles, hearing locals burst into spontaneous palmas patterns was a frequent delight. As I tuned into these pulses of Flamenco, I could hear them embedded in the spoken language. This enabled me to comprehend Los Jerezanos better and my attempts at conversation resulted in meaningful interaction.

   Jacaranda & Cathedral ©Diana Welch

Jacaranda & Cathedral ©Diana Welch

Already noted in other blog entries, one truly does hear guitar and cante everywhere, through open doors and windows, all times of day, from young and old alike. Aficionados of Flamenco must come here to fully appreciate the place that it holds in the hearts of the people of Jerez. Flamenco and Jerez are inextricably, gloriously entwined. Claro, que si.

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