My dear friend and mentor, master flamenco teacher Oscar Nieto who is based in Vancouver, B.C., happened to be in Jerez last fall during the Flamenco Tour.*
While he was there Oscar got to meet the students and observe some of our classes and activities. Below read some impressions of the FlamencoTour that he shared with me during a recent chat:
"If someone wants to go to Spain on their own...
How do they know where to go?
How do they know who to study with?
How do they know what to do?
In your trips it's all figured out for them
In your trips they’re safe in their cocoon.
The students come back, and they’ve had a full Spain experience.
They didn’t just go to a studio and take classes, but you encouraged them to be in the ambiente, to get outside of the studio. And then they build social networks. That is really important. Especially for women who are seeking their dream to finally do flamenco in Spain.
One of the things that impressed me about your tour to Spain was how well organized you had it,
How the students had a program, a plan in place when (they) got there, so they weren’t just wandering around aimlessly. They knew who they were going to study with. They knew their schedule of downtime. You took them to the spa. You took them on little guided tours. You were an interpreter for them because you speak the language, which is really valuable for students who don’t speak the language, especially there because even if they speak Spanish, it’s a whole different kind of Spanish that is spoken in Jerez; you know how to get around that.
The other thing is that they’re not obliged to only follow your program, they’re actually quite free to make their own arrangements after the fact. The initial thing was this tour.
They get their flamenco fix
And then they come back and they share it with their friends.
They have a different outlook on flamenco.
The social experience of being there is really invaluable because you can’t get it here; we live in a bubble here, and to try to recreate that is very difficult. And that’s why we all have to go back to Spain to get infused with that cultural aspect. It’s fresh in your mind, like when I saw that tablao in Jerez, it’s imprinted in my head, ‘Eso es flamenco,’ right? (As teachers I think it’s really valuable for us to have that so that we can infuse or impart that excitement to the students. Even just in jaleo, ‘venga, vamos…’ That’s all part of the cultural experience.)
The fact that you could organize it from here is really telling about your organizational skills because that’s a lot. It’s one thing if you’re there and you’re in the immediate vicinity of everything that’s going to happen but to do it from here is a real credit to you that you’re well organized and that they have faith in you, and you’ve proven it through five tours. And you’ve learned as you’ve gone along. You’ve also learned how to manage things like little breakdowns that students have, which is kind of inevitable.
That’s what I saw in being there with you. Seeing how you manage the group was really insightful. I wouldn’t take it on. I wouldn’t do it, but somebody’s got to do it.” [He said with a smile.]
Oscar wouldn’t do it, but
I absolutely love doing it
Hosting the FlamencoTour energizes and inspires me.
The FlamencoTour was born of my own struggles studying flamenco in Spain by myself and at big festivals. The drive to do it was born of my longing to be there studying in an environment that felt safe and fun for me, amongst a small trusted group of others interested in the same thing. Many of my past learning experiences in Spain did not feel (emotionally) safe, and very often the learning did not feel fun at all. The FlamencoTour evolved from my own desires, and the joy I feel in putting these tours together is indescribable.
*Just what was Oscar up to in Jerez?
Oscar received a sabbatical from the Canadian government and spent part of his time in Jerez. In Spain he reconnected with flamenco and did research for his upcoming book. I’ll tell you all about his book when it becomes available to the public. He read me snippets and I can’t wait for this, what will likely be an essential flamenco guide, to become available.
Let me know what you think. You can leave a comment below.
Want to join the FlamencoTour?
I would love to meet you in Jerez.