A couple of weeks ago, Virigina, a Flamenco Tour alum, sent me the following account of her time on the Flamenco Tour to Jerez. If you're curious about what happens on the Flamenco Tour, read on...
My Trip to Jerez
by: Virginia O'Hanlon
I have danced and taught Afro Cuban, Haitian and Brazilian dance for many years. I'm the sort of explorer who likes to "go to the source" so I have gone to these countries many times on dance/study trips. There were a few great trips, some ok, and two really miserable experiences.
I'm fairly new to flamenco -had 2 years in at the time of this trip- but became intrigued by the "por fiesta" dances so I started looking around for ways to study in Spain, particularly Jerez. I discovered Laura's trips, and it seemed like a structure that would work well for me, so I went last October. It was without a doubt one of the best, richest experiences that I've had, and here are some reasons why.
We were warmly welcomed by the teachers,
Ana Maria López and Mercedes Ruiz. We were well matched in our group, beginners to advanced beginners. Most days we started with technique class that we took along with Mercedes' students. This was a full hour of upper body positioning, arms and some basic markings. Later in the day we took a choreography class with Mercedes. She worked us hard and pushed us but was extremely patient and warm.
Ani's bulería class in the peña is the "experience" that Laura describes, intense, challenging, rewarding and FUN. She took/pushed us along with humor and kindness. Since bulerías involves solo work Ani made individual adjustments in our choreography. She focused on a few specific corrections that changed the look and feel of my bulerías. (It's difficult to break my Afro habits!)
What I really appreciated about both these maestras is their dedication to excellence in their art and respect for their tradition. Because they work with Laura on a regular basis they know how to structure the workshop classes for the two weeks that we are there so that we can feel that we accomplished something.
We stayed at lovely apartments
within walking distance of everything. The owners have a café a few doors down, and its a great place to have café, vino or chat with Maribel and Jose Luís. That's where we celebrated after our last bulerías class where we all got smiles and olés from Ani and Zorri! Downtown Jerez is an easy ten minute walk, (cafes, supermarkets, banks) and it's very safe.
We worked hard, but it was a vacation too
Laura took us to the Arabic bath house for massages, sherry tasting and sightseeing in Jerez. Of course we went to Flamenco events- from top of the line award winning artists to rap influenced flamenco in a barrio peña. And the shopping- flamenco clothing, shoes, accessories- my favorite was the fleco store. Jerez is a lovely small city where you can definitely experience the pulse that drives flamenco.
So that's what we did
We had a great group of ladies and had a lot of fun together, informal chats, group meetings, parties and outings. What worked really well for me is that due to the structure and location I had to choice of being with the group or hanging out on my own. I tend to need a bit of alone/reflecting time and was able to comfortably work that in. Laura and Stefani were ALWAYS available to answer questions and take care of things, delayed luggage at the airport, translating, making phone calls, accompanying you anywhere that you thought you needed help with and always with a smile.
It was a very rich experience
I learned a lot while having a great vacation. It took a while to adjust to being back in the real world after living out my fantasy flamenco life. That's why I plan to go back in October. (I'm practicing my bulerías Ani!)